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How I Learned the Dance of Life by Traveling to Hawaii With a Stranger



“The journey between who you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place.” – Barbara De Angelis

It takes a certain kind of person to agree to travel with a virtual stranger, into unknown territory, for an unknown period of time. A rebellious soul; fearless, faithful, and perhaps a bit crazy.

That was me and Doug when we agreed to travel together to Hawaii, island hop, and explore the unknown. Perhaps the most unknown of all, however, was our relationship to each other. We met online, by my reaching out, after I saw Doug on a reality TV show and his appreciation for the spiritual side of life piqued my interest.

When I learned that he was planning to sell all of his belongings and travel the world, I could barely contain my fascination with the guy. And when he asked me to join him for the first leg of his trip in Hawaii, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Crazy? Maybe. Curious? Definitely. Faithful? Absolutely. You have to trust in a power higher than your own to take a risk like this. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. But for me, it worked. Not in the way I had in mind, of course, but then again, how often do things pan out the way we think they will?

Hawaii is known for its creative culture. Dancing there is a way of life, a spiritual activity as much as it is a social one. While I (unfortunately) didn’t perfect the hula during my time on this beautiful island, I did learn a lot about the dance of life itself.

Similar to the hula in its complexity, the life dance, as I refer to it, is an expression of our own unique individuality, how we relate to others, as well as to our mysterious and beautiful natural surroundings. No two life dances are the same because our personal life dances are direct expressions of who we are. And while they may not always be graceful, they’re always beautiful in their own right.

I didn’t fully understand the life dance concept until I traveled to Hawaii with a stranger. Like clay being molded by fire, we learn our life dance through other people, no matter how difficult our experiences with them. The learning curve, I’m convinced, is sharpest when you’re outside of your comfort zone, with an unfamiliar face in an unfamiliar place.

When Doug and I first arrive in Hawaii, we get off the plane together and carry our two large backpacks towards the taxi pickup line. Almost instantly the atmosphere becomes a delicate mix of anticipation and anxiety. Will we get along? Will he like me?

Aside from the personal questions running through my head, there were basic facts of our journey contributing to this edgy atmosphere. For example, we didn’t know where we’d sleep on any given night; unsure of how we’d get there, or even where we were going. In fact, every day we spent together was characterized by this sense of uncertainty and vulnerability. I realize that, for me, these are the defining characteristics of any moment worth living.

All in all, Doug and I wind up spending around one hundred hours together. Although the trip is shorter than expected, it’s more than enough to fulfill its purpose. You learn a lot about a person in one hundred hours but you learn even more about yourself.

To start, I learned that most of my initial concerns were meaningless. For example, when you’re traveling with a stranger, you can’t afford to worry about whether or not that person likes you. In a foreign land, with no outside contacts, you become utterly dependent on one another. It no longer matters whether or not you get along, because you’re stuck together regardless (for the time being, anyway).

It’s not like most initial meetings, where you tip toe around one another for an undetermined amount of time in what I call the “Getting Comfortable dance”. In this case, you skip all rehearsals and jump straight to the debut, live life dance show. You’re only option is to be yourself.

The only dance you can do is your very own, to a song that comes directly from your heart, to the very drum that makes yours beat. When you’re traveling with a stranger, of course, you hope that the other person’s moves will be in rhythm with your own. And sometimes they are, but sometimes they’re not.

Despite all of this, in a magnificent exchange of raw beauty, you come to appreciate the differences – the things that make us unique as individuals. And you gain a new love for imperfections, which define and unite us as human beings. After all, it’s the differences and imperfections that ultimately shape our life dance.

At the end of our one hundred hours together in Hawaii, I came to realize that it doesn’t really matter whether or not someone likes you, or even whether your life dance moves are similar (i.e. if you get along well) The only thing that matters is that you’ve stepped onto the dance floor at all.

Because when you only have a hundred years to live, you have to practice and refine your life dance. You have to know your own steps so good and trust your own rhythm so much, that you can find your dancing tribe. And eventually, one day, it’ll be unmistakable and undeniable when you find that special person who sways just like you do.

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