Navyo’s insights gained about himself while housesitting and couchsurfing across Europe.
Over the last six years, I’ve carved out a niche of Immersive Travel that avoids hotels and even B&Bs and instead uses Housesitting and Couchsurfing, one of the many global hospitality networks, to stay with locals and spend time with them, meet their friends and build a sense of community worldwide.
Housesitting has enabled me to be somewhere for longer periods where I can really get involved. It provides the time and space to connect even more with the people around me. Being shown a city or local area by someone who lives there is invaluable. It’s about learning a new language (and having to speak it), learning local customs and participating in community life.
On an deeper level, Immersive Travel is about stepping outside your comfort zone and growing as a person, discovering more of who you are and what you’re capable of. It expands your boundaries. You have to find deeper resources within yourself. You have to show up.
One of the most important things I got from Couchsurfing, Housesitting and Immersive Travel in general is that there is no such thing as a stranger. That whole concept comes from fear of the other, of the division of us and them, a fear which is actively promoted by the media and entertainment industry. Travel has made me much more accepting and inclusive of others. I’ve been so welcomed by other people into their homes and their lives, it’s natural to want to return and reciprocate.
It’s in this way I’ve also become more generous. I not only received so much, I also got to share more of myself and my own life with people I’d never met before. It’s expanding a lifestyle of sharing and giving back and contributing. It’s a way of making the world a better place.
Travel makes you humble, and I’ve certainly experienced that. Being witness to so many different social strata, from palaces to poverty and everything in between, I’ve ceased to be fixed on a way life has to be. I’ve become more adaptable and open-minded, more accepting of people and situations without the need to identify with them or react against them. This has been echoed by many other travelers I’ve met – that people are people, regardless of how much money they have. On that level, everyone is a peer.
Travel enough and you begin to lose your cultural identity. Even though it says so on my passports, I’m no longer British or American. That sense of identity expands and becomes more inclusive. I feel more global, a world citizen, more human. Being around so many people, so much cultural diversity, I become an observer, participating yet not attaching, being with them but not of them. It’s like looking in a mirror and every time seeing someone else.
Stepping out into the unknown adventures of Immersive Travel is stepping into the stream, the stream of life. Trusting in this stream, that it will carry you, is one of the biggest lessons of all. In my experience, it always does without fail. People show up. Things happen. Life happens.
That’s something worth writing about.
Navyo is a regular contributor to this magazine and author of Soul Traveler: Taking the Jump – A European Grand Tour Couchsurfing & Housesitting, out now in paperback or kindle on amazon.com
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