Giving Thanks for Beds

November 24, 2011 10 Comments »

thanksgiving 1970

The Ott Thanksgiving 1970. My grandmother (middle) is holding me (I'm the one in yellow). My mother is to her right and my sister and brother are on the far right.

It’s Thanksgiving – time for overeating and reflection.  As I look back on my last five years of travel there are many things to be thankful for – but there is one thing that I feel an overwhelming wave of gratitude for as it is the main reason I can live this life I’m living.

I am thankful for a bed to sleep in every night.

More specifically I’m thankful for those people who provide me, a person without a home, a bed to sleep in every night.

I am homeless. I’m not saying I’m destitute and looking for shelter, but I’m a new kind of homeless. I don’t always know where I will sleep, I don’t have a ‘home base’, I don’t have an address, I don’t know how to answer the frequently asked question, “Where do you live?”. Thanks to my past career, my education, my family, and my friends, I’m a new kind of homeless; the kind that relies upon networking , writing bartering, and past relationships to find places to sleep. I never take a place to sleep for granted…ever.

I earn less than $15,000 a year which is hovering around the poverty line for single Americans, yet I have stayed in luxurious places in Milan, Brussels, London, Prague, New York City, Sri Lanka, Hawaii, Kiev, Valencia, San Francisco, Barcelona, and Vancouver all for free. This weird elite poverty places me in some magnificent places, experiences, and beds – yet I can’t afford to pay to go to a museum, see a movie, or get the cereal I really want at the grocery store.

This elite poverty is certainly a result of my travel writing/blogging, but it’s also due to amazing friendships I’ve cultivated around the world.

I took the time recently to count the number of different ‘beds/locations’ I’ve slept in for 2011 and determined that I’ve slept in 75 different beds. I know – that sort of sounds a bit trampy…but it’s the truth! Sometimes I get to sleep in a bed, but usually it’s an air mattress, a sofa, a sleeping bag, a car, a bunk bed, or sharing a bed. One of my best talents is that I can sleep anywhere with anyone.

A few of my 2011 beds:


My niece's bed


Bed in Prague


I spent a lot of time sleeping in a tent this year!


Boutique hotel in Brussels


Hostel bunkbed


One of my bed's in Sri Lanka


Guesthouse bed

The point of this post though is to recognize the dear people in my life who support me time and time again by providing me with a bed as I travel through the US. If it weren’t for these people I couldn’t survive this crazy lifestyle hovering around the poverty line. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to follow my passions; travel, exploration, and influencing others to reap the benefits of travel.

Let’s start with the obvious ones, family. Family is stuck with you. Yet I don’t know that any of my family thought they’d have to provide me shelter as an adult with a graduate degree. But they graciously have. My brother –in-law and sister-in-law have been quite patient as ‘Sherry the homeless aunt’ comes yet again to visit! A special thanks to my two nieces which have to put up with me when I stay; Lindsey who has been sharing her bottom bunk of her bunk bed with me for the last 5 years and Evie who shares her massive king bed with me when I visit time after time.


Our Ott family photo taken last Thankgsiving!

My friends have also been a key provider of beds for me in New York City and San Francisco. I’m lucky that I have such great friends who continue to put me up when I’m in town. These are all friends who have also traveled with me during these 5 years so they do have a unique insight into my life on the road that others may not have. Lucky for me, they are all busy professionals – they travel a lot for work and pleasure so quite frequently their apartments are empty and I am left with a beautiful apartment to myself in a beautiful city.

David’s apartment is my NYC home base. He gave me a set of keys a few years ago and even his doorman knows me by now. It’s the only keys I carry with me around the world. David allows me to stay on his air mattress in the middle of his living room for a couple of weeks at a time. Sometimes I think I know his neighbors better than he does!

David and I in Croatia

Kathleen and Angie have recently been providing my San Francisco home base. Kathleen has a beautifully decorated apartment that makes me question my decision to sell all of my own apartment stuff every time I set foot into it! She has a spare room with a comfy futon and fast internet – what more could a girl ask for ?!

Kathleen and I doing our USA road trip in 2008

Angie provides me with a great location in Presidio Heights and a comfy air mattress. Yet I’m sad and happy to say that Angie’s location is short-lived as she gets married this winter and moves out of San Francisco.


Angie and I in Australia

And thanks to all of my friends around the world who have supported me and put me up; there are many, many of you.

I will never be able to pay them back for everything they’ve given me. How do you repay someone for helping you gain freedom? For a blogger – you write a post I guess.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

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