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Carla Barnhill

Bed, Breakfast, and Community

The appeal of B&Bs.

You've heard it before. You've probably even said it before: We live in a disconnected society. We don't know our neighbors, we've become less civil, we'd just as soon be left alone surfing the Web as spend time getting to know others. And for most of us, that's true. I've lived in my house for two years, and I can't tell you the last name of any of my neighbors. My daughter and I can walk to the park, play at the playground, and visit the library without even making eye contact with all the other moms and kids we meet along the way. We've fallen into the trap of keeping to ourselves and not bothering anyone else.

I haven't always lived anonymously. Back in seminary, my husband and I were strong believers in the concept of Christian community. We belonged to a house church, had an open-door policy with the other students in our apartment complex, and rarely ate a meal without a guest or two. Before we were married, Jimmy lived in an intentional community with a professor, his wife, and several other students. We sought to live by the example of Christian community set out in Acts 2:42-47. And we hope to do it again someday. For now, we are in the 'burbs, struggling to find friends.

The reality is, there are few opportunities in contemporary America for people to share a friendly conversation over a late-night cup of hot chocolate with someone outside their family. But a growing trend in the hospitality industry is changing all that. Pamela Lanier, author of The Complete Guide to Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and Guest Houses (Lanier Publishing), notes that in the 17 years she's been writing the annual guide, the number of B&Bs has risen from 1200 to 25,000. According to Lanier, the rise in B&B properties, like most cultural shifts these days, is due to the aging boomer population. Fiftysomethings want lodging that feels different from corporate hotels.

Fortunately for all those travelers, many of their fellow boomers have given in to the yen to leave middle management and forge ...

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