Home Is Where The Nettles Are


This blog entry about the events of Monday, February 28, 2005 was originally posted on March 12, 2005.

DAY 499 (Part 2):  People ask me if I get homesick being on the road for so long.  “Yeah, in the beginning I was, but after a while you just sort of get used to it,” is my usual response.  Traveling from place to place like a vagabond just becomes your norm and it doesn’t phase you. 

“Where do you live?” some would ask me.

“Well, I got rid of my apartment, so I don’t really live anywhere.  I live out of a bag at the hostel.”

“Don’t you miss your friends at home?”

“Nah, most of my friends are on-line, so I talk to them all the time,” I said.  True; my virtual self never left, and being on-line with people at home had been the constant that had kept me sane on the road.  “Home is where the internet is,” I’d say.

Speaking of homes, that’s where David Sebastian and I went that night after Whistler; not to the college house in Kitsilano, but his parents’ house in the southern Vancouver suburb of Surrey, near Crescent Beach and White Rock, to drop off the car.

“I thought I heard car noises,” said a voice from the front porch.  It was David Sebastian’s mom Wendy greeting us with open arms, and a special treat.  “We thought in honor of your return, we’d do something new,” she said.  “The First Annual Crescent Beach Nettle Fest!”

“And what’s a nettle exactly?” I questioned.

“You don’t know about the stinging nettle?” David Sebastian said with a smirk.

On the front door of the house were signs welcoming not only us to the Nettle Fest, but two others; my arrival coincided with the arrival of David Sebastian’s grandparents who had just come in on the train from their home in Toronto, and it was them that I met next as I stepped through the doorway.  Wendy’s father Larry had recently become a national celebrity after he had appeared in a famous TV ad for Buckley’s cough syrup, where he read a letter to the Buckley’s company on camera in a somewhat confused state.  His demeanor in the ad became so popular that it was actually parodied by Canadian comedian Shaun Majumder in the Canadian news parody show This Hour Has 22 Minutes (a show similar to America’s The Daily Show).  I was excited to meet him since my friends and I at home were big believers in Buckley’s — it tastes awful, and it works.

The King household was very homey not just because of its rustic charm and cozy atmosphere, but mainly from its people.  David Sebastian’s parents and grandparents were a more-than-hospitable bunch; Charles, David Sebastian’s doctor father, greeted me and led me to a bathroom where I could have a shower after a day on the slopes.  While he went to the kitchen to prepare some nettle-related food, Wendy briefed me on the “Nettle Fest,” first by giving me a printout of a web page explaining what exactly the stinging nettle was:

Stinging Nettles are perennials that belong in the nettle family Urticaceae and have opposite leaves. They are common in coastal areas of BC, Washington and Oregon and inland in south and central BC. They grow best in moist forests and prefer shady disturbed areas where they grow in patches…

When a human brushes by the plant and it touches their skin, the tiny hollow hairs break off and release an acid which irritates the skin and causes white itchy spots to appear. The degree and length of itchiness depends on the individual’s skin sensitivity. Some people suffer for as long as 24 hours, while others only have the sensation for an hour or so.

There was a bowl of stinging nettles on the table (picture below) for me to see, but not touch, and I was assured that they lost their poison ivy-like properties when cooked, and that they were actually rich in nutrients when consumed. 

“[I called it the Noxious Nettle Fest,]” Wendy told her son.  “[I couldn’t think of another ‘N’ word.]”

“[How about ‘nifty?’]” I suggested.

“[Yeah, you’re always saying ‘nifty.’]” David Sebastian added.

“[The Nifty Nettle Fest!]” Wendy said.  She liked it.

“[You see where the banter in the Kitsilano house comes from?]” David said to me.  He mentioned that his mother had been dying to have a nettle festival for quite some time, but never really had the excuse to throw it until the celebratory arrival of guests that night.  In fact, streamed across the dining/living room was a line of hanging pendants, each one representing a celebration at the house, and I was asked to autograph the one put up in celebration of “The Global Trip 2004, Day 499.”  It was a family party after all, complete with a lovely dinner of nettle pastry puffs and nettle tempura, both yummy and lacking of anything poisonous or stinging.  The epitome of the dinner party was when they brought out a cake that they had gotten for me and my arrival, a sweet cake with coconut and bananas and lots of icing, complete with a flag of the globe sticking out on top and a little wind-up walking globe toy.

“That’s you!” Gwen, David Sebastian’s grandmother, said.

“Aw, it’s like a surprise party!” I said.  Their welcoming couldn’t have been warmer, and I felt like I was at a second home.

“Well, thank you for befriending our son,” Wendy said. 

“Mom,” David Sebastian said embarrassingly.

“I’m just saying.”

I entertained the group with my insights on traveling the world until it was time to go; David Sebastian had to get back to school to get cracking on a report he had due.  His mom drove us back to Kitsilano, and thus ended the First Annual Crescent Beach Nettle Fest. 

“You should come and visit again and when you go around the world the other way,” Wendy told me when she dropped us off.

“I’ll be sure to be back for the second annual Nettle Fest,” I said.

David Sebastian and I settled back in the house that night with the rest of the gang, quite content of the events of the day.  “[See, all that:  family, a home-cooked meal… you can’t get that on-line,]” Dave Sebastian said to me.  “[‘Home is on the internet,’ ha!]”

Touché.  I suppose when you can’t get to your friends and family on-line, home is definitely where the nettles are.

Next entry: Old School?

Previous entry: Worried At Whistler

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
Old School?

Previous entry:
Worried At Whistler


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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