March 17th, 2021 05:26 PM

“I am currently sitting in a heated Yurt overlooking the Quail Hollow Ranch country park hugged by a thick, green blanket and my loyal jacket. I look around I see magic. The fact that I am able to type this right now is magic. The fact that I have internet connection in the middle of nowhere is magic. The fact that this Yurt has a fridge and lights and speakers and hammocks and heaters is magic. And the best part? I decided to come here less than 24 hours ago.”Taken from my journal.


March 16th, 2021 05:39 PM

I am desolately staring at my phone and looking up local travel agencies, solo travel groups, and tour packages, trying to find a way to escape — nothing, in particular, but everything in general — for a few days.

My life had been chaotic the past few weeks for various reasons and I noticed a sharp decline in my mental health.

I knew distance would help.

Actually, no. Strike that.

I thought it would.

Little did I know that my 3-day escapade would not just restore my mental health, but also let me discover, and rediscover, certain missing elements from my life.


Figure: Sitting comfortably in an empty Caltrain coach.


The Missing Elements

March 17th, 2021 01:31 PM

I get off a bus feeling anxious to meet my Couchsurfer, Romain Paulus. Thankfully, my anxiety was dampened by my fatigue. I had just spent the past 4-hours traveling on a car, bus, and train to get to Felton, California. Perks of not having a car.

After looking around for a few minutes, we spot each other and exchange some pleasantries. By the end of that day though, it was clear to me that Romain, and his girlfriend Abriana, were two of the most wonderful and welcoming people I could’ve found on Courchsurfing.

Once we reached his beautiful house perched on top of a hill with a view to behold, he took me to the Yurt, which was hidden amongst the trees a few hundred meters away. It took me a few hours until the moment I saw it to truly absorb where I was and how lucky I am.


Figure: View from their house.



I learned what a Yurt was just last week. A circular tent used as a dwelling by various nomadic groups originating from Central Asia.


Figure: A Yurt from 1860 (left) and the Yurt I stayed in last week (right).


Judging by the facade, the Yurt from 1860 on the left does not look vastly different than the Yurt that I stayed in, on the right. Once you walk in though, you start to appreciate the wonder of the era we live in. As your eyes sweep the circle, you would notice a queen-size plush mattress, blue mini-fridge, multiple hammocks, a ladder leading to another mattress, purified water can, giant speakers, and an electric heater, among other essential items. And of course, access to the internet.


Figure: An inside look at the Yurt I lived in.


Maybe it was because of my first time seeing a Yurt; maybe it was the sense of high that came with the physical elevation, but I felt ineffably inspired witnessing all this.

And once I configured my brain to focus on the minutiae of details that I since then overlooked in my daily routine, everything I came across the next few days uplifted and inspired me.

Learning about Romain and Abriana’s lives, and their eclectic hobbies, inspired me to pick up a few of my own — learning to play the piano and crocheting for now. Learning about Marie Poulin’s usage of Notion one afternoon inspired me to completely recreate my GTD workflow from scratch (which I am currently in the process of, and plan to write an article on soon!). Standing on top of a hill and looking into the abyss inspired me to think about one day organizing a retreat for people who are looking to pause in life; those who are starved for creative freedom. One day. Soon.

Overall, letting go of my calendar and the structure I imposed on myself for a few days gave me time to rethink what mattered.



While inspiration was the primary missing element, I also found two other emotions worth mentioning: joy and appreciation.

Joy of exploring in solitude, of dancing like there’s no tomorrow, of making up ridiculous songs while walking, and of laughing the way a child does for no apparent reason.

And appreciation for the amenities that I took — and take — for granted in life. It’s only when you have to hold in your pee for a few hours because the restroom is half a kilometer away and you have a few back-to-back meetings that you appreciate the wonders of plumbing.


Closing Thoughts

The lesson that I keep learning in life is this: you regret the things you don’t do than the things you do.

If I hadn’t trusted my instinct and gave in to my adventurous spirit, I never would have spent 3 days in a Yurt in the middle of the Felton mountains.

I never would’ve danced to techno-psytrance with Romain and Abriana while high on alcohol and chocolate chip cookies.

I never would’ve walked at 12 AM in a pitch-dark, deafeningly quiet forest back to my Yurt and come face-to-face in contact with a deer.

And, I never would’ve meditated in the middle of Lake Lomond while paddle-boarding as the rain drenched every inch of my body.

Say yes. 

And let the beautiful chaos that is life do the rest for you.


Gratitude <3

To Romain and Abriana: thank you for opening up your home and giving me more than what I asked for.

To the Couchsurfing team: thank you for building a product and community built on the foundations of generosity and a sense of adventure.

To anyone reading this: consider making a (small) donation to Couchsurfing, which was one of the companies badly hit by the covid-19 pandemic.