all my heroes are weirdos

We're All Mad Here

Pay it forward

Not only is Alejandra not the murdery type I’d feared in Thelma and Louise, she instantly became one of the most incredibly kind people I’ve ever met. If any other Couch Surfing hosts come even close to this brilliant, I will be very surprised.

Surfing Couches

After cycling almost forty kilometres with seven wardrobes on my back, I decided to spend a couple of hours getting to know Ciutadella on a wooden bench overlooking the marina before introducing myself to my host.

I parked up my bicycle near Plaça Nova and strolled towards the marina for a café con leche. I say strolled, but I’d just spent three hours on a saddle and was still being crippled by the weight of my portable home, so it was more of a wide-stepped, Broke Back Mountain style waddle – very attractive as you can imagine.

Alejandra picked me up at Plaça del Born at around six thirty that evening with her totally adorable, blonde and smiley seven year old daughter, Claudia, in the back seat. Instead of heading back to my new home for the next three nights, we went straight to the playground to watch Claudia roller skate around with her friend from school. As night fell, the girls played together while Alejandra and I chatted away. The conversation didn’t wane at any point, in fact it was almost like a battle for the microphone – in a good way.

And I really mean it when I say she’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Alejandra is so warm and welcoming, and in such a genuine way, that I felt like I knew her already. She’d just finished hosting somebody else and normally would take a break between guests, but as The Danish Girl had recommended her and she liked my profile, she wanted to help me out.

A Local Lady with a Global Mindset

Alejandra has a big heart and a really open-mind, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody so trusting; something that no doubt has a lot do with the fact she’s been brought up on this island.

Menorca is one of the safest places I’ve ever been. You can leave your bicycle unlocked and walk around any of the towns or cities for hours and it will be there waiting for you when you return. People don’t have locks on houses. Kids can play out unsupervised in the streets until after dark. Alejandra left her car keys on a bench for hours while we wandered around the playground and nobody touched them. And Louise has safely hitchhiked her way from town to town and met plenty of friendly, helpful people along the way.

She’s always loved to travel and has even taken Claudia couchsurfing with her in Northern Spain a few times. I can see that Claudia is already starting to take after her. She doesn’t have the shyness I had when I was seven years old; within a few minutes of meeting me she was chatting away to me in English and Spanish, holding my hand when she roller skated alongside us and made me stand with my legs wide apart so she could duck and skate under them, showing off her eight-wheeled skills. We have unicorn drawing competitions and she lets me plait her hair in the morning before school.

Sometimes I feel like parents have had it hammered into their heads that kids need stability in a way that means they’re locked down geographically, attend one school, have one set of friends and never leave their comfort zone. For me, that’s not necessarily what stability is. Stability can come in the form of just a loving parent that will be there no matter what.

I remember reading about a couple who went backpacking with their newborn baby. It’s not impossible to show kids the world in non-conventional ways. I think those kids are the ones who will grow up with their eyes wide open, welcoming in new people and new ideas; they’ll have experienced things that give them perspective outside the one that’s dictated to them in the classroom.

Home is Where The Hearts Are

When the stars came out, we headed home where we were greeted by Gala, a milk chocolate brown Labrador that is just as friendly as her owners. I put down my bags and Alejandra gave me the grand tour.

She opened every cupboard, showed me inside the fridge and told me to make myself at home. Her kitchen was like a delicatessen; she had fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, biscuits, dried fruits and nuts, cheese and crackers and lots of different juices in the fridge – all mine for the taking should I want to get my nibble on.

I sat in the living room talking to Claudia with my broken Spanish and making her laugh by using Google translate voice when I didn’t know the word for something. She said something that I thought sounded like gatos obesos, so I showed her lots of photographs of obese cats. She actually meant something totally different, but it kept her hysterically entertained nonetheless.

We watched cartoons and played with the pup until Alejandra came in with some food. She’d gone out of her way to make me a plate of delicious cod with melted cheese and rice. (I conveniently forgot I was vegetarian – shoot me).

And after another long chat, I retired to my new room and had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.

Tutti

As I lay there warm, fed and comfortable, I started thinking about acts of kindness, especially those from strangers. It reminded me of that scene in Eat Pray Love when Liz writes to her friends at Christmas, asking them to donate some money to help build a new home for Tutti and her daughter.

When I was in Italy, I learned a word— It’s “tutti” with double T, which in ltalian means everybody

So that’s the lesson, isn’t it?

When you set out in the world to help yourself, sometimes you end up helping Tutti.

I don’t have many pennies right now to be lavishing Alejandra with extravagant thank yous, but I wanted to do something…

So today I’m setting up a treasure hunt around Ciutadella old town. The prize will be my bicycle – a used but well loved prize possession of mine that I no longer really need.

I guess paying forward Alejandra’s kindness is my way of helping Tutti.

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