Recently, I had the privilege of hosting San Francisco resident Kieran Mullins – a cyclist riding from his hometown in California to New York City, exclusively by bicycle.
Two months ago, Mullins stood on his porch, handed over the keys to his California penthouse, and left his job at Major League Baseball to travel the world with his belongings strapped to his bike. He is on a journey that I am sure will forever change his life.
I met up with Mullins in Oswego at the Village Grind Coffee shop and cycled with him to my Aurora bungalow. He had contacted me through a traveler-hosting app similar to Couchsurfing – a hospitality service and social networking website. This traveler-hosting website is called Warm Showers, which is specific to those traveling by bicycle. Basically, anyone can create a profile on this platform and offer his or her home as an oasis to a cyclist. The host usually provides a warm meal, hot shower and soft bed. There is no charge and no expectations. It’s just a courtesy to help someone else along on his or her cycling journey.
During my own travels, hundreds of families and individuals have welcomed me into their homes and showed me a level of care that I didn’t know existed between strangers. Only moments into these experiences, strangers became lifelong friends. It was finally my turn to pull in a traveler on a mission and show him that same grace that was shown to me.
It’s easy to be suspicious of strangers or believe that the world is a dangerous place. But a journey like Mullins’ can change a person’s heart. The stories a traveler carries and shares can change the way people think about the world in which we live.
The day Mullins rolled into town happened to be my birthday. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift.
That day, we lit up the grill with a few friends and huddled around Mullins to hear his stories from the road. Over the past two months, he has stayed with 30 different hosts along the historic Route 66. It may take some people by surprise, but not an ounce of danger came his way during that time – but that didn’t surprise me. Most people are good, and the world really does want to help people along their journeys.
I laughed while telling Mullins that a couple of my coworkers inquired about his name in case he happened to be a serial killer. I just told my well-meaning colleagues that I highly doubted a person would ride his or her bike 2,000 miles to murder me. I’m just not that important.
Despite America’s bizarre reality TV shows and circus politics, there is a farmer, a cashier, a doctor, and a carpenter, who reach out their hands to welcome strangers into their homes. This hospitality is the heart of our culture. We have a very welcoming country. It’s something we mustn’t take for granted.
Mullins told me that by going on this epic adventure, it could push people to wonder about the possibilities of life. Someone might not want to ride a bike across America, but he or she might have his or her own dreams of achieving the daunting or seemingly impossible. Maybe after meeting Mullins or hearing his story, the “impossible” may not seem so impossible.
A light rain crept in the next morning. We sat over coffee scanning the maps Mullins would use to traverse the rest of this great American landscape. I made sure to supply him with a carb-loaded breakfast to get him to the windy city.
I couldn’t help but feel the same satisfaction that came when people brought me into their homes and lives when I was on the road. It feels no different to host or to be hosted – it’s the same love for your fellow brothers and sisters that made this experience so special.
Peter Stadalsky is an Aurora resident and adventurer. He shares his travel experiences with a “glass-half-full” view of the world.