Currently biking around the world

Posts will happen significantly less often for a while as I am currently focused on biking around the world.

It could be a few months between posts or it could be a few years. I will almost certainly return to this blog one day. In the meantime, enjoy what's already been posted, or read about my travels here.

The Secret

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Every now and then, I post an article based on personal experience and subjective observation, not scientific evidence and objective observation. This is one of those articles.

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I love being horribly straightforward. I love sending reckless text messages (because how reckless can a form of digitized communication be?) and telling people I love them and telling people they are absolutely magical humans and I cannot believe they really exist. I love saying, Kiss me harder, and You’re a good person, and, You brighten my day. I live my life as straight-forward as possible.

Because one day, I might get hit by a bus.

Maybe it’s weird. Maybe it’s scary. Maybe it seems downright impossible to just be -- to just let people know you
want them, need them, feel like, in this very moment, you will die if you do not see them, hold them, touch them in some way whether it’s your feet on their thighs on the couch or your tongue in their mouth or your heart in their hands.

But there is nothing more beautiful than being desperate.

And there is nothing more risky than pretending not to care.

We are young and we are human and we are beautiful and we are not as in control as we think we are. We never know who needs us back. We never know the magic that can arise between ourselves and other humans.

We never know when the bus is coming.

Rachel C. Lewis

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As a social dancer, I have the privilege of entering into the bubbles of my fellow humans on a regular basis. It’s not so hard as it seems -- after seeing me whisp someone onto the dance floor, a friend asked, “What did you say to her?”

“I said, ‘Hi. Would you like to dance?’ “

Not everyone will dance with you, of course, but this happened to be someone standing alone watching the band. The same friend told me I probably made her night. Not everybody expects to be danced with, but most people don’t mind being swept off their feet.

After the dance, you usually say thank you, double-check you remember their name, and then… what?

Sometimes, you never talk to them again. Many of your dances you may not remember. But sometimes people leave an impact on you. Halfway through the song you suddenly find yourself discussing your favorite place to travel -- or maybe they rebutted, “Picking a favorite is hard.”

“Okay, tell me the place you went that humbled you the most.”


“The place that taught you something about yourself. The place that made you realize or remember you don’t know everything.”


“Europe. Because the people there showed me that there was so much more to life than the way I’d been living it. Europe opened my eyes to the rest of the world. It gave me the travel bug.”

These conversations don’t happen with everyone, of course. Some fall flat after discussing your dance experience, or maybe you don’t talk at all. Some of the most profound connections I’ve with people are wordless: our relationship is defined by the synchronized movement of our hips or the wisp of a twirling dress; maybe in a dip we realize that’s the first time we didn’t communicate clearly, and that the past three minutes we’ve been not two bodies, but one.

What is it to have a meaningful connection with someone? Is it a lifelong of sharing love -- and then, romantic or friendly love? Is love binary? The touch of a hand, or must words be used? Can it happen in a minute, or does it take a lifetime? A dance? A glance?

Sometimes you meet people and they take your breath away. You leave with a sense of bereft newness about you, as if they have simultaneously given you a new perspective and yet created a void where you know you have something to learn. They open the door to a room you never knew existed. Inside? Mystery, discovery, maybe friendship, a story.

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In Egypt, I'm told, it's rude to ignore a stranger, and there's a remarkable culture of hospitality. If you ask someone for directions, they're very likely to invite you home for coffee. We see these unwritten rules most clearly when they're broken, or when you're in a new place and you're trying to figure out what the right thing to do is.

In other cultures, people go to extraordinary lengths not to interact at all. People from Denmark tell me that many Danes are so averse to talking to strangers, that they would rather miss their stop on the bus than say "excuse me" to someone that they need to get around. Instead, there's this elaborate shuffling of bags and using your body to say that you need to get past, instead of using two words.

Sometimes in conversation, people ask me, "What does your dad do?" or, "Where does he live?" And sometimes I tell them the whole truth, which is that he died when I was a kid. Always in those moments, they share their own experiences of loss. We tend to meet disclosure with disclosure, even with strangers.

So here it is. When you talk to strangers, you're making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life and theirs.

Kio Stark

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And then you go home, and undress, and hang up your sweaty dance clothes to dry. You lie in bed and think about the people you met, and wonder if there was something more there, and what was holding you back from getting their number, or finding some other way to see them again.

Is there a stigma around the way we meet and connect with each other? Can we be friends with people not because of shared interest or mutual attractiveness but simply because we have the ability to touch each other in beautiful ways? What does that look like?

And how do we let go of these people once we’ve met them? Do we reflect on that dance or the answer to their question with fondness, maybe a sense of longing? Are most of our connections fleeting, and if so, can we still find the beauty in them?

This is not a world where you can simply express love for other people, where you can praise them. Perhaps it should be. But it’s not. I’ve found that people will fear your enthusiasm and warmth, and wait to hear the price. Which is fair. We’ve all been drawn into someone’s love only to find out that we couldn’t afford it. A little distance buys everyone time.

Paul Ford,
How to Be Polite

I like to think that even when our efforts fail, it is when we conceive of the possibility of success that are we most alive. When we strive to connect with each other, our hearts beat a bit faster, our pupils dilate, our selves are on the line. We can choose to forgive people; can we choose to fall in love with them? Can we choose to see the light in someone we’ve never met before?

I like to think that in that moment when we make ourselves vulnerable, when we ask something besides “how are you?” or answer something besides “good,” when we tell someone “I want to see you again” or “you have had some impact on my life,” when we put our feelers out to connect with people on a level beyond being chunks of carbon on a chunk of rock flying through space -- that is when we are our most vulnerable, and our most alive.

Sometimes at night I lie awake, missing this something. I yearn to be vulnerable, to connect, to play, which as children we so readily did or were forced into, but now we give it second thoughts as strangers are dangerous (right?) and there seems to be an unspoken rule on the bus not to talk to others or even make eye contact. We might be judged. But I think what we all need on some primal level is to know that we aren’t alone on our rock. I think what we all need is to find each other.

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel: that is the purpose of life.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

That I want to love and be loved and reach out and be emotionally naked with strangers and have that be okay -- that is my secret. That is what keeps me up at night.