Chapter Three: Everyone Has a Shadow

At first I couldn’t tell if Steve was shy, or a man of few words. He was incredibly articulate and so aware of the world around him. Always seeing, always looking. The expression on his face rested pensively, but the tone in his voice was inviting.

He lived alone. No cats, no dogs, and his house was spectacular. Equipped with modern decor and kept in absolute pristine condition. As the days passed by I grew rather curious to learn more about Steve. He was wonderful in every way even if his overall demeanor was slightly shy. For he was not someone I would have expected to be hosting travelers from around the world.

“Steve, what is it that made you decide to this?” I asked him. “To host people, I mean.”

“I have to admit so,” he began in his usual, polite manner. “I joined couch surfing because, I had become very comfortable with my daily routine. It was easy to stay in my office and live in this bubble. Nevertheless I wanted to get outside my comfort zone. It was a challenge where I knew I was going to have to jump over my shadow and face my own fears.”

“You don’t strike me as someone living in a bubble, what bubble are you referring to?”

“Before this, I was working with a different company. There were workshops for mentally disabled people. I always told myself mentally disabled people don’t realize they are different than other ones. Then, I met a woman whom I was supposed to train to use the cash register. To have someone look me in the face and say, ‘I don’t think I can do this, I don’t think the same as other people’ shattered this bubble that I had been living in. She destroyed a lie that I was convincing myself of.”

Steve’s answer surprised me. It was an innocent interaction with an innocent comment. Yet he found it to be one of his most profound encounters of his life.

I learned a lot during my short time with Steve. Words cannot express the kind and selfless traits that this man embodies. Luxembourg will always be one of the best experiences of my life-- not because of everything that I had experienced, but because of the friend that I gained. He taught me that no matter how educated, successful, or well-rounded we may appear, we will always have our own shadows. It’s not so much about what shadows we have, but how we choose to overcome them.

The absolute best part about my time with Steve was watching our friendship grow. Between our various castle tours, raclette dinners, or hiking all throughout Luxembourg, I could not have asked for a better experience. Before I left, I asked what inspires him to continue to step outside his comfort zone and host travelers from around the world.

“Everyday we are learning,” he shared. “Everyday we are learning how to walk again. School is only a small part of life. The rest we learn by doing... and by living.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Vianden Castle, Luxembourg.


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