An Open Letter To My 73 Couch-Surfing Hosts (Across 17 Countries)
To the 73 people who opened their home to me during my journey around the world:
Back in May, I decided to leave behind my corporate life in America to pursue a passion project: I wanted to circumnavigate the world by couch-surfing through my social network. As you well know, the caveat to this project was that I could not use the website: everyone who hosted me had to be connected to me somehow.
I was admittedly quite nervous when I got on that one-way flight to Italy eight months ago. Could I really find people willing to host me, everywhere I went? Would they even be open to welcoming a complete stranger into their home?
The answer? Yes.
I want to let you know that because of you, I've just done what less than a year ago I deemed impossible. There are tears in my eyes as I type this, because words cannot ever encapsulate what you've done for me by collectively taking turns welcoming me into your home.
So, thank you.
For you, this was an act of kindness. You asked me for nothing in return. You sheltered me, fed me, let me use your washing machine, drove me around, showed me the city you live in through your unique and local perspective. You asked me about my project and my life. You encouraged me when I expressed doubt. You poured your heart out to me when I shamelessly prodded you with my endless questions. You were my cheerleader when I was exhausted and on the verge of giving up.
You went above and beyond providing the couch I asked of you - I still chuckle thinking about the host who boiled me water so I didn't have to take a cold shower in the middle of a thunderstorm, the ones who woke up at the crack of dawn to drive me to the airport, the one who flew up 1,000 miles so I wouldn’t have to road trip down to his city alone, or the one who spent hours calling tourism agencies to arrange proper transportation in a very complicated 3rd world country.
Most importantly, you believed in me, and by doing that, you helped me believe in myself. When I think about the steps that I am taking to pursue my dream to travel the world full-time, my heart explodes with gratitude upon recognizing that each one of you has laid down a stone to pave my way.
Perhaps if I had only visited your city, and stayed with you, this wouldn’t have left as deep of an impact. But holy shit, there were seventy-three of you. The fact that I've been able to travel across 17 countries and dozens of cities on less than the $10K I saved makes this a very big deal. People like you are why I have unshakable faith that we are all capable of pursuing our dreams, that we each have the opportunity to accomplish great feats if we help each other out just a little bit. You are why my heart has grown tenfold since I left home eight months ago. You've proven to me that when we believe in ourselves, and have the support of other people who believe in us too, our potential is limitless.
The gift you gave me is much, much greater than those few nights in your home. You've renewed my hope for humanity, and shown me generosity and kindness to an extent that I did think existed until I witnessed it with my own eyes. You've inspired me more than ever to pay it forward to others who need help. You've taught me that hope can be served in the simplest of dishes (those homemade fried spring rolls and grilled venison being some of my favorites), and that I can be equally satisfied and fulfilled sleeping on a shabby couch in a small apartment as in a king-sized bed in a penthouse.
It was never the "couch" that mattered: it was you. It's the precious human connections that we’ve made on the sole commonality that we are both people trying to find our way in this vast world. Somehow, for reasons beyond explanation, we found each other. And even if we never see each other again (which I hope is not the case!), you’ve touched and influenced my life in ways that will ripple through time. A single thread of love binds us, one that is intricately woven into the fabric of our collective hopes and dreams. I feel forever connected to you, and you will hold a special place in my heart for what you've done.
I ask of you one last thing: keep doing what you do. Spread your luminous self to the world, because I can attest that even if your kindness felt like a small action to you, it has changed my life. Who knows how many others you can influence.
From the deepest crevices of my heart... thank you.
Ps. Below are a few of my favorite photos!