Thursday, July 16, 2009

on love and the end of the open road

My eyes are getting heavy.

It is 3:26, and not in the afternoon, and it seems as though all my waking thoughts and dreams are of travel and what I have learned and am learning. I have been sedentary for only five days, and the open road is already teasing me with sunsets and mile marker signs glowing brightly in my mind.

I have loved this last month. It has moved me and made me dance, and sometimes it has made me question everything. Not just question everything. But Everything, with a capital ‘E.’ In fact, just for dramatic emphasis, you can capitalize the rest of the word as well. EVERYTHING. Because I feel that the weight of this statement is still vastly misunderstood, I will also ask that you add an exclamation point at the end. EVERYTHING!

It becomes easy to question everything (capitalized-with-an-added-exclamation) when you begin to realize that really you know nothing. Despite our best efforts; despite how full of fervor some of our conversations or debates have been; despite how we often feel that our way of living is the way it should be… we don’t know everything, and we haven’t even scratched the surface. You think you have been open-minded? Yeah, I did too.

No matter how often we volunteer our time or money, regardless of how we may be studying to make a difference in this world, despite how we avoid Starbucks to make sure farmers get a Fair Trade price for what they grow, and even though we insist that we are NOT the center of the universe…. we still struggle with looking beyond ourselves and just LOVING. No agenda, no conditions, just love.

I write this now as if I have learned the secret to life, but the truth actually lies in some split-second a week from now when I will be the one honking at the car in front of me for not moving the instant that red turns to green. It becomes evident in the way that we judge strangers instead of hugging them, assuming that what the world sees as beauty, is in fact beauty. It is in every day, when we forget that other people exist and need us to notice that they exist. In the midst of trying to find love, we forget that others are looking as well.

In everything that I have been questioning, this has turned into my new mission in life.

I don’t give a damn whether I have a degree, pay all my bills, am dating anyone, travel the world over… if I have not loved and lived well, none of it will matter in the long run. So for the first time in a very long time, my mission is only to love. Wherever I’m living, whatever I’m doing… Love.

I have no doubt that I will spend a long time figuring out exactly what that means.

And that’s okay.

on the open road part IV

It has been a month now since I set out on the road. 35 days, to be exact.

It all started at a local CouchSurfing barbecue, when my new CS friend Josh and I decided we needed to pack our bags and set out. All we knew is that we wanted to utilize CouchSurfing to meet as many amazing people as possible in as many places as we could afford, and that we needed to attend Tentsurf 2009 in Colorado. I have to say, quite honestly, that my life was changed.

I had some expectations, not a whole lot of money, no idea what awaited, and just carried the hope that this trip would be everything I wanted it to be. Now that I am sitting peacefully in my parent’s living room here in Seattle - the day after leaving the open road - I finally have the chance to piece together all that this month has meant to me.

There was camping at Tentsurf 2009 with a few hundred other surfers from around the world, where I was blessed enough to get to know at least a dozen people very well, and dozens more by their face and their smile. Within that event was a community like I had never seen… the sharing of food, water, and life stories. It was like nothing and everything belonged to me at the same time. There were community breakfasts with more than twenty people, conversations that changed me, and friends that I have no doubt will be in my life for years to come. There were drum circles around an open fire, thanks to Coyote Dave and his open heart and willingness to share the instruments that he makes. There was a wedding between two surfers, Anthony and Niven, and we were blessed enough to participate in it as friends and campers. There was a conversation between Houston’s CS City Ambassador Taryn and I that lasted hours on end, comparing and contrasting the roads of our lives and where we came from. Most of all, and most moving, there was deep and unconditional love, fueled by our spirit of surfing and our passion for our global community.

I spent the next three weeks visiting new hosts, and meeting up again with those I had come to know at the CS campout in Colorado. From having dinner at the monthly Salt Lake City meetup, to laughing on the front porch in Portland with Ben and Holly, to live music on the beach with my host Kasondra in Santa Cruz, to a barbecue with our host Rose Marie in Montana, to watching live jazz in the park and pub crawling with the local Denver group, it was entirely a CS trip.

What I walked away with, most of all, was a more important understanding of what CouchSurfing really is… the opportunity to know others and have others know you. The real you. The chance to learn to be and fall in love with who you are, unapologetically, and encounter others who love the person you are as well.

I have only been CouchSurfing since January, but I can safely say that I am a surfer for life. I can only hope that I get the chance to host - even more than I already have! - in my humble abode in Idaho! Forget the free place to crash… I have made friends for life on this trip.

And the world is welcome on my doorstep any time.