Hospitality: A Rule of the Road

Everywhere we go this summer— from Bulgaria to Tennessee, and Texas to Colorado— one theme is constant in our travels:


Surely grace and kindness went ahead of us on the road this summer, preparing our way.  

Just a couple of RV babies.

Our trip began in late May. 

We flew home from Bulgaria and, the next morning, we started a thousand-mile trek down to Texas for the Kerrville Folk Festival. I found out in April that I was a finalist in the New Folk Competition, a thrilling way to kick off the summer! Crunched for time and beyond jet lag, we pointed south, driving through flash floods, hail and Louisiana heat in a brand-new RV, scared shitless we might crash and burn.

Call it our initiation. (One we are not eager to repeat.) 

Frazzled when we pulled into Kerrville 48 hours later, our next-door neighbors at camp greeted us with an offering of cold beers (God BLESS them), and every stranger we met offered up a warm smile and a “Welcome home." Cultish? A little. But endearing. Kerrville is its own little family, and they pulled me into the fold.

My performer button gave me special backstage powers! I loved being part of this festival.

Coming to Kerrville as a New Folk contestant was a revelation. Radical hospitality was the unwritten rule of this festival. The Rouse House Camp hosted all 32 of the New Folk contestants at Kerrville— offering tents and sleeping bags, cooking breakfast, keeping coolers stocked with cold drinks and snacks, and hosting song circles. They pointed us to the nearest river on a hot day. They jumped our RV battery when we killed it. They made this place home for us.

Also, I won the competition, along with five fabulous humans (pictured here)! 

New Folk Winners and our hosts, the Rouse House Camp! 

From left: Ben De La Cour, Rachel Laven, Addie Brownlee, Deb Rouse (host), Lindsey Lee (host), Yours Truly, Justin Farren, Liz Rouse (host), and Joe "Cartoon" Shields.

After Kerrville, we took our RV into the shop to get a pesky “Service Engine Soon” light diagnosed. Turns out our fuel pump, A VERY IMPORTANT THING, was ... technically-speaking ... kaput. (I just had to look up how to spell "kaput," by the way.)

Luckily, we had purchased an Extended Warranty on our rig, which covered the repairs, but it took 3 weeks, 20 hours of labor, 100 phone calls, voodoo, goat sacrifices and witchcraft to get everything fixed. 

In the meantime, we packed our bags and went on a giant hospitality tour of Texas with a sign around our necks that said: 

“Gypsies — Temporarily Kinda Homeless — Will Sing for Food/Beer/Bed.”

Happiness is... a quiet cabin, a bed with a quilt, and my guitar.

This led us to a friend's ranch in Boerne, Texas, where we drank Glenlivet 18 and befriended a longhorn by the name of Waylon.

Our next stop: Blue Rock Artist Ranch, where we swam in a pool overlooking the hill country and I wrote songs surrounded by leather, vinyl and chocolate chip cookies.


The road then took us to Houston, where a friend's mother cooked two different quiches for breakfast so that we could have choices. It took us to Austin, where I met a musical community I fell right into like family.

Magic in Rebecca Loebe's living room in Austin, Texas. We had a giant potluck and songwriters' circle. Photo cred: Raina Rose, phenomenal singer/songwriter/guitarist and friend.

Turned out there was a silver lining to that busted fuel pump. We had to depend on others to take care of us … and they DID. They showered us with food, space, love, kindness and songs.

Here's the message I’m receiving these days -- those who offer hospitality will receive it in return, tenfold. I think this is a Law of the Universe, so true that I'll even capitalize it. The Law of Hospitality is spiritual physics. 

Confession: I can be tight-fisted and selfish, especially when I feel stressed out. When I believe there's not enough to go around, I hang on with white knuckles to my space and time and money. 

But I’ve met all kinds of people this summer who live rich lives and give so much away.

I want to be like that. I'm trying to be more like that every day -- to be in a sweet, trusting dance with the Universe.

A message from my favorite artist, Brian Andreas. Also, the way folks along the way made us feel.

Asking makes us vulnerable. Receiving makes us vulnerable. It can be tough. I often feel that I owe something in return. Maybe that’s what drives me to write so many thank-you notes. (That, and my mom’s sensible voice in my head.)

But I think this is the dance we are called to do. To ask ourselves and each other what we really need, and to open our hearts and our hands both to give and receive.

I wish boatloads of love, magic, and delight to you and yours,