Sleeping with Strangers: CouchSurfing – Road Trip: Boulder, CO Part II
September 4, 2011
“The spiritual journey often looks like a dance between the two poles of vulnerability and boundaries. It’s a continuing dialogue between the impulse to soften and open, and the impulse to contain and protect. The two apparent opposites turn out to be equal partners in the process of embodying spirit and heart.”
– Sally Kempton
I’d say this dance metaphor applies not only the spiritual journey, but to life in general. “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing!” If you don’t risk vulnerability, risk adventure, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to expand to your full potential, to experience all that life has to offer. You shut yourself off from the things that make life worth living.
So, in the name of adventure, and since I didn’t have anyone in Boulder to stay with, I tried CouchSurfing.org for the first time. CouchSurfing is a website where people can find couches to crash on while traveling– for free! The website is built on the notion that there are a bunch of other trustworthy, kind, generous and adventurous people out there, just like you, who are willing to open their homes to strangers. The site has a series of checks that members go through, and you can read other Couchsurfer’s reviews of hosts and surfers to suss people out. I’ve had many friends who have used CouchSurfing to surf around the world, and the reality is that there are more good people than evil, more kind people than crazy – though the media tries to convince us of the opposite through fearmongering and focusing on the rare scary stories in order to increase their ratings and advertising revenue.
In Boulder found a host named Steve who is the director of a leadership program at Boulder University and had a number of positive reviews from other CouchSurfers who’d stayed with him. While I was excited for my first CouchSurfing experience, as I drove, alone, to Boulder, I started to get a little nervous. What if he was weird? What if he tried to rape me?? I’d meant to bring a bottle of the pepper spray Chris’s parents had stocked the car with (pepper spray that got us into trouble as we crossed the Canadian Border), but I’d forgotten to grab it. Should I “borrow” a knife from the kitchen and keep it under my pillow? Eventually I let the fearful thoughts go and chose to trust I’d be fine. Which I was. Steve turned out to be an amazing host, kind and generous. He’d travelled the world over many times, but was more or less settled in Boulder and had recently had knee surgery. So instead of traveling himself, he kept life exciting by living vicariously through his guests.
Steve lives on the edge of a chunk of preserved land, a park of grassy rolling foothills. My first night in town we had dinner and drinks on Pearl Street with one of his neighbors, an adorable woman who was an interior designer with a pixie haircut. After dinner we sat on Steve’s neighbor’s porch for a few hours, watching the long sunset, sipping white wine, just chatting with her and her brother, who’d just moved to Boulder from, oddly enough, West Hollywood – about 15 minutes from the home I’d left in Beverly Hills.
Steve and his neighbors made me feel welcome, at home, like I was with family. It was the first of many experiences on this cross-country roadtrip when I was amazed at the kindness of strangers.