"You must be very brave," Morganne said, her kind eyes smiling, "to travel by yourself and stay with strangers."
The strangers she was referring to were she and her husband, who'd decided to open up their home in Lakeside, CA in North San Diego County to travelers such as myself.
I was their first guest. I thought they were pretty brave to allow strangers to sleep over.
After all, it wasn't my first time. I'd made similar arrangements a couple of times in 2010 when I was hopping back and forth between NYC to LA, looking for a job, looking for clients, looking for love...
But in both of those instances, I wasn't entirely alone during my stay (thanks to late night visits by the man who would ultimately break my heart upon my permanent arrival to LA).
This weekend, in San Diego County, choosing to stay inland towards the mountains, instead of along the beach or at a chain motel in a more populated area, I was very much alone.
And to be honest, I wasn't a bit nervous about it until after I arrived. As I dropped in with the setting sun, my bags in tow, Morganne and Charlie were welcoming with a gentle, softspoken demeanor, showed me to my room, and offered me some peppermint tea. I declined, as I was eager to shower after my day's end hike.
I wasn't nervous in the shower, either.
But when I retreated to my room for the night, to go through the day's photos and write, I felt exposed. I didn't feel alone enough. Dogs were howling in the distance. Crickets were chirping outside my window.
Before I went to sleep, I hung my plastic bag of snacks on the door knob so I would hear its rustling if the door were to open in the middle of the night. I tucked my purse under the head of the bed. I clutched a pillow to my side. And I waited.
Even while I slept, I waited for something to happen. I awoke frequently throughout the night, glancing around the room, eyes adjusting, turning over, and falling back to sleep.
I set my alarm for 5:45 a.m., timed for sunrise, but when I emerged from my room and looked out the sliding glass patio doors, all I saw was a low-hanging morning mist. I blinked a few times to wipe the cloud of sleep from my eyes, and when my vision did not clear, I returned to bed for another three hours of solid, content sleep, fairly certain that it would be undisturbed, though disappointed to miss out on the rising sun.
I slipped out as quickly and discreetly as I had arrived the night before, turning down Morganne's offer for a morning bagel, packing up my car and heading back down their steep driveway for another day of adventure out on my own.
I could've lingered and chatted more. But I didn't feel like talking. I wasn't there to make friends. I just needed a safe, affordable place to stay on my all-too-brief weekend adventure.
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