When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained – Mark Twain
I’ve finally found time to sit down and reflect on what has been an incredible first week in Canada. It’s been seven days of deliberate challenge and stepping out of my comfort zone. Let’s be honest, it’d be impossible to try and synthesise everything I’ve done in one blog, so each will follow a theme. This week’s blog focuses on CouchSurfing and 3 important realisations that I hope you can take value from.
For those of you that haven’t been introduced to this cool concept before, Couchsurfing is an awesome way to meet local people as you travel. Hosts let you crash on their couch for a couple of days or so. It’s a great way to see a place through the eyes of a local rather than a tourist.
After 2 years on the road I can’t believe I’d never used the CouchSurfing system before. Over the last week, I’ve had the privilege to stay with a 63 year old retired vet, a 51 year-old accountant, a French-Canadian couple, a 43 year-old Politician, two 22 year-old girls and a 34 year-old nudist. Yes, you heard right – a 34 year-old nudist (all explained below).
I’ve cooked Shepherd’s pie naked, hiked snow capped mountains, jogged in the rain, partied in a refurbished jail, attempted to play the accordion, chilled around a fire with marshmallows and ate A LOT of Quebec famous Poutine (chips, cheese and gravy to us Northerners) with my CS hosts.
My First Ever CouchSurfing Experience with a Nudist
Well, I definitely left my comfort zone for my first ever CouchSurfing experience. This wasn’t any ordinary CouchSurf. Somehow my curious mind had managed to encourage me to sign up for a 3-night stay with a 34 year-old nudist host named Mike.
Of course, nudism can be a very sensitive topic for a lot of people. For me, the only time I get my kit off is around someone I care dearly for, or perhaps, when I’m pissed as a fart with mates chasing a bit of Dutch courage.
On the bus journey to Mike’s house, my rational mind bombarded me with all kinds of worries… what if I can’t bring myself to be naked in front of a stranger? What if it’s awkward? What if the old fella rises and I get an erection?
What a waste of energy… It wasn’t like this at all…
Mike was a cool and comfortable guy to be around. He knew I was bit nervous so gave me a beer to eradicate the early tension. We sat down and watched ice hockey and had a bit of a chat. Mike popped out for what I thought was a toilet break. Mike didn’t return with any clothes on. It was one of those speechless moments where I didn’t know what to say or do. I did my best to maintain eye contact, but of course, that can be difficult when you’re only pushing 5ft 6 inches.
I knew it was my time now. I told Mike I’d be back in 2 seconds. 2 seconds turned into 20 minutes. I stood naked in front of the mirror for about 10 minutes trying to psyche myself up with a little pep talk. I repeated to myself “come on Dan, do it for England.” After slapping myself in the face a couple of times, I somehow built up enough courage to head upstairs. To demonstrate how I felt, multiple that horrible nervous feeling you get in your stomach by 10.
Let’s fast-forward 20 minutes to the point where all worry had disappeared completely. We were chilling naked, eating curry and sipping beers over a couple of episodes of Dexter. It was a really liberating and surreal experience. For the rest of the stay I was naked the entire time. I even cooked a Shepherd’s Pie for Mike whilst naked – words that I never thought would leave my mouth. By the end of the stay I was so used to having my clothes off that it seemed so strange putting them back on again.
The experience with Mike taught me a few very important lessons:
1. The Importance of Curiosity
Curiosity is key. Crazy, new shit happening in your life is a spin-off of curiosity. Mike opened my mind to a completely new way of thinking. Before meeting Mike, I’d never thought about nudism and I don’t think it would have ever crossed my mind. It’s shown me how important it is to let your curious mind guide you. You need to keep saying YES to the unusual, the weird and the unknown. On the other hand, if you choose to stay in your little bubble (and that’s ok too), you risk neglecting the opportunity to seek out novel experiences that help you grow as a person. After all, your thoughts and actions are limited to the bubble that you live in. And of course, you can only wonder what may be until you make a conscious decision to escape your bubble.
There are new possibilities, new ideas and new ways of thinking out there for the taking. These unique experiences will test you and take you further than you can ever imagine. Please remember though, they are not going to come to you if you sit and wait for shit to happen.
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO FEED YOUR CURIOUS MIND.
2. The Trivial Nature of Worry
For about 2 weeks before my nudist experience, I wasted so much energy thinking about what could go wrong and creating hypothetical situations in my head that never surfaced. It really is never as bad as you think it will be. And this was an experience that demonstrated very clearly how trivial most of our worries are. The problem here is that these worries will consume many people’s lives, and consequently prevent them from trying new things. This is how stagnation kicks in. It’s easier said than done, but as soon as a negative worry enters my mind, I replace it with a positive thought. Yes, as simple as that. I focus on what will go well and visualise the positive scenario in play. And if you make a conscious effort to do this for long enough (I’ve read somewhere around 30 days), it will transform into a very powerful habit indeed.
REPLACE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS WITH POSITIVE ONES.
3. Please Don’t Judge
I’ve already told a lot of my friends and people I’ve met about this experience. Some 70% of them labeled it as “weird.” I want to address this. I think “weird” has many negative connotations attached to it. To me it means strange, unusual and definitely not accepted. I don’t like it and I think it’s a very narrow minded view – let me explain. I think that people regard nudism as “weird” because it’s not commonplace in our society – we’re obviously taught to wear clothes. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be regarded as normal if we were taught from an early age to walk around naked?
The problem I’m trying to get at here is that a lot of people can be quick to judge through preconceived notions that they’ve learned from society and believe to be true. Many regurgitate and rely on dogmatic societal thoughts rather than thinking for themselves. In my eyes, it’s this obsolete and naïve way of thinking that actually inhibits rather than aids self-development and growth.
Remember, it takes a lot more guts to step away from the crowd and walk the lonely path on your own.
AVOID THE NOISE AND THINK FOR YOURSELF.
I hope you can take value from the 3 realisations from my nudist experience with Mike. Thank you Mike, I salute you for helping so many people overcome their fears. You never know… you might be able to persuade me to come visit you at the Naturist Quarter Cap D’agde in France next year.
And thank you CouchSurfing… when on earth would people like Mike have entered my life? You’ll be hearing a lot more about experiences like this as my trip progresses. I’m trying to demonstrate a different way of travel with each of my blogs – the Podstel way of travel. I hope this inspires you to get up and go!
Dan Beaumont, on behalf of Podstel, 19h May 2014