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Welcome to Polyculture

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San Juan Islands. I did not even know Washington State had islands until last summer and now I have been living on one for the past three months.  The ferry stops at Lopez, Orcas, San Juan, and Shaw (occasionally). There are many other smaller islands as well. I am doing a three month work exchange on an organic farm outside of Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. We have sheep, goats, lambs, chickens, and horses. We have lots of garden space going on as well. Just about every vegetable, flower, and herb I have ever heard of, and many I have not, are grown at Aurora Farms.

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Polyculture pretty much means diversity. Instead of  mono-cropping, a farm will have several different plants and vegetables, and maybe even animals as well; all which make up a cycle that contributes back to the farm. The crops feed the animals and the animals fertilize the plants. All contributions are beneficial to each other and the farm overall.

Nineteen different vegetables, five to six varieties of each. Succulents. What the hell is a succulent? Two gardens, a greenhouse, fruit trees, and a lot of I am not sure. It is very cool and a lot of work; yet, rewarding, yet, demanding, yet, worthwhile. Like any job, some days suck and then I live there. Living at work. One did not think work could get any more terrible and then it did. Again, those are the bad days, which are few. I truly enjoy farming, so it balances out. Oh yes and succulents are plants such as aloe vera or cacti that are thick skinned and almost waxy, which retains water intended during harsh climates.

Jackson's Beach, Friday Harbor

Jackson’s Beach, Friday Harbor

Luckily, I have had some time off to explore and most importantly, relax. Not more than fifteen minutes by car one can access a beautiful, remote beach and/or a well wooded trail to hike. Lime Kiln State Park has a nice set of trails alongside the waterfront and woods as well. On the right day visitors can spot whales. Another epic view is Cattle Point on the southern tip of the island. It is open and windy, offering a great panoramic view on a cloudless day with an old, abandoned lighthouse residing on a coastal cliff.

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I am not going to lie and make up a name, so you can.

Each animal has its own personality. There are a number of animals I call by name every day and they respond. Marilyn, the obnoxious, screaming goat that needs that extra bit of acknowledgement because she is hated by the other female goats. Very clickish. And then we have Sasha and Maria, our loving horses. Wonderful for a hug; however, I am aware of Sasha’ s tricks to steal Maria’s carrots and grain (the goods). No conning this guy. Finally, I could go on for paragraphs, my buddy Phoenix. The little orphan lamb that became my adopted child. He was a loner, caught between being a lamb and a pet, following us around throughout the day at times. Sadly though, the poor little guy passed. Nothing crazy. Completely out of nowhere, which led us to believe it was a lonely heart. As corny as it sounds, he knew he was different from the rest of the herd. He did not have a mother and once we weened him, life became rough. It sucks, but so goes on the farm.

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The community on the Islands is great. After living in Humboldt County, California the past two years, I appreciated living in a close community. The San Juans exemplifies it even more because how much more limited we are here. Everyone knows everyone, even across islands. Not long after moving here, I was bumping into people I knew at the grocery store. Best of all, hitchhiking is super easy.

A view from Eastsound, Orcas Island

A view from Eastsound, Orcas Island

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What makes this experience truly special though is the peace. Once all the organized chaos that is farming comes to an end for the day (the endless list of maintenance and chores), the joyous shooting of the neighbors has depleted, and the animals are all silenced from feeding, a calming sets in. Silence. It is nice. On a clear night, I can stand at the window of my guesthouse to view the stars twinkle bright as if there may be a city in the sky looking back at us. With eggs, meat, and different mixed greens going off in the greenhouse, the farm provides plenty, plus Lori Ann’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. As a few locals and I agreed (regarding the island), “Not a bad place to be during the apocalypse.”

Shatoe

Shatoe

Unless the ocean rises, then the islands are screwed.

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Just Relax

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I like yoga. I have been practicing for about five years. My practice has been a rollercoaster; physical to emotional; student to teacher, strengthening to restorative; and every bit in between and all around. Meditation, breath, chakras, blah, blah, blah.

I am merely on the cusp of the cusp. Yoga is abundant. I often step back to look at the grander picture, acknowledging how little I know; however, even a little of abundant, is a lot. Anyways, I have discovered less is more in many fashions. We constantly push, push, push, go, go, go. We deserve to be gentler with ourselves, so we can restore. Yoga can be modified for anyone to access.

With that being said, here are a few poses to chill out and feel better. Most importantly, make sure you feel good no matter what you are doing. IF A POSE FEELS BAD, COME OUT OF THE POSE. Oh and one more disclaimer; you do not need to be enlightened

 

Breathe– Our fuel for life, the breath.

 

-First and foremost, connect with the breath.

-Come to a comfortable seated position.

-Start by following the breath subtlety pass through the nostrils on inhale, filling the lungs and diaphragm.

-Hold briefly, and then the exhale.

-Play with the breath, elongating the inhale and exhale as long as you can.

 

Wrist Stretch– Battle carpel tunnel. Self massage is beneficial as well.

 

-Clasp your hands together, habitually or not, bringing wrists and elbows together.

-Begin to rotate the hands.

-Reverse the rotation to even out both sides.

-Once complete, release the pose.

-Shake your hands out.

-Clasp hands again.

-Extend your hands in front of you as you begin to straighten your arms.

-You can take your arms overhead if that feels good.

-Release the pose on an exhale

 

Reclined Twist– The sweet stuff, aka; snap, crackle, pop.

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-Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat

-Arms are out to the sides, like a T

-Slightly lift the hips and move them to the left, still keeping the spine in alignment

-Lift your feet and bring both knees to your right side

-You can always place a few pillows underneath the knees, so the twist is not so deep

-You want both shoulders on floor/mat

-You can:

1) turn your head the opposite direction (your legs are to the right, so turn your head left).

2) bring the left arm alongside the left ear and the right hand to left side ribs, feeling the inhale expand the ribs.

3) do not move at all, keep your arms in a T (out to the sides).

-Once you feel good, bring your arms back to a T.

-Bring your knees back to center

……..

-Now do the opposite side

 

Child’s Pose– Embrace the name, be a kid again.

15511011052010024013-Use carpet, a blanket, or a yoga mat.

-Come to your hands and knees.

-Float back, bringing your chest to the mat and your butt to your heals.

child_9672Modifications are what make yoga so unique. Take care of your body.

-Knees together, Knees apart.

-Arms to the front, Arms to the side.

-Place pillows between the chest and mat/knees.

-Place pillows between the butt and heals.

-Roll your head from side to side if you want a mini massage.

-If your hands are in front, you can walk them from one side to the other, opening side ribs with each breath.

 

Legs up the wall

*Quoting my instructor Ganga White, “Inversions drain stagnant blood from the extremities, tone the internal organ, improve complexion and eyesight, and have many beneficial effects on the mental-emotional system.”

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-Place a pillow or yoga mat at the wall.

-With your right hip to the wall, sit on the pillow or mat.

-Once seated, spin on your butt to swing your legs up the wall, reclining on your back (you can place a pillow under your back as well if extra cushion is needed).

-Stay in the pose for 10 breathes, following the inhale and exhale.

-Do 10 more breaths if it feels good.

-Come out of the pose however it is comfortable.

-Either bring the knees to the chest and turn to one side or use the legs to push against the wall to move away.

 

Alternate Nostril Breathing– A connection between left and right brain.

Like Spider-man, but not.

Like Spider-man, but not.

-Bringing your pointer and middle finger to you palm, use the thumb and the ring finger to close off left and right nostril.

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-Begin by closing off the right nostril and then inhale left.

-At the top of the breath, close both nostrils, and hold the breath briefly.

-Open the right nostril, exhale.

-At the end of the exhale, hold briefly.

-Inhale right.

-At the top of the breath, close both nostrils, and hold the breath briefly.

-Open the left nostril, exhale.

-You have just completed one round.

-Do as many rounds as you like and then return to a new breath.

-Observe everything. Breath, body, mind.

 

Play with meditation– Come to a comfortable seated position. You can use the wall for support if needed.

 

The point of meditation is not to be clear minded the entire time. For me personally, that is impossible. Sometimes it may be more valuable to follow a thought and see where it goes, not controlling its path, or not. The key is to notice when the mind is distracted. Once acknowledged, come back to the breath. Distracted again, come back to the breath. Distracted again, come back to the breath. It can be a vicious cycle; however, the shred of a moment of clarity that may arise, a peace, a calming that you may find, is powerful.

So no matter how crappy life may be, just breathe.

The breath is always a salvation; we just need to embrace it.

 

Namaste (and all that other “hippie” bullshit)

 

P.S- On that note, I recently read an article about Rage Yoga. Yes, it exists and maybe one day I will capitalize on it. Metal music, yelling, screaming, drinking, vulgarity, anger…

Sounds like a good start to my next class outline and yes, BEER!!!

So do not stereotype because somewhere out there, there is a perfect yoga practice for you and by the end of your search, you may discover doing a few poses in front of the T.V for twenty minutes a few nights a week is your practice.

Here is the link to the article if you are interested–

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/03/17/rage-yoga_n_9488318.html

 

-Peace

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Listen, Learn, and Act

Life has taken me various directions these days and it has all happened without even leaving the county I live in. Between farming, teaching yoga, interning, painting, and just trying to live; not much time is left. Luckily, my life is stimulating and one of the most interesting parts is my internship with Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples (7genfund.org). I have learned a great deal about Native American and Indigenous Peoples issues, past and present, as well as the rich and vibrant culture which still thrives today. The past several months I have been assisting with a research project about how white people (Non-Natives) can be an “ally” to Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples. The goal is to write a paper detailing the subject, which reach far and wide; however, with such broad topic, we feel the project may grow into something much more than a single piece. Below is an exert from what I have learned so far and I chose this portion specifically to help clear the air. Enjoy!!!

 

—Listen, learn, and act. These are some of the most important actions Non-natives can take towards being a strong ally to Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples. Non-natives need to step aside and allow the Native and Indigenous Peoples the opportunity to finally speak freely and be recognized. Non-natives must stand strong and committed alongside Native brothers, being aware of past, present, and future Native values. Once educated and conscious, then Non-natives must educate others. The hardships of Indigenous peoples are only a part of what Non-natives do not understand; however, one of the greatest misunderstandings is the vital culture and heritage that has thrived through centuries of oppression. “Being Indigenous is not just an identity but a way of life (Walia).”

The term “ally” holds much stigma and criticism in many activist communities and rightfully so due to the repeated exploitation by white “allies.” With ally (defined as something united with another, especially by treaty) losing accountability, not many other terms fit the mold of what is needed from Non-Natives to support the cause. Accomplice (helper, especially in committing a crime) inches us closer; however, Non-natives cannot be helpers in this fight. Non-Natives must fully participate as Natives do each and every day of their lives, willing to put everything on the line. Non-natives must acknowledge and respect why they are supporting a cause. Is it really for the greater good? Or is it just satisfying a selfish motive? Victimization and/or the thought of “saving” Natives are often romanticized, fabricating reality. No one needs to be saved. What is needed is action (Accomplices).

As a Non-native, it is difficult to approach the subject of how Non-natives can be an ally to Natives without sounding hypocritical or leaving a sour taste to any readers, whether Native or not.  With discussion, research, and abiding by my own advice; listen, learn, and educate, I have discovered it is impossible to satisfy everyone. The best way to avoid complications is to simply share the wisdom of the Native voice that has been so often muffled the past several centuries because now is a time more than ever to listen to those who have embraced Mother Earth for so long.

“Then they grow away from the earth

then they grow away from the sun

then they grow away from the plants and animals.

They see no life

When they look

they see only objects.

The world is a dead thing for them

the trees and rivers are not alive

the mountains and stones are not alive.

The dear and bear are objects

They see no life.”

(Silko)

… The following quote from the book, What We Leave Behind, serves as an example of what we all should be asking ourselves in regard to the seventh generation (referring to the idea how our decisions now will impact the seventh generation), “Will your legacy be a world who is healthier, stronger, more resilient, more diverse, than had you never lived? … If not, then the world would have been better off had you never been born.” Most of us, despite race or status, whether we chose to argue differently or not, would not have positively impacted the world if we died today (Waziyatawin). It is nothing to get down about; however, it is a new concept that requires reflection.

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“She Is Everything”

The title of this post is a quote from Marva Jones of Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples. While reflecting upon how to capture Mother Earth Day in a few words, an idea blossomed, “She Is Everything.” Short, sweet, and so true. Thank you for these words of wisdom.

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Mother Nature is an astounding feat. If there is a god to be praised, she is thee. The colors, patterns, textures, and diversity of nature is nearly infinite, captivating us at every turn. I see how genres like science fiction and fantasy develop such bizarre environments and species with those that exist in our world. To kick-start the mind, think of quick sand, sulphar baths (like at Yellowstone), poisonous insects, venomous reptiles, psychedelic mushrooms, the expansive ocean, an octopus; I could go on and on, so dream for a moment.

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Our own unique world is so valuable, yet we squander it. I would like to think I cherish the earth, but I could always do more. The urge to promote change, whether for the world or myself, has encouraged me to learn how to grow food and educate others.

I love farming, especially in California. My body aches, but it feels good. Anytime I become discouraged or anxious picking vegetables and weeding in the field, I just have to look up. Fields stretch every which-way to forested mountain bases. My vision then retracts to the twenty acre plot we are farming and the abundance of food that is grown there.

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Tasks became monotonous, but a meditation as well. Many thoughts flowed through my mind, good and bad, allowing me to sort a few. The greatest part about working outside (and just being outside in general) is not being restricted by walls, which is probably why my thoughts flowed so freely. Mountains jutting into the sky miles to the East, casting an amazing sunrise every morning, were my only boundaries.

It’s extraordinary, especially after coming out of a fluorescent-lit customer serving prison and yet as dramatic as I may sound, the first morning I gazed across acres and acres of open fields with cattle grazing nearby, dew clearing from the warm sun; I knew this was where I belong.

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Exploring the environment around us is a great chance to appreciate the many natural monuments surrounding. Though I am fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest, nature exists everywhere and we are all able to enjoy it every day. If not amongst the trees, rivers, streams, lakes, or oceans, then create your own. Plant a flower. Watch it grow. Better yet, grow your own food. It is inspiring and very therapeutic.

In conclusion, go outside, lie in the grass, and go from there.

 

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Home, Sweet Home

February 2016-

I have developed wanderlust. I become anxious when I settle in one setting or another. I feel as though I need to be on the move and not just in terms of traveling, but within my daily routine as well. Luckily, I live in Humboldt County, California. With the ocean, mountains, and redwood forests within a half hour car ride; I’m content.

Ninety-nine percent of the time if the Redwoods are not the first thought to pop up when mentioning Humboldt County, it is marijuana. The booming industry that has supported the county’s economy for years has also granted numerous opportunities for the community to grow.

Many “medicinal cultivators” are the same people supporting the farmers market, community events, fundraisers, and local businesses daily. It is actually a beautiful circle of life. Humboldt is self sustaining and what I have discovered is the classic rule of any tight woven community; “it’s who you know, not what you know.”

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Strangers spark conversations left and right at points as I try to find my solitude, which just illustrates my Midwestern roots tenfold. Besides the strange pronunciation of certain vowels, another distinctive Midwestern trait would be how we tend to keep to ourselves. Not the case on the West coast and I am okay with that. Sure, I am not the most social; however, sometimes it is needed to pry me out of my shell.

The residents add a unique element to Humboldt. Intertwining “unique” and “residents of Humboldt“ can spin out of control into a multitude of different directions. What I am addressing relates to those who are doing what they love for a living as well as volunteering their free time to give back to the community. People support the environment as part of their lifestyle.  Shopping locally, eating well, and being eco-conscious.

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With such naturally rich surroundings that I now call home, I cannot help but feel happy and alive. Even when it rains for days, I am still happy. California is in a drought and to see it pour buckets for days straight is reassuring. I also have an excuse to get all tucked away near the warm fire, dazing in and out of consciousness as the droplets rhythmically smack the sky-light above. So soothing. And when the sun breaks, I rush for the door. One minute, one hour, or one day; the sunshine in Humboldt is magnificent and calls for all to take advantage before it’s too late.

The blurry, boiling, orange orb in the sky that is vaguely seen through the fog surrounding, purges the bay quickly to allow a few hours of clarity. Witnessing this lift from the top of Strawberry Rock in Trinidad is just as astounding as driving through the natural phenomenon while in progress on Highway 101.

My friends and I first discovered the awesomeness of road-tripping years ago. One of our favorite aspects was that we were essentially just mobilizing our hangout sessions. Car seats replaced the couch, the windshield became our television, and whatever was cool on T.V, we would stop and take a commercial break.

The car is still my living room and whether sunny or gloomy; happy or sad; I can always go to the ocean or the forest. . Five minutes or five hours; I never get sick of the ocean. It is amazing. It is a good place to reflect. The crashing of the waves cancels out my everyday thoughts enough to drift my mind away across the rough waters to somewhere foreign and unknown. I float between the past, present, and future briefly; yet, the waves take me back to my daydream. And if I am lucky, nothing happens. No thoughts, no ideas, no dreams, no worries, no joys; just simply nothing.

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Help

The Redwoods, Northern California

The Redwoods, Northern California

The earth is sick and we are the illness. Yes, many people do care and have acted towards a cleaner environment; however, the larger percentage of those that do not has suffocated us. My hope is to plant the seed for future generations to live in unison with the environment as a lifestyle and not a chore. The movement in place today has convinced me that we can make a difference and that there are people acting to repair the damage caused. I am tired of hearing mankind is doomed. That we are at a point of no return, so we might as well continue to carelessly destroy what we have left. Ignoring the issue will not resolve it and saving the planet is not an effort that can be left to someone else because only a national and/or international movement will cause change.

How can we help? It is so simple.

-Reusable grocery bags

-Recycle

-Flush the toilet every other use

-Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth

-Turn off the light when you are not in the room

-Carpool, cycle, or possibly WALK!!!

-Repair leaky faucets. It will save on your water bill and the planet.

Many more ways to save are easy to find online. Do one of them or all of them, but please do something. It does not take much and it does make a difference. I am not stating that we need to completely flip our lives around, just be conscious. Within our lifetime, the availability of drinkable water will become an issue. The air we breathe; contaminated. The oceans we swim in and get our food from; polluted. The forests that provide clean air and that root the earth beneath us in place; devastated.

I will never forget a fact I saw posted in a restroom stall in Thailand. It read that we would have clear-cut every forest in the world by now if everyone in India and China used toilet paper. An interesting fact that almost convinced me to wipe my ass with my bare left hand (because one shakes hands with the right) and though I still use toilet paper; I am conscious of my usage. If we are conscious of our actions, we will change the world.

Awareness. The word empowers an entire sentence on its own. Being aware of one’s emotions, actions, and environment will naturally balance life. Try taking three, one minute breaks a day to become aware over the next week. Seriously, give it a shot. One may be surprised what turns up.

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Making the World Go Round and Round

Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe, California

December 2015

–With almost forty references between hosting, surfing, and random interactions, proudly all positive, Couchsurfing has influenced my travels a lot more than I realized. My most recent cross country road trip initiated this thought as I miraculously had four hosts in a row to accommodate me on my ride from Chicago, Illinois to Humboldt County, California. Each one unique, sweet, and as necessary from any host (I believe), friendly.

My first host was working in the Dominican Republic, so I did not even meet him. He gave me his address, door code, and directed me to the first room on the left. It was a big, old house with at least six people occupying the plethora of rooms. I met a roommate or two, but mostly kept to myself. I made a sandwich, took a shower, charged my electronics, had a snooze, and was on my way.

Though my first host was very hospitable, my second was much more engaging, because he was actually present. Hugh is photographer, who has lived in three different cities in the past three years. His profession is his passion and with the ability to travel whenever he feels, happiness has never shined brighter. Hugh is a cool guy and we instantly hit it off. Luckily, he had a map of the U.S on the wall of his living room to reference throughout my stay.

My third host was a combination of the others. Ashley is a nurse on night watch, working 6pm to 6am. I arrived to another empty home, made some mac and cheese, showered, read a book (twenty minutes max), and passed out. CRASH! A bicycle and guitar hit the floor, scaring all three of us. Wait what? Two other guys were uncomfortably sleeping in the living room with me, one on the floor and the other on a love seat. I vaguely remembered she was hosting another surfer. Our host caught up with us in the morning and after an hour of discussing what had brought us all here to this point in time, I was gone.

Last, but not least was probably the best, only because I stayed with my host for more than one night and we were able to hang out. Nate hosted me over the New Year’s holiday and while I was oblivious to the insanity that came with the holiday to Lake Tahoe, I managed to sneak by peacefully. I had a sleeping pad on the floor of a cozy, warm cabin about five minutes walking distance from the lake. Nate is a plumber, born and raised in Tacoma, and though he has other ambitions down the road, he enjoys the simple pleasures to wind down from the chaos referred to as life, which I greatly appreciate. The amount of tea we drank over the course of my stay granted me a noticeable cleanse. Nate is a tea connoisseur and while he may not agree, he is.

Couchsurfing is why many of my journeys are so memorable, such as my excursion to and from Alaska, Ecuador, New Zealand, Austin, Texas, Lake Tahoe, and many more. Some hosts I have never met, but stayed in their homes. Others, I spent weeks with, while some I still befriend today. We were/are buddies, lovers, comrades, a shoulder to cry on, companions through thick and thin, well in those moments anyways. A community, a network; a mindset. Ahhhh, it is refreshing to go just about anywhere on earth and find that many of us are on the same level. We want to peacefully enjoy our lives, living happy and healthy. We want to explore and learn, or maybe learn from those that explore, and then share.

Music therapists, lawyers, scientists, plumbers, nurses, musicians, and so many more contributing members of our society open their doors, their hearts, to a greater cause. Of course, hosts enjoy the company, which makes a difference. The cultural exchange or even a simple conversation is one of the most significant parts of the experience and without it; couchsurfing loses its appeal. The local hotspot, secret view, and the undiscovered restaurant are just a few perks to befriending a local; however, hearing and expressing dreams and doubts are just as fascinating.

The concept that is Couchsurfing has existed for decades, it was just not networked. Another underground idea that never blossomed fully into the public eye, yet many still participated. The gypsies, transients, drifters, hippies, and all types got by for many years and though they may have not had a source as convenient as Couchsurfing, word got around and people connected. We trusted one another, which I cannot say the same about nowadays.

As much of a hermit, introvert, or shy as I may be, I love people. I do not like customers, idiots, and assholes, but I love people. If I was antisocial, I could not couchsurf. Socializing weaves the intricacy that makes this tool so valuable. I have said it time and time again, “Couchsurfing gives me faith in humanity.” People, strangers, black, white, Muslim, Christian, men, women, from across the globe, contribute what they can to make the world a better place. Some send waves around the world, some through the community, and others keep it in the family. One way or another, our network is made up of people who are making the world a better place.