The Art Haus hostel in Asheville, NC

August 29, 2005, [MD]

\ \ I spent about a day walking around in New Orleans, checking out the French Quarter and downtown. (It feels very strange watching scenes of devastation from New Orleans today on TV, when I was there only a few days ago.) I then made my way to Gainesville, GA., where I would stay at an ecological farm up in the mountains, run by “Hillydilly” and Marie, two hippies with an attitude. The farm, which doesn’t grow anything but has cows, goats and chicken is located remotely in a forest, but the peace and quiet isn’t enough for the couple - they choose to camp out many nights, in a little opening in the forest where they’ve made an outdoors kitchen. We spent two evenings there, baking bread in an earthen owen, drumming, listening to the stars and discussing buddhism and alternative lifestyles.

I of course am a vegan, and don’t really approve of keeping animals - even in the much more humane ways that Hillydilly and Marie does. But I am openminded, and enjoyed our conversations and discussions about the topic. They explained that they had an “open-door” policy - if you staid beyond three days, you were expected to work two hours a day. They often take in people who need some time in a safe environment to “find themselves”, “figure their lives out”… it’s an amazing work providing such a safe haven of hospitality and friendship!

I was going to take the overnight bus to Asheville, NC. to visit a girl I met briefly in China four years ago. But as it turned out that the bus trip would take 12 hours and arrive at 4AM, whereas it’s only a three hour drive, they suggested driving me up on Sunday, and housing me in a hostel. Although I wasn’t planning on staying a single night in a hostel during my travels, I agreed that it would be a good idea. And I don’t regret it - we (they ended up being convinced to stay as well) staid in the best hostel ever, the Art Haus. A nice little wooden house, close to downtown, with a porch and a back yard, 20\$ for a dorm room… lovingly decorated, a nice kitchen you can use, but great people! The owner, a lovely woman, was always ready to talk and find out about her guests, her two daughters always running around. A guy who had come to visit had staid for several months helping out at the hostel in exchange for a place to sleep; the guests were artists, backpackers, good people. In the evening, we all went out to the African music festival, to shoot pool, and eat sushi (in that order). Later, we huddled in the TV room (which was like someone’s living room) watching Hurricane Katrina progress towards New Orleans.

I’ve learnt a lot from this backpacking trip throughout the US, and one of my “lessons” is that although staying with people (friends/HospitalityClub members, etc) is great and valuable, sometimes a day or two in a hostel or similar can be good as well - not only to relax (not always feel that you are in someone’s home, you have to be polite and nice to people, etc), but also to make the planning of a schedule a little bit more flexible.

In about half an hour I will be meeting up with my friend here in Asheville, this city that turns out to be a giant hippie-place, where even the Irish pub serves veggie-burgers… and I had no idea when I went here. Pleasant surprises in travelling.


Stian Håklev August 29, 2005 Toronto, Canada
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