Nashville was truly my last stop, as in Asheville was meeting my family and Elliot, the guy I was dating back home, in just a few days for the 4th of July. I arrived at the very welcoming home of my Couchsurfing host Jacob, and his roommate Ken.
Timing does really mean quite a lot in life. In Kansas City I had been surrounded by people at the International House of Prayer and listening to their opinions. Like most conservative Christians, they found issue with the fact that back home I was dating a Jew. I didn’t really find any issue with it, and neither did my family. Jews do have great reputations after all, they are known to put out hard-working, respectable, financially responsible men who treat their women well. What’s not to like? And besides Jesus was Jewish! But I did understand where they were coming from, it wasn’t something I hadn’t heard before and I began to wonder if I maybe should only date Christian guys.
Coincidentally, about a week later in Nashville I landed on the doorstep of two attractive young Christian men. Little did I consider (it was pretty obvious once it was pointed out) that one of the effects of traveling the country by yourself is that you become more interesting, and therefore more attractive. People love to live vicariously through travelers, traveling solo makes you seem very secure in yourself and since this was the last destination really, I had plenty of stories to tell.
I was chosen as the Couchsurfer due to my number of references. Ken had just moved to Nashville and had never hosted a Couchsurfer before. Jacob had hosted quite a bit. He told us stories about crazy European girls. Jacob was from Tennessee, so he and I had the southernness about us, such as our disregard for insects. Ken had just got a job and moved from Michigan, with the end-goal to pursue music with his band. All the band mates were applying to jobs in Nashville. Jacob and I cracked up laughing at Ken’s reaction to what he thought was a large spider! “What do they not have bugs in Michigan? You think that’s big?” Jacob hit on me from the second I arrived, but I felt safe with them anyway, they were pretty respectful guys. But they were still guys. I grew up always thinking I could let my guard down with religious guys, but guys are guys. I seriously said to Jacob, “And what would your accountability group you’re meeting with tomorrow think about you asking me that? I’m going to be picking up the guy I was dating back in Georgia off the Appalachian Trail in less than a week, so I really want to focus on him.” it was my mantra. It really wasn’t good enough.
The next night we went downtown. It was a ton of fun! Jacob will hit the dance floor, while Ken is more reserved. The place was over flowing with Bachelorette parties. Teams of girls in floral sundresses and cowboy boots flocked around. They were kinda annoying in their uniforms and chains of linked arms. We ended up staying in this one bar singing along to country covers. I ended up hitting it off with Ken. We stayed up in the living room all night. I wondered if Jacob had a clue.
The next night we went out for live music in the better side of Nashville. The side where the hipsters hang and a wide variety of music plays. There was a bluegrass band playing in the bar. I ended up going out on the town with Ken the next day. We stood next to each other in church singing “Beautiful Things”. He whispered to me, “I love this song.” Afterwards we went out for BBQ and to see the Grand Ole Opry and walk through the Gaylord Opryland hotel. A girl came in that day to also Couchsurf, she was a yoga instructor who had studied in India, so she brought additional fun.
That night I had a whoops moment. I was lying on the couch in the dark living room and one of my guys came over and leaned over me. I sat up and kissed him. Then I heard him speak, “Oh a kiss.. that’s nice!” Oh crap! I had kissed the wrong dude! It was Jacob, and I thought it was Ken! He turned around and walked up the stairs. Ken enters the scene and starts behaving all sweet. I ask, “Where have you been?” “Oh, I was in the bathroom.” A give a sigh of relief, followed by a smirk… I’m trouble. Honestly, I was eating up the attention.
I left the next day and made it to Gatlinburg. I piled three dirty guys fresh off the Appalachian Trail into my car. Elliot, the guy I was dating back home, had met two Germans while on the trail. Things were really different now that I was back with Elliot. We hung out around the trail and shared a hikers shelter with other backpackers. The next day we road around some of the Tail of the Dragon and made it to Asheville. Asheville is really fun and quirky, but also really expensive. I started to feel really uncomfortable with the money I felt pressured to spend with Elliot. He’s an engineer, so it’s not really an issue with him, but it is with me. I want to be able to pick up dinner every now and then, but I worried about being able to afford the places he wanted to go. I was starting to wonder about us. He kept instructing me how to drive, even though I had just driven across the whole country and he was crazy about keeping to a schedule.
My family isn’t the best when it comes to a schedule.
I was so excited to go back to Lake Junaluska and show Elliot where I spent many 4th of July’s as a kid! It was raining, but we went to the parade anyway. I’m glad we did, I realize how excited I was by little things as a child though… the parade was super small and quaint.
My family didn’t make it, they got there too late.
We did all end up getting BBQ together under a picnic pavilion. A blue grass band played as Elliot and I sang along to the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. I love that movie. And he loves to hear me sing hymns. My family wanted to go to sliding rock, but it was closed when they got there so we ended up all walking around Asheville.
It was a nice day. Elliot was whiney about my family being so disorganized though. We made a wrong turn and missed seeing the fireworks over the lake. I suppose with the rain, I was lucky to see them at all. I’m starting to realize that some memories aren’t meant to be recreated. My childhood at Lake Junaluska is one of them. It’s not ever going to be the same and that’s ok, I have new memories to make.
It’s interesting after traveling, it’s so difficult to adjust to not traveling. I was so happy to see my family after not seeing them for so long, but I was hyper-sensitive to their disorganization, how that reflects on them, and also I was hyper aware of anyone asking me to do something or telling me something. After so many months of independence, it’s difficult to incorporate others in your plans. But it is worth it. I love traveling solo, but there is something special about having someone with you as well.