It is actually what I think and say, whenever I come to that crossing, no matter if I just went to the next Burger King to use the WiFi. Or come back from a trip to the Barnes & Noble in the area (my favorite place and as I know, one of Nans as well) or from an even further travel to Indianapolis, Sheboygan, La Crosse or Florida. This is the moment that says: home is just around the corner.
On this September day in 2011, I was – to put it mildly – nervous. I had already spent three weeks of traveling through New England and to Chicago with a friend from Germany. After dropping off my friend at Chicago Airport, I got on the way to meet my Facebook friend Nan for the first time in person.
But lets start at the beginning.
In 2009 I stumbled, because of a research about quadriplegia, over the YouTube channel of Chris. Even back then, Chris, who lived in Florida at that time, had a whole lot of videos on his channel about his life as a quadriplegic. I confess, for a while it was captivating to watch his videos. I wanted to know more about him. So I searched his name on Facebook and found him. I wrote a message and asked for friendship – this is the very short version of what became a change in my life.
As it went in the early days of Facebook, there was a lot of conversation, commenting, exchange, funny communication. Chris had friends from all over the world and I ‚listened‘ to many of them. It was as if a series of doors into the world opened all at once.
Not just back in 2009 I would call myself a ’serious‘ Social Media user. I don’t make connections easily, and I don’t collect friends. I was and still am interested in the people I connect with (there are always exceptions proving the rule…). I like to stay in touch and what I like most, is meeting the ‚virtual‘ people some day in person.
After following some discussions on Chris‘ Facebook page, one woman attracted my attention. I loved her comments, and was curious about her. So I checked her page. There was not much to see, but the things I saw made me want to contact her. So I wrote a message and asked for her friendship.
And she said yes, she’d love to have a friend from Germany. How exciting.
Over close to two years we wrote messages like pen pals. Lots of and long messages. There was so much to tell. We learned to know each other better and found many things we had in common, though our lives are really different.
When I started to think about quitting my job to fulfil a long time dream, and take a year off, Nan was always involved in the decision-making process. Which was great, because she didn’t know me personally and had some distance, no past with me, fresh eyes and ears, no prejustices. I am not sure if I ever told her, how much confidence she gave me to take that – not easy decided – step.
As my dream was to drive all through the US from East to West Coast, it was a matter of fact I would drive by and say … hello.
Which brings us back to Sept. 23rd 2011, sometimes in the early evening. When I finally arrived at the farm in rural Wisconsin, my heart was pounding. It was already dark and there was no one to be seen, so I entered the house through the open door.
You know, it can be risky to meet someone you’ve just met on the internet in person. No, not because I was scared something bad would happen, that thought actually never crossed my mind (yes, I can hear the ’naive-thinking‘-voices). But because we already loved each other so much in our writing, we could’ve been really dissapointed. So I made sure to have a backup plan (I’m not sure if I ever told Nan about that…ugh). I had my own car, I was independent, I was on my trip to the West Coast, I could just spend a night there and hop into my car and leave.
But, and as you’ve read the title you already know, there was not the hint of a necessity for a backup plan. The opposite happened. I fell in love with the dogs (I’m still not sure about Cookie 😉 ), the place and the people. And well, the horses, I’m still more the ‚I love to watch their beauty‘ but don’t need to sit on them.
After 10 days I had to force myself to leave the farm to continue my travel. I could have stayed the rest of the three months there. The first few hours I drove without stopping, out of fear I would turn around. With me now, a car full of lovely presents and a heart full of wonderful new friends.
During the last five years I came back a few times to my home away from home, as Nan calls it. And it feels exactly like this. Nan and her husband let me be a part of their family whenever I come over, and made me become friends with their friends. On my second visit she gave me a key to the house, to let me know it’s really my home away from home. I still get a bit mushy ( as in effusively emotional – yes, it’s so out of the dictionary) when I look at that key on my pinboard.
Here is to our friendship and the years to follow …
You might wonder what happened with Chris. I still think about how much I owe him – though he would never see it as due to him, but something that comes out of love and life. A few years ago Chris moved to Dubai. During that process (which wasn’t an easy one) I connected with a few more of his friends, some I’ve also visited on travels through the US. More lovely and open minded people like Robin, Dan and Sue.
Recently I realized that Chris‘ FB page is gone. I’ve missed the opportunity to meet Chris when he still lived in Florida, but maybe some day I’ll take a flight to Dubai and run into him, who knows. Life is full of surprises.