Vulnerability, New Experiences, and Life

by Lance Ekum on · 34 comments

"With each passage of human growth we must shed a protective structure [like a hardy crustacean]. We are left exposed and vulnerable – but also yeasty and embryonic again, capable of stretching in ways we hadn't known before." ~ Gail Sheehy

Trying something "new" – you know that feeling where it can feel a bit on the vulnerable side.  In a way, you're putting yourself out there – not knowing for sure how it's all going to turn out. (but then – do you every really know…)

Recently, Ive begun the process of looking at colleges for my oldest son, who is a junior in high school – and right at that age where he's thinking about this (and really – about "what's next" after high school is finished). It's been a fun (and enlightening) process of visiting various schools and seeing the energy of the youth at these campuses.

I'm digressing, though…

One of our visits took us to Colorado.  And on this trip – it would be just myself, along with my two sons – a boys weekend (plus) away – along with a couple of college visits built into our plan.  This seemed like a perfect time to venture out and try something new.

As I looked for a place for us to stay – I recalled a movement I'd heard of in the past.

Couchsurfing (defined): referring to the practice of moving from one friend's house to another, sleeping in whatever spare space is available, floor or couch, generally staying a few days before moving on to the next house.

In this case – the term "friend" could really be described as someone whom we had never met, yet someone who was committed to opening their house up to us – based just upon a profile I'd created at the Couchsurfing website and a few email exchanges.

It seemed like such a great idea – to meet someone who lived in the area, to save some $$$ on lodging, and to make a new connection along the way.

And then I told my two boys how our lodging would go down.  We would arrive at someone's house who we didn't know at all, and we would sleep wherever there was space for us (bed, sofa, floor…).  They were convinced we would be eaten (eaten!!!), that our lives were in danger, and this was a BAD MOVE!  (I guess you could say that our culture of fear and distrust had reached their young souls…)

…and then, I began to wonder…

Was this really a smart move?  After all – we didn't know the guy we were staying with, we would be arriving late at night, would he have a place for all three of us to sleep, was there something I just wasn't seeing about this guy, etc, etc, etc.

In short – I was feeling a little vulnerable.  Here I was putting myself (and two of my kids) out there into an unknown for us.

And…it was an amazing experience!! (I highly recommend couchsurfing – it's a great way to meet people and see a new locale!)

We stayed with a gentleman who lived in the mountains, gave us beds to sleep in, made breakfast for us…and that was just the start.  He took time out of his schedule to hang out with us during our free time – showing us around the local area (Boulder, CO specifically) and truly expanding our horizons (including thoughts of a naked pumpkin run…don't worry, I haven't signed up for this one…yet…)

And…those two boys who thought they would be eaten…well…they now email their new-found Colorado friend regularly!

Life is what we make it.  We can choose to stay where we're at (geographically, intellectually, etc) and be okay with the status quo. 

What if, though, we opened ourselves up to new experiences (whatever that might be) – knowing that we may feel a bit vulnerable in the whole process?  What might be? 

Sure – things may go the way of our fears.  (is that really the worst thing, though…)

Or they may wildly take us to new heights within ourselves.

And in the end – will we truly regret those "chances" we've taken (I think not). 

So, today I encourage you to step out from where you are – being okay to any vulnerability you feel – and expand your being in new and wonderful ways!

by Lance Ekum

Lance writes stories from his heart, aiming to inspire and motivate, as you align more fully with YOUR true peak. When he's not here, you can find him hanging out with his family, riding a bike, or just generally acting goofy.   Sign up for the Thoughts from the Treehouse newsletter and get additional inspiration in your email inbox!
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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Deeone Higgs June 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm

This was a really cool post, Lance! I think at first, my nerves would’ve gotten the best of me, and then probably talked me out it at the last minute. However, you have redeemed it as a thought. 😀 I commend you and your boys for stepping outside of the box, and trying something new. I sure it was exhilarating to overcome the fear of it. Way to go, man! I really enjoyed reading about the adventure you and your sons had together. Thanks for sharing it with us!
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Deeone Higgs June 1, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Oops, “I’m sure…” I meant. It’s Friday. 🙂
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Lance Ekum June 2, 2012 at 8:24 am

It was such a cool experience, Deeone!!! And to make it that much better – was how much fun the boys had – when they were only thinking the worst as we traveled out there.

Thanks for the visit!! Have a SUPER weekend!


Glori | Crazy Introvert June 1, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Your coach surfing experience sounded really interesting. I don’t have the guts nor the resources to try that in my country though. LOL.
But I don’t mind showing my vulnerability in other areas of my life. New experiences are difficult for me unless I’m the one who seek it out.
Wonderful post, Lance!
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Lance Ekum June 2, 2012 at 8:26 am

It was such a great experience – and definitely “out of the box” for me. And that’s the thing – when we step out of the proverbial box we create for ourselves – we can truly expand and grow in some pretty wonderful ways.

Thanks so much for the visit!


Jon Mertz June 2, 2012 at 7:08 am

Great story, Lance! You are not only living life to experience but you are creating moments with your sons they will remember for a lifetime. Thanks for stepping into new areas of life and sharing them. Jon
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Lance Ekum June 2, 2012 at 8:27 am

Thanks Jon!! And yes, you’re right – this is definitely one of those moments they will always remember – it was such a fun (and interesting) few days!

Great to have you here today!!


Audra Krell June 2, 2012 at 7:53 am

So glad to get more details on the experience. You’ve proven we don’t need water to surf this land, just an adventurous spirit.
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Lance Ekum June 2, 2012 at 8:29 am

Hey there, Audra!!! And you know what: I would say that I’m definitely a better surfer on land than on water!! (of course, that’s not really saying much … if you saw me surfing on the water!)


Barry June 2, 2012 at 9:29 am

Great post. I don’t mind show­ing my vul­ner­a­bil­ity in other areas of my life. New expe­ri­ences are dif­fi­cult for me unless I’m the one who seek it out. Thanks for sharing.
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Lance Ekum June 3, 2012 at 7:10 am

Those new experiences that we seek out – there’s extra meaning in them – and that does make them less difficult (I know!).

Thanks for the visit!


marquita herald June 2, 2012 at 11:14 am

What a wonderful message! I so agree with you – life really is what we make it and that’s pretty much always been my own personal mantra. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.
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Lance Ekum June 3, 2012 at 7:12 am

Thanks Marquita!! I love that this is your personal mantra – life truly is what we make it! Here’s to experiences that bring deep meaning along this journey we’re on…


Bea June 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I haven’t heard about a service like couchsurfing before but it seems to be pretty cool! It’s a kind of some cyber-hippie stuff:)
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Lance Ekum June 3, 2012 at 7:14 am

Hi Bea! Yes, couchsurfing really is a very cool thing! And – having done it now, I would say it is also just a great way to meet people and experience local culture. (cyber-hippie – I *love* it!!!)


Jody - Fit at 54 June 2, 2012 at 4:45 pm

WOW, braver than me for sure! I do see what you are saying though!!! I have a couple things that may stretch me ( and yes, vulnerable) coming up – scary so we shall see how I do! 😉
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Lance Ekum June 3, 2012 at 7:15 am

Hi Jody!!!
This was definitely a brave step into a new direction for us!

And – I’m sending all sorts of good vibes your way, in all that you have coming up. It will be great!

Have a SUPER Sunday!!


Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan) June 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I’m taking my first-born to college – from L.A. to Boston – in August – maybe this is a “way” to go?!
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Lance Ekum June 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

…maybe it is!!!! I think you guys would have a blast! And…good luck in the whole transition to college experience….


David Stevens June 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Keep stepping Lance,
Terrific story. I tend to ‘confine’ myself at times though when I do something new, it is truly refreshing…what’s stopping me from doing it more often
be good to yourself
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Lance Ekum June 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm

That’s it, David!! (and something I can completely relate to, also – the “why don’t I do this more often” thought…)

Have a great one!


Jennifer Richardson June 3, 2012 at 9:10 pm

thoroughly inspired!
couchsurfing……so going to check
into this.
thanks for the enlightening share:)


Lance Ekum June 3, 2012 at 9:37 pm

It was such a cool experience, Jennifer! And…we gained a new friend out of the deal, in addition to a place to stay and a local tour guide.

Have a super week ahead!


Cathy | Treatment Talk June 5, 2012 at 12:12 am

Hi Lance,

Sounds like an interesting experience, and brave of you to try something so different with your two boys. I can get nervous and second guess myself when trying something new, but it usually works out great and I wonder what I was worried about. Sounds like you enjoyed Boulder. It’s a great town!
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Lance Ekum June 5, 2012 at 5:23 am

I know that feeling, too – a bit of nervousness and it all turns out great!

And, yes – Boulder sure is a great city – we had an awesome time, and really had the chance to see the city more like a local.

Have a great rest of your week!


Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations,Blue Sun Media June 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Wow, I have my son going into College right now and I am having an imaginary conversation in my head with him….

“Hey Michael, want to go stay on a stranger’s couch?”

“Hey, Mom, have you lost your ever-lovin’ mind???”

You have some very open-minded boys there!!!


Lance Ekum June 6, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Hey Wendi!!!
First off…congrats to Michael on this next step in the journey – very exciting!

And – the truth is – that “hey Mom” line – that’s pretty close to what my boys said to me (well…except they used the word “Dad” instead!). I drug them along anyway, though – ha!!!!

Good times, I tell ya!!! (by the way, you and your family are welcome here anytime…anytime at all…)


Laura Neff June 7, 2012 at 8:16 am

Hi Lance! 😀

I agree with lots of the sentiments in the comments above, and what I’ll add here is how much I appreciate the fact of your innate trust in your fellow human beings. We’re so pushed toward being afraid of our fellow travelers on this planet, especially when the news is on! When my husband and I traveled across the U.S. in 2002, we were so delighted with the countless times people extended us unsolicited kindness and generosity, and it made me realize that the way I prefer to operate is with trust and awareness. I think most people deeply want to be connected, and your experience demonstrates just that. And *oh* the great thing you just showed your boys!!! Well done, my friend. 🙂

Hope all is well otherwise with you! Big hugs from NC,



Lance Ekum June 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Hey there, awesome (amazing, incredible, fantastic, super cool) NC friend!!! So, so great to “see” you here today!

And, your comment just fits in perfectly with the ideas that were bouncing around in my two boys heads (we’d get eaten –> their first thought…both of them!!). And it just ended up being such an eye-opening experience for both of them (and for me, as well). Just because we don’t know someone – doesn’t mean that there is this genuine desire for community – it’s something within us all…

I remember the first time you told me about your trip across the US – and thinking of how cool that was (and how brave, and off the beaten path, and unconventional). And just simply awesome!

Laura, I hope your summer is off to a wonderful start – and that the new ventures (yum!) you’re forging forward with are bringing tons of joy!

Big, big hugs!!!


Chrysta Bairre June 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm

What a fun post, Lance!

I love the idea of couchsurfing and now that you’ve introduced me to the concept it’s one I am open to trying the next time I travel. (And on that note, next time you or your sons are traveling to Colorado you’re welcome to couch surf at my place! )

If there’s one advantage to growing up as a military kid it’s learning to try new things. Being thrown into an entirely new situation every few months or years taught me to push beyond my feelings of fear and vulnerability and jump in to a new home, new neighborhood, new school, and new friends.

I have learned a positive outcome is just as likely as a negative one, and I’m rarely truly disappointed after trying something new because either I had a great experience or I learned something great about myself.

Thanks for this awesome post! Have a grateful day!

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Lance Ekum June 10, 2012 at 5:59 am

Good morning Chrysta!!!
Couchsurfing is such a cool concept – being able to open up the world to new friends and new experiences (friend and experiences we didn’t even know existed!)!! For me, though, the “even more cool” part – is that it opened my kids (and me) up to a better understanding of our fellow human beings walking this earth…

I can imagine that growing up in a military family – the concept of moving was a very common one – and one that really did add to your ability to adapt to new situations and be okay with all of it. We’ve been in the same home for nearly 15 years, so our kids only know this location, this school, this neighborhood, etc, etc. – and in a way, that has limited their ability to adapt (as evidenced by their initial reaction when I told them about couchsurfing!).

Yay!!! Next time we’re in Colorado (no immediate plans – sad face) – I’m checking in with YOU!!! That would be very cool to connect up!!

Have a super rest of your weekend!!


Davina Haisell June 11, 2012 at 11:21 pm

What I loved about this, Lance, was how the fears were proven to have been an illusion. And if there had been something awry, you would have found a way to deal with it. In the end, some wonderful connections were made and your boys learned to trust. Loved reading about this adventure… it was one inside and out 🙂


Lance Ekum June 12, 2012 at 8:59 am

Yes…exactly!!! –> an inside and outside adventure!!!

And I’m so glad we did this – and I know both of my boys are, too. We had experiences we never would have, had we chosen the “safe” option of staying in a hotel…

Great to see you here today, Davina!!! Happy summer!!!


Davina Haisell June 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm

And a happy summer to you, Lance!


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