I am convinced that the greatest characteristic of being human is the capacity for relationship.  As human beings our interactions are pregnant with potential, moving beyond mere utilitarian roles to the realm of empathy, selfless acts of compassion and solidarity with the other.  Time and time again history reveals that these attributes are not solely reserved for members of the same tribe or clan but rather cross the lines of diversity and are displayed freely on the landscape of culture and society.  We marvel when a stranger welcomes the other like family, when the unknown offers a familiar hand of assistance, when the local treats the alien like a neighbor.  It’s as if in these moments the veil of self-protection and division is lifted and we see how life should be - that thin place where the best of who we are and who we were created to be is manifested on the stage of existence.  Like a spark, this display of altruism ignites a vision for an alternative way of living, and it is in these moments we recognize at the depths of our being that we do not travel alone.

This truth was profoundly demonstrated to me during my recent trip to Bali.  Traveling solo, I was without my system of support, though frightening at times, it provided the opportunity to receive the gift of relationship from the unsuspecting other.  It was in the absence of my own community that I discovered the community of the stranger.  It was in the vacuum of my sufficiency that I was open to the offering of the outsider.  It was in my need that the universality of love emerged.

Mindful of this phenomenon unfolding, I determined to participate in it rather than resist it.  The fruit of that decision are the photos and simple stories that are listed below.  These are not all of the people whom I encountered during my travels; it would be nearly impossible to name and picture each one.  However, these few represent the ever-present community of strangers around us who reveal the inherent gift of compassion woven through the very fabric of human DNA .  Our only task is to have open hearts and minds to receive their gifts of friendship, care and mutuality; and by doing so, overcome the debilitating myth that we are isolated people destined to hoard and protect our own.

I am convinced that the greatest characteristic of being human is the capacity for relationship.

Saying that, allow me to introduce you to the community of the other that showed me great kindness.  Take your time as you scroll through the images and captions; look at their eyes and hear their stories echoing in the background.

 Meet Sasha, a DoubleTree employee.  He was the first stranger to offer me assistance as I wandered into the hotel lobby with surfboards and duffle bags hanging off each shoulder.  He helped me find an open conference room to store my boards overnight and assured me that the room would be locked..  He was new to LA, moving just seven months ago from Davis, CA.

Meet Sasha, a DoubleTree employee.  He was the first stranger to offer me assistance as I wandered into the hotel lobby with surfboards and duffle bags hanging off each shoulder.  He helped me find an open conference room to store my boards overnight and assured me that the room would be locked..  He was new to LA, moving just seven months ago from Davis, CA.

 Meet Adel from Egypt.  A driver for Crown Limo, he pulled up in a black Chevy Suburban to take me and my 9ft. board bag to LAX - not a small task.  After laying down the seats and resting the nose of my bag on the center console, he shrugged off any stress seeming to suggest - "All in a day's work."  His peaceful presence made getting to the airport a breeze.

Meet Adel from Egypt.  A driver for Crown Limo, he pulled up in a black Chevy Suburban to take me and my 9ft. board bag to LAX - not a small task.  After laying down the seats and resting the nose of my bag on the center console, he shrugged off any stress seeming to suggest - "All in a day's work."  His peaceful presence made getting to the airport a breeze.

 Meet Putu, an employee at The Pineapple House where I stayed in Bali.  She made a delicious breakfast for me every day.  She emulated kindness, grace and tireless service as she welcomed me each morning.  A cup of coffee, a plate of fruit, a main course with a side of toast and jellies filled not only my stomach, but my desire for shared experience.  The table is such a sacred space where we can be seen and known.

Meet Putu, an employee at The Pineapple House where I stayed in Bali.  She made a delicious breakfast for me every day.  She emulated kindness, grace and tireless service as she welcomed me each morning.  A cup of coffee, a plate of fruit, a main course with a side of toast and jellies filled not only my stomach, but my desire for shared experience.  The table is such a sacred space where we can be seen and known.

 Meet Era, the retreat manager and massage therapist for The Pineapple House.  Her smile says it all - full of life and optimism.  Greeting me each morning, she exuded joy as we sipped our coffee talking about the adventures of the previous day.  I received two treatments from her on the first and last day of my visit.  The final treatment included a traditional Balinese a skin scrub called "Boreh" - a mixture of rice, ginger, cloves and cinnamon.  When applied, it creates a heat-effect that relieves muscle aches and increases blood circulation healing the body and warming the soul.

Meet Era, the retreat manager and massage therapist for The Pineapple House.  Her smile says it all - full of life and optimism.  Greeting me each morning, she exuded joy as we sipped our coffee talking about the adventures of the previous day.  I received two treatments from her on the first and last day of my visit.  The final treatment included a traditional Balinese a skin scrub called "Boreh" - a mixture of rice, ginger, cloves and cinnamon.  When applied, it creates a heat-effect that relieves muscle aches and increases blood circulation healing the body and warming the soul.

 Meet Suny, surf guide/instructor at The Pineapple House.  As an excellent surfer, he charged set waves drawing impeccable lines and cutbacks.  Far from arrogant, he was patient, intuitive and fully present with each person.  His sense of humor put everyone at ease.  Staring at overhead waves, he would say, "Oh these are small."  In short, he gave confidence and made you feel at home in the lineup.

Meet Suny, surf guide/instructor at The Pineapple House.  As an excellent surfer, he charged set waves drawing impeccable lines and cutbacks.  Far from arrogant, he was patient, intuitive and fully present with each person.  His sense of humor put everyone at ease.  Staring at overhead waves, he would say, "Oh these are small."  In short, he gave confidence and made you feel at home in the lineup.

 Meet Berta, a fellow Pineapple House guest originally from Barcelona now living in Austria.  She works in the International Motorsports Marketing Division for Red Bull.  We would sit by the pool talking about life, work and our futures.  Twice we hung out, catching the night life of Canggu.  She was brave and rode back with me on my rented scooter, and I joked with her that I was a little intimated driving with a motocross aficionado as my passenger - she laughed and was gracious.  In traditional European-style she extended hospitality to me and said, "If you and your friends are ever in Austria, give me a call and I'll show you around."

Meet Berta, a fellow Pineapple House guest originally from Barcelona now living in Austria.  She works in the International Motorsports Marketing Division for Red Bull.  We would sit by the pool talking about life, work and our futures.  Twice we hung out, catching the night life of Canggu.  She was brave and rode back with me on my rented scooter, and I joked with her that I was a little intimated driving with a motocross aficionado as my passenger - she laughed and was gracious.  In traditional European-style she extended hospitality to me and said, "If you and your friends are ever in Austria, give me a call and I'll show you around."

 Meet Gede, The Pineapple House Villa manager.  This man was the epitome of gentleness.  Always bowing his head when he would shake your hand, his smile was infectious.  He would greet you as if you were the only one in the room.  Though my interactions were limited with him, he left an indelible imprint on me.

Meet Gede, The Pineapple House Villa manager.  This man was the epitome of gentleness.  Always bowing his head when he would shake your hand, his smile was infectious.  He would greet you as if you were the only one in the room.  Though my interactions were limited with him, he left an indelible imprint on me.

 Meet Wayan, the shuttle driver for The Pineapple House.  He greeted me at the Denpasar International Airport with my name on a placard, and immediately made me feel at home.  This was indicative to the character of the Balinese people.  With limited English on his end (and no Balinese on mine!) we mysteriously connected through broken phrases and gestures.  This picture captures him well - thumbs up, nothing is a problem.

Meet Wayan, the shuttle driver for The Pineapple House.  He greeted me at the Denpasar International Airport with my name on a placard, and immediately made me feel at home.  This was indicative to the character of the Balinese people.  With limited English on his end (and no Balinese on mine!) we mysteriously connected through broken phrases and gestures.  This picture captures him well - thumbs up, nothing is a problem.

 Meet Rachel, Owner of The Pineapple House.  Originally from England, she moved to Bali and is now living her dream.  As surfer, yoga instructor and retreat owner she creates space literally and spiritually for her guests.  During my time there, Rachel became a friend.  On a couple of occasions she accompanied me on my surf excursions, and one day I attended her Yin yoga class which was absolutely amazing.  With honesty and attentiveness, she listened as I shared story and reciprocated by sharing hers.  She is perfectly gifted and suited for her work, and I am deeply grateful that our paths crossed.

Meet Rachel, Owner of The Pineapple House.  Originally from England, she moved to Bali and is now living her dream.  As surfer, yoga instructor and retreat owner she creates space literally and spiritually for her guests.  During my time there, Rachel became a friend.  On a couple of occasions she accompanied me on my surf excursions, and one day I attended her Yin yoga class which was absolutely amazing.  With honesty and attentiveness, she listened as I shared story and reciprocated by sharing hers.  She is perfectly gifted and suited for her work, and I am deeply grateful that our paths crossed.

Who is it that surrounds you?  Who are the people that are serendipitously placed in your life - the strangers that are so often overlooked?  They are there, but you must be in a place to receive the gift of their relationship.  You only need to pause, acknowledge your need, open your eyes to see them and welcome their friendship. 

The truth is, we never travel alone.

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