Joy is a choice.
So is chaos.
So is stability.
As we learned in the previous article, our perceptions affect our experience of reality in a profound way. I experienced firsthand how other’s perceptions and influence can dramatically shape my experience of a place while exploring Washington DC last year. The extent at how my perceptions can be shifted depending on who I allow to influence my experience was profound. This effect can be for ill or for good, and it is compounded if the person in question is hosting you.
CS members can be Divine
First I should explain how I met my hosts, and then I’ll show you how each affected me in a very different way and consequently my perception of DC.
I’ve been using Couchsurfing.org for years to make new friends in cities I visit, as well as find good people to host me. It’s much better than simply staying at a hotel because staying with a local allows you to see the city through a local’s eyes, and often the local will have helpful information you’d never learn if you were just staying at hotel. And, more importantly, it never ceases to amaze me how fantastic the people I meet through Couchsurfing are.
Without exaggerating at all, I can honestly say I’ve met some truly divine people through Couchsurfing that were more hospitable, caring, and generous than words could ever do justice to. These are the kind of people that make the world glow. In fact, Couchsurfing is completely free to use, and it’s ability to connect communities together has been shown time and time again; so it’s not surprising to me that CS has been growing like wildfire over the past few years. In 2009, they reached 1,000,000 members, and in 2010 they doubled that number. Today, they’re nearly at 2.5 million members globally.
Sometimes travel experiences go beyond words, and my experiences with Couchsurfing very often do. You probably won’t “get” CS if you don’t have a basic belief that we are all part of the same human family, but I highly recommend you check it out if you’re interested. Even if you don’t want to host or couchsurf at a host’s place while travelling, CS also hosts events like potlucks in many cities around the US and the rest of the planet. And these events tend to attract really cool, intelligent (and often inspiring) people.
I was lucky. Both of my hosts harbored a positive attitude toward DC, which was fortunate because I was still forming my own impression of DC since it was my first time there. They were both kind people; but, as I soon learned, one proved to be much more conducive to my enjoyment of the city than the other.
The Tale of Two Hosts
The first host I had in DC conducted a rather chaotic life. I don’t normally stay with rather chaotic people; but I’d had some trouble finding a place to stay, and my intuition told me this would be an acceptable first host. However, some things were uncertain that should have been more stable. My host had a lot of roommates, none of which were particularly organized, which also lent the place some instability. (And it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t a typical experience with CS. Couples, people who live alone, and even families host travellers on Couchsurfing.org.)
Thankfully, my host was friendly and cared about my experience there, but I soon realized that my perception of DC was somewhat fragmented because the place I went back “home” to (so I could recharge after a day of exploring) was somewhat fragmented itself.
As within so without.
Because of this, I was on the lookout for a new host, and that’s precisely what I found at a Couchsurfing event about a day later. It was a potluck-party-thing, and a local CS member was hosting it at their apartment. At the gathering I met a very cool couple in their 30s, both working professionals, and new to Couchsurfing. We had a great conversation, and I got a really good intuitive feeling about them; but when they mentioned they were technically in Virginia, I put them in the “maybe” category in my head.
“They were just too far…”, I thought to myself.
The following day, I was pleasantly surprised. I did some research, and it turned out that DC’s metro system made staying at their place more convenient than the place I was currently staying at! They were much closer to a subway station, and they weren’t as far from downtown DC as I thought. So after talking with my first host, I gracefully transferred to my new host’s place.
It was then that I saw DC begin to change before my eyes.
A Stable Foundation
Because I had a stable foundation, my energy went back into high gear, and I felt positive about being in DC again. This couple had a much more regular schedule, their place was incredibly clean, and they really payed attention to how I was doing as a guest in their home. This couple’s positive attitude was delightfully contagious, and soon I was seeing DC in a more holistic way. From this new stable foundation, I set out and explored DC with vigor. After moving to my new host’s place, DC didn’t even seem spooky at night… even after I kept running into this one homeless guy, but that’s a whole different story!
So why didn’t it seem scary?
Because from a stable foundation, I was able to elevate my level of consciousness. I was able to refine my attitude about what I was experiencing.
My remaining 4 days in DC were action-packed, seeing everything from the Lincoln Memorial to the Natural History Museum to the view from the top of the Washington Monument! I saw so much (most of which was free since it was federally funded), and to this day my time in DC remains one of my all time favorite travel memories. I really had a blast, and I’m very excited to share those experiences with you in future articles on this site (though not before I finish telling you of my West Coast trip, of course). We still haven’t gotten to San Francisco and Vegas yet, and I think you’re going to find my explorations of those places quite interesting.
Question Your Lens. Break Your Shell.
Just because someone harbors fears about a particular place, doesn’t mean you should subscribe to that fear too. Just because someone perceives a city or person a certain way, does not mean it will be in alignment with your experience. Always question your beliefs. Test them out. Ask yourself why you actually believe one thing instead of another. What would life be like if you changed that belief? You don’t have to just swallow what you’re told without examining it; be it untested faith or untested fear. Realize that you shape what you experience more than you could ever realize. This is the Magic of Choice.
Remember, beliefs are like a lens that you look at the world though, and some lenses have huge dark spots that the wearer never sees. Continually probe at your limits and discover the truth for yourself. Only through doing this will you continue to make breakthroughs in what is possible. Only though doing this will you finally begin to break the shell that encloses your understanding. Don’t let dark spots on your lens limit your freedom or your joy.
Be the washer of your own lens.
- Bonus -
Here’s an article that was pointed out to me that challenges some really common limiting beliefs about travel. Recommended: 10 Round the World Travel Myths Debunked from our friends at BootsnAll.