On my trip last year, I tried really hard to pinch pennies, figuring it would extend my stay.
It did. But there was also the benefit of stumbling upon creative ways to travel, lodge and meet people. One of those ways was via Couchsurfing!1
I had heard of Couchsurfing before my trip but never gave it much thought. Now, I have a handful of new friends that I met just by begging them for a couch to sleep on. It was an awesome social trust experiment and a wonderful way to experience new cities.
Anyway, I looked back at my Couchsurfing profile today and realized it needed a little updating. It asks for basic info like age, gender and nationality, along with a short survey for other travelers to get to know you a bit (“Countries I’ve Visited,” “What I Can Share With Hosts,” etc.).
One of the survey sections asks you to describe “One Amazing Thing I’ve Done.”
Some people on Couchsurfing write stuff like “swimming with penguins in Atlantis”2 or “riding a pterodactyl into an active volcano!”3 Badass, right? I’m not that cool yet, but I always love reading that section when I’m reviewing prospective hosts – it’s an instant conversation starter.
Anyway, I started editing that section of my profile. Previously, it listed hiking the Cinque Terre, visiting a Bulgarian village and witnessing evening prayer during Ramadan in Morocco. All three were accomplished on my first big travel foray, on Semester at Sea in 2011.
I realized that in the five years since, I’ve done a lot of things – both home and abroad – that I’d consider “amazing.” Well, see, that’s the thing. At the time, it didn’t feel like I was doing something I’d consider more than your typical, everyday adventure. It’s always something you look back on and then say, “Well, shit. That was freakin’ amazing!”
And we can debate semantics all day, but, in hindsight, fasting for a day of Ramadan in Morocco was amazing. Trekking out to a three-day music festival on an Icelandic farm was amazing. Spending a week rumbling around Tasmania in a campervan was amazing. Meeting dozens of interesting people from all over the world each week was amazing. Visiting Auschwitz was amazing.
The list goes on and on. Writing out my new “amazing thing” section brought me two distinct realizations:
- We should never take the amazing moments for granted. A weekend hike, a camping trip, meeting random people at a music festival; all amazing. I need – and I think this is fair to assume of many people – to realize that more often. I need to stop, look around and recognize that something awesome is happening and that life itself is an amazing, time-sensitive commodity.
- Humans do amazing things every day. If you all had an “amazing thing” section to write up about your life, what would be on it? Hell, even if we limit it to the last 365 days, how many bullet points could you come up with? Got a promotion at work? Had a baby? Volunteered over the holidays?
We don’t have to swim with penguins, ride pterodactyls or sleep in a van in a foreign country to accomplish amazing things with our days. It’s just a matter of recognizing these things when they occur, and always remembering to look back and appreciate those little memories.
It’s a constant reminder that life is amazing, and so are a lot of the things we do in it.
Live it up.
Ignore the whole “learning French & Spanish” portion of my profile. I’m always “learning French & Spanish” like I’m always “getting in shape.” I have a gym membership, but that doesn’t mean I actually go…but I really want to.
Also false. Pterodactlys aren’t even a thing anymore, dude.