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Making Friends Everywhere You Go

I have a confession. I was jealous of Mr. Money Mustache. Well, not exactly of Pete himself, but of something he has been able to do for a long time that has eluded me.

Several years ago before I met Pete I read how he periodically traveled the country and rarely paid for a hotel room. There was always someone willing to put him up. One summer he spent in Hawaii at a guy’s house and he helped him with some remodeling as payment. There were several other incidents where he mentioned couch surfing.

My first attempts at this fell flat. You can’t just bed down in anyone’s home. What if your host is a serial killer? (I did notice several empty Corn Flakes boxes behind the house)? What if the host thinks you’re a serial killer?

It really wasn’t Pete’s fault. I just hadn’t learned the fine art of securing accommodations outside the hospitality industry. I didn’t know enough people from around the country where this would work on a regular basis and couch surfing at a stranger’s home seemed to me fraught with risks.

Then I got an email.

Meet My Hero

Somewhere around the early 2000s Mrs. Accountant and I loved attending science fiction conventions. One of my favorite authors was going to be the guest of honor at a small SF convention in Schenectady, NY. The missus and I loaded the car and off to New York we went.

Meet Pharaoh, the new mascot of The Wealthy Accountant. Bernie’s little buddy was as awesome as our host.

The convention was very homey and of course my favorite writer at the time was there. Except there was a problem. The conference was cliquey. The author stuck tight to his close group of friends. I never had a chance to introduce myself or chat for a few moments. I was hurt.

It was really my fault. The author did stick with his acquaintances, but he did so to pass the time. It was a very small gathering and I doubt he would have felt comfortable standing around with his hands in his pockets. Sure, he could have made a move towards me when he saw me constantly looking on, but it had to have felt weird for him also. I never made the move and never got to meet my favorite author…

…until years later at Worldcon, the largest annual science fiction convention on the planet. This time I matured enough to speak with the author. There was also a small round table with said author that I attended as well.

I promised myself to never do what that author did to me: to leave a fan standing there, hands in pockets. I know how hard it is to introduce yourself to someone you only know by their published work. It’s hard on the author too. Engaging every guest at an event is impossible and exhausting. The talk is always light because there is no commonality.

At first.

Dealing With the Problem

The same problem I had taking advantage of an opening to speak with an author I admired is the same problem I have securing opportunities to visit with people anywhere in the country when I am traveling.

In the beginning it was all about knowing how to do it. There isn’t an author on God’s green earth I couldn’t walk up to and chat with today. I evolved. As easy as it is to work with clients locally, I was out of my league when the net was cast wider.

Remember the email? Well, at some point a month or so ago I must have mentioned publicly I was going to see the eclipse with my family. I kept it hush-hush for the most part so I could focus on the event. Seeing my first eclipse was important to me!

The hotel was booked and travel plans set. Then the email.

A reader, Bernie Keene, emailed offering shelter during my stay for the eclipse. My response was so quiet you could hear crickets. Which brings up a good point. If you contact me and I don’t respond it doesn’t mean I haven’t seen your email. Sometimes I think about it and want to think about it some more. Frequently it is forwarded to my office manager. Some I delete; it doesn’t work for me at this time. And other contacts are saved in a digital filing cabinet for review in the future. The worst part is you don’t know what I am doing or thinking. Due to time restrictions I am unable to personally respond to every request. It sucks and I know it.

Bernie had no idea what I was thinking or if I even read his offer. What I was really doing was checking the weather in my original location and Bernie’s for the day of the eclipse. Finally, the Friday before the big day I responded to Bernie and said I would be happy to show up the next day with the crew for several days. It was a happy acceptance.

To be fair, I did email Bernie around Wednesday to let him know what I was thinking. But his email was in my inbox for quite some time as I played with the idea.

New Friends

When considering spending the night at the home of someone I don’t know requires a minimal amount of research. If it was only me I would not be as concerned. With Mrs. Accountant and my daughters involved I decided to check Bernie out. He has a Facebook and LinkedIn page which made him look like a normal guy. I can attest he is a very normal guy after enjoying three nights in his home.

Here is where it happened , folks. Every problem plaguing modern society was solved in this room over a bottle of Spotted Cow beer. (Note: I always can break the ice by bring a case or two of Wisconsin’s finest brew.)

This brings up a good point. If you want to do something like this you should have at least a minimal social media presence available to the general public. No accounts make me wonder if the person is who they say they are and all hidden accounts means potential drama.

A hotel is easier, but you never get to enjoy the local community the way you do when living with a local. For example, one of the things that impressed me most about Bernie was his pride in the accomplishments of his family. He showed me pictures of his parents (mom died in 2005 and dad is in a nursing home where Bernie visits frequently) and siblings. He told stories about each.

The home where we stayed belonged to his parents. It was converted into a bed and breakfast years ago where mom and dad Keene entertained guests for a decade. More stories were told. And you know how I love telling and hearing good stories. It is arguably the only real reason to live and is what makes life worth living.

We talked every evening until about 10:00 solving the all world’s problems. Bernie had more than a few questions and I was happy to share my knowledge or at least my viewpoint. Which is yet another interesting point. When you open your home or visit another’s home you will have such an awesome experience. You learn so much and can share so many ideas. It is hard to sleep from the excitement.

I included several pictures of the weekend in this post. It’s impossible to share all the things that happened. What I can tell you is how awesome a time my whole family and I had. And it all started from a simple email offering us a place to stay during the eclipse.

Now I know why Pete does it. If I would have known how special these Conclaves were I would have been more jealous still.

Now It’s Your Turn

How can you have your special weekend at Bernie’s? It takes a special kind of person to feel comfortable couch surfing in a stranger’s home. Reaching out to a blogger you enjoy reading can work, but until a connection is made, might not.

It’s easier for me now because of my position with this blog’s growing readership. I also attend plenty of personal finance conferences now and know many of my readers personally as a result.

That is the best starting place for you, as well. If you want the opportunity to visit for several days with a blogger or other people of like mind in your home or theirs, consider attending a few conferences first. Talk with people. Don’t make my mistake and stand in the corner afraid to talk because you don’t know anyone. My inactions didn’t fix that problem!

In back, our host Bernie Keene holding mascot Pharaoh. In front from left to right we have Mrs. Accountant, two junior accountants and some crazy accountant who couldn’t keep his puss out of the picture.

I know I can travel to virtually any area of the country and find a place to bed down. This blog might be the reason, but without attendance at conferences I would not have made the personal connection most people need to feel comfortable opening their home to what amounts to a total stranger.

There have been a few instances when someone was traveling to the backwoods of Wisconsin and asked for shelter. I agreed. Understand this isn’t a daily or even monthly occurrence. It happens now and again which makes it special.

By meeting people, you have alternatives if you desire saving on hotel costs with couch surfing. Schedules frequently don’t mesh so you end up speaking with several people before finding accommodations. Sometimes you end up in a hotel.

Each time a connection is made it is special. You learn more about other people, than any other way, when sharing an apartment. When all parties share the same values the gathering is especially special.

Now it’s your turn. There is a world of friends out there waiting for you.

There has never been an instance when I stayed at someone’s home where they did not become a friend. The friendship is long-distance, but in our modern world that is not a problem when you decide to stay in touch.

We live a brave new world where we no longer need to cry out into the night alone. We have friends everywhere we turn. I have friends.

You have friends.


Walking the Less Traveled Road | The Wealthy Accountant

Friday 1st of December 2017

[…] past August we had a total eclipse of the sun. A new friend from this blog, Bernie, invited the Accountant family to stay at his place only a few miles from totality in […]


Thursday 24th of August 2017

My wife and I are blessed to have a tremendous network of friends across the country and across the world. It's also great because they sometimes visit us, too, so we're able to keep up with everyone more easily. (It helps to not be located in the remote part of Wisconsin. It would help even more if we moved to a tourist hub.) I'm glad all of you connected, and I'm looking forward to FinCon even more now, as it'll provide the chance to connect with so many from the community...


Wednesday 23rd of August 2017

Upon reading this I immediately thought of the sharing community. One of the biggest expenses of travel, is of course, lodging. By folks opening their homes, a guest really getting a feel for the local nuance, certainly makes the stay more enjoyable. I look forward to sharing of homes becoming more widespread.

MMM had mentioned how he might be coming to San Diego years ago and I offered my digs. He never stayed, but did thank me for the offer. Popular bloggers are in an unusual position. They have built-in cred with their readers, but they're just not to too sure how it is on the other end.

I live near Disneyland in Orange County. Keith and family would certainly be welcome. Even have a car you could drive. You wouldn't even have to bring the beer, though I'd appreciate the thought.


Wednesday 23rd of August 2017

Over the years I have definitely learned that there are friends everywhere, you just have to put yourself out there just enough in order to meet them. That's one of the most fun parts about joining the blogging community. I have met up with a few people, just by reaching out and saying I'm going to be in your area, we should meet up. I have also offered to hang out with people when they come to Los Angeles (Keith- I know of some amazing breweries here). Every time I have done this it has resulted in adding a few new friends to the list. Plus, I've found that many of these new friends and I tend to be more like minded. After chatting for only an hour, it feels like we have known each other for years.


Wednesday 23rd of August 2017

Hello, this is Bernie! I am glad to have Keith and his family as new friends! After several chats and beers (he brought a couple of cases of Wisconsin's finest, Spotted Cow) I can say he is a walking Wikipedia of tax and investment expertise! A combination of knowledge, experience and creativity on steroids!! The best thing I can say about Keith and his wife is how delightful and respectful their daughters are. They can carry on a conversation you'll enjoy and learn something from!! The whole family practices what they preach. They don't drive a fancy car. They do travel with coolers and took advantage of the kitchen to prepare some of their meals, rather than eating out all the time. They even washed their own dishes, because they don't use a dishwasher at home!! I hesitated emailing Keith, thinking he would be too busy or already had plans. And because I had never invited someone I didn't know to stay a weekend. I am kind of introverted really. This experience has helped me to see how fun it is to share experiences with others. I'm looking forward to meeting and learning from the many people in the financial independence community!