Aug. 12, 2020

Faith in the Kindness of Strangers with Andrew Braunstein (aka Beard)

Faith in the Kindness of Strangers with Andrew Braunstein (aka Beard)

In this interview, Andrew shares many personal anecdotes about little and big ways he's both given and received acts of kindness. We also explore the world of Couchsurfing and hostels, and the uniqueness it can provide to travelers. "Beard" also shares his perspective on leading with trust and when to put your guard up. Overall, Andrew has a truly unique perspective on the world and how we connect with other humans, and I can't wait to share this conversation with you. 

Guest Bio: Andrew thinks it is important to live life to the fullest and have great experiences with wonderful people. He loves traveling and meeting new people, as well as having deep discussions with friends old and new. Andrew also enjoys building community and thinks that is important to treat others with respect, regardless of their status or ability to help your interests. 

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Bagel: [00:00:00] Hey, there it's Bagel. Before we dive in, I just wanted to give a shout out to you. That's right. You, the values driven go-getter who's looking to do more of what matters. This is episode 10 of the podcast in just a few short months since launching in May, 2020, and the support and feedback has been invaluable.

My one ask of you is to think of one person. Seriously, just one person you could share this podcast with that might find some value in it. It would mean a lot in helping us reach more curious and introspective minds hear the stories of how real people are living their values every day. You can grab the link directly from your podcast app or in the show notes.  From all of us here at LYV, much appreciated.

Today's episode is with a very special guest, Mr. Andrew Braunstein, AKA the Beard. In this interview, Andrew shares many personal anecdotes about little and big ways he's both given and received acts of kindness. We also explore the world of couch surfing and hostels and the uniqueness it can provide to travelers. Beard also shares his perspective on leading with trust and when to put your guard up. Overall, Andrew has a truly unique perspective on the world and how we connect with other humans. And I can't wait to share this conversation with you. So get yourself that delicious brew and let's dive in to episode 10 with Andrew Braunstein.  

Welcome to the Live Your Values podcast. I'm your host Mike Bagel. And today I am beyond excited to welcome our guests for today's episode, a long time friend, fellow traveler, and most unique individual. Andrew Braunstein, AKA The Beard.  Andrew thinks it is important to live life to the fullest and have great experiences with wonderful people.

He loves traveling and meeting new people, as well as having deep discussions with friends old and new. Andrew also enjoys building community and thinks that it is important to treat others with respect regardless of their status or ability to help your interests. And I just want to say that I am really honored, Beard, to have you here on the show, one of a kind.

Andrew: [00:02:24] I'm honored to be here.

Bagel: [00:02:25] Yeah. Thank you so much for spending some time.

Andrew: [00:02:29] Yeah. Cool. It's awesome. I liked that you're doing this. I am very happy to be on your podcast.

Bagel: [00:02:37] I know it's crazy.  Only a few months ago, this was just a little idea in the brain and now it's fully launched and having some yeah, really exciting. Having some really great conversations. And I don't know if I could have picked too many people better to have a great life conversation than you, sir. So

Andrew: [00:02:55] Thank you. Thank you.

Bagel: [00:02:56] I am very excited. Before we get too deep into things. How are things in terms of life and profession and all that going over there in the Portland area?

Andrew: [00:03:08] Things are good. I mean, considering the world, in slight upheaval, pandemic, Police brutality, lots of protests in the streets, but for me, things are all doing well. Right now I just finished up the another school year, teaching math in a middle school.  I've definitely been enjoying Portland, Oregon.I am looking forward to the summer, even if there's lots of restrictions on. So beautiful, sunny weather, that's going to be coming up. I'm definitely looking forward to,  I would say, as I mentioned, and as is going on, throughout the U S the whole, police brutality thing is definitely something that is  very on my mind right now. I mean, it's very in the news at all times and I've, definitely, I mean, I can't say I've been going to a lot of protests. I've been going to some and there was huge amounts of people. 

Bagel: [00:04:05] So we're, we're very close to getting to hearing a little bit about you and your values. Before we jump into that, I'm just to give our audience a little bit of a flavor, I'm sure they're getting it already a little bit of who you are. But do you want to give us maybe just the real quick nutshell of how you've got to where you are right now. I guess, maybe in your, in your adult life. I know you've jumped around from a couple cities, both here in the US and done some international stuff. But maybe just kind of how you landed on Portland and what you're doing for work and all that sort of thing now.

Andrew: [00:04:37] Okay. Cool. Yeah. Yeah. So as you said, I've definitely kind of bounced around to a number of different places, both domestically and abroad. But I got to Portland mainly, is, sort of a family move. So my sister and brother in law, were living out here, I guess now it would be probably 10 years. And my dad was not doing great. And I mean, me as well as my sister would go back to New York, every year, every half a year or so, maybe once or twice a year. So we didn't exactly see how bad things were getting on a regular basis. And we kind of, had come to a decision about needing to be closer together so that we can help support my parents when they needed us. So, so we, my sister and brother-in-law had, they have  a couple little ones. My niece and nephew, very, very cute, and his nephew. And, so they, they were the most rooted of the immediate family. So kind of decided to all go out to Portland. So we would be all close together.

Bagel: [00:05:50] Yeah, that's right. And you've been there a couple of years now, right?

Andrew: [00:05:55] Yeah, it's been, it's been a little over three years, maybe three and a half years. 

Bagel: [00:05:59] Cause you were there when I visited in 2016 for my big trip.

Andrew: [00:06:03] Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was a fun trip. It was  a slight sad point. When election results came out.

Bagel: [00:06:12] Yes, that's right.

Andrew: [00:06:13] Kind of sad situation, but, 

Bagel: [00:06:16] That was a tough day.  I will never forget that you and I were together on election night, 2016. And we were in probably what is one of the most liberal towns in America, Eugene, Oregon. And I think we  literally audibly heard the outcry in the streets after the results  were announced either that night or the next night. I think we had gone out and it was just visibly.  In that area is particularly like really a shock to a lot of people.

Andrew: [00:06:46] Yes for sure. And that was when I first heard the song Fuck Trump. I had never heard that song before. I mean, I liked the song. It was a good song.

Bagel: [00:06:55] It's catchy, right?

Andrew: [00:06:57] Very catchy. It's very simple to remember too. 

Bagel: [00:07:00] Yeah. Straightforward lyrics.

Andrew: [00:07:02] Yeah. So I've been out here for a few years. Definitely I've been enjoying it.  And I have been teaching math now for the past couple years in middle schools, and yeah. I mean, things have been good. I mean, cool people out here. I would say I definitely  enjoy the people a lot. There's a really awesome couch surfing community out here.

Bagel: [00:07:26] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:07:28] Some cool Jews as well.

Bagel: [00:07:30] Yeah, that's right for full disclaimer, Andrew and I were in a Jewish fraternity back at Delaware. There may or may not be a couple of guests on this show from that  part of life. And yeah, it's always nice. It's funny. And I don't know if you've had this experience, you've traveled a lot and live different places, but sometimes  when I've moved to a new place, I didn't realize how much I almost missed having the connection with Jewish people until it's not there. And then you're like, Oh yeah, there's this cultural thing of  how I grew up. That feels, you feel a little bit more connected when you're around those people. At least that's my experience.

Andrew: [00:08:09] Yeah. Yeah, I would agree. I definitely feel  a connection with other Jews. Yeah, and I mean, I obviously, it's kind of different in different places. I feel like maybe in, sometimes in places where there's a lot more Jews, like in New York. There's a slight less of a connection just because there's so, so many of us.

Bagel: [00:08:33] So many of us.

Andrew: [00:08:33] Or similarly in Israel,  there's  I mean, not everyone's Jewish, but  a very large portion of people are Jewish. So it's not quite the same connection as when there's  fewer people than, kind of. You feel a little closer to that smaller amount of people.

Bagel: [00:08:49] Yeah, for sure. And you, you mentioned couch surfing and we'll probably get into a little bit of your traveling experiences. And I think it'd be great to touch a little bit on couch surfing, and there's a connection between the two of us on that as well. Before we dive too much into that. Do you want to share maybe what are, what are some of your top values that you sort of live by? And what are the things that you feel like are most important to you at the stage in your life? Because of course they can shift over time. And maybe when you and I were 18 years old, when we met in college, our priorities and values were probably a little different, but yeah. Talk about Beard in 2020. What are, what are the things that you were holding true to yourself?

Andrew: [00:09:31] So, values wise, I think respectfulness is very important. Both giving and getting, I just, people should be more respectful to each other. Just seeing everyone else as people and having respect for other people. Generosity, I think is, is pretty big. I've definitely seen that kind of, help create community.  So, one, one actual instance, and this was when I was in Budapest. I was kind of living there, but I was still working on the job situation. And so I was in kind of living longterm in a hostel. So, there was one, a friend of mine, this guy  who was a Syrian and had  fled Syria  during the war, it was  crazy situations. He has had very   interesting travels himself,  and ended up in Hungary. And he was, I mean, he had been kind of staying in the hostel for a little bit and was working in the hostel as well  so that he could stay for free and get some money as well. He had definitely gone through some trials with how he felt with religion. Cause I think he was pretty passionate about Islam, but I mean with everything that was going on in Syria and just some things that people were doing in the name of Islam. It was definitely trying on him. But one of the things that I really that I loved that he kind of embodied was just  this kindness and generosity that he's just like, just came off of him. And this one thing that  I thought it was really  amazing. He didn't   he didn't have  a lot or anything. I mean, he was a really smart guy. Very, very  great artist. But what he would regularly do is he'd  make food and just   share with people. 

Bagel: [00:11:27] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:11:27] And I'd to do that too. And so I would also make food and share with people in this kind of like, that other people would do the same kind of thing. And it creates a really nice atmosphere when  everyone is just  sharing and that  it, it spreads.  It's not just like bad that can spread, good can spread as well.  And people kind of see that and they feel, I don't know that that's something that I really like.

Bagel: [00:11:51] I love that. Yeah. That idea that good can spread to is I think is so, so important to remember. And so cool.  We often think  of things that are viral. Well, maybe now it's changed a little bit with social media things going viral,   Oh, it must, it must be popular. We must have to watch it, but there's still, almost feels  a little bit of a negative connotation. But I like the idea that you're saying of  some sort of action or a value that you and him both shared. Which is maybe a community over sharing food,  something that's simple and straightforward can be infectious in a positive way and help bring people together. And maybe also inspire some other people in that group to do the same in their own way, even if it's not cooking, but to find that thing that they like to do to bring people together.

Andrew: [00:12:40] Yeah, I agree. I mean, I definitely try to do that to this day. It is obviously different. I'm not living in a hostel now, so there's not the same amount of people so close by  cooking regularly, but I'll 

Bagel: [00:12:54] You can go cook in the autonomous zone up there in Seattle and bring some people some meals. 

Andrew: [00:12:57] That's a good idea. That might not be a bad idea.  But I, I guess we'll before COVID and I'll probably do it again  as things are a little bit better.  I would have these I call them collaborative meals and it was just where everyone brings a different ingredient and you all  make a meal together out of those ingredients. And there's, I've, I've done that some with a theme to them and a lot of them where it's just bring whatever  you want and we'll make food.  Good food out of it. And it's always gone really well. Sometimes there's been interesting stuff that has been brought and it's been incorporated somehow.

Bagel: [00:13:37] Can you think of  what was  the craziest combination that you ended up making  a good meal out of? Any examples that come to mind? 

Andrew: [00:13:47] I mean, I don't know if this is necessarily the craziest combination, but it was definitely an interesting  situation. So I mean, some things that regularly end up being made are  stir fries or  stew type of stuff,  a coconut Curry kind of thing. They, things that it's pretty easy to toss other things into. And there, there was one  get together that  it was   a friend of mine who's Indian. She was in the US for about  a year or maybe two years. And I mean, she was making  a potato dish,  kind of. I mean, it was  a  Curry and stuff and spices in the potato dish. But then kind of making  it into  a sculpture almost, which was  really interesting. It was awesome.  I have a picture. Sure. It's somewhere. I don't remember. I mean, it wasn't,  like the Mona Lisa or  or maybe. I should say like David or anything,  it's not  a,

Bagel: [00:14:54] If she crafted a potato structure that looked like the Mona Lisa, I'm pretty sure she would be a pretty rich person right now. 

Andrew: [00:15:02] Probably wouldn't be eating it either.

Bagel: [00:15:04] Yeah, that's true.

Andrew: [00:15:06] In a museum or something. Put behind glass.

Bagel: [00:15:10] That's right. 

Andrew: [00:15:11] Yeah. So, I mean, definitely   bringing community together over different things.  Whether it's  food or other stuff, and I think it's important. I mean, to accept and   include everybody.  And so I guess, just going back to some,  some things I think are important, open mindfulness is important as well as compassion for others.

 And I, I touched on this earlier that, I think right now this, the   Black Lives Matter and effort to stem police is a movement I'm definitely getting behind and want to see real change come from. And I mean, right now I'm also on summer break. So I have, I have a little more time. 

Bagel: [00:16:04] Yeah. I think, on that note, and of course,  by the time this releases it maybe there's maybe been a few more developments than the time we recorded this. But I think you're right that right now, especially actually because so many of us are at home, hopefully still employed, but so many people have lost jobs regardless.

I think a lot of people have a little bit more time on their hands and are starting to think a little bit more critically about what matters to them and what they're willing to fight for and to stand up for. And not, not to get too political about it, but I think what you're saying makes a lot of sense that when there's this a little bit more time to actually  sit down and think about these things, it actually,  maybe one positive is that we're sort of it allows us to take more action and it allows us to actually see what's in front of us. Or maybe what we've been blinded by for so long and  hopefully, really make a lasting change. I think you use those words.

Andrew: [00:17:02] Or just, or even after previous  protests and even riots that  not nothing really came out of it. And I'm hopeful, especially with the huge numbers that are coming out and the attention both by the media, as well as  big corporations  that there will be real change now. They'll be, that we'll actually see something that comes from it instead of just the usual  lip service and then nothing.

Bagel: [00:17:32] For sure. Yeah. That's, that's the hope. I wanna, I want to share a story to frame something.  But before I get to that, I'm curious, you talked about a few really, really great values here and things that I would associate with you a hundred percent. Things like respectfulness, kindness, generosity, community, acceptance inclusion. If you were to ask me what, what are, what does Beard stand for? I mean, those are the words that come to mind. And I think you, you emanate those values in the way that you interact with people, the way that you carry yourself, the things that you choose to participate in. So I'm curious if you have any insight.  Do you have any early memory of something maybe from childhood or something earlier in life where you started to realize that these things mattered to you? 

Andrew: [00:18:22] Hmm. Yeah, I mean, I guess I, I mean, for different  reasons while growing up, I feel that both  family members, but also my friends,  frequently exuded these values. I mean, I mean, maybe that's why I choose these friends,  or I don't know.  

Bagel: [00:18:42] Chicken or egg type of thing. 

Andrew: [00:18:43] Yeah. And I'm sure there was playing off of each other that. We kind of pushed each other to exude some of these values more. And I mean, I think some, some of this is also from growing up in  the near in your area,  in New York and just there being so many people from so many different, places, so many different cultures. And you share things, then you get to know people that, I mean, both don't necessarily have your same tone,  skin tone, but have  different religion from you or  a different upbringing or were born in a totally different country. And whose first language is not English. And. I mean, just getting to know people from lots of different backgrounds. I feel a lot of these values are very important to that.

  Bagel: [00:19:44] Did you grow up in a diverse area or environment or not so much? How did you make friends growing up? What drew you to certain people and drove you away from others? Did you then, or do you now search for similarities or differences? What things allow you to feel more connected?

 Yeah. It's, it's really interesting to hear you say that now you're living in Portland. Which I think has, in some ways its own diversity, but much different from a place like New York City.

Andrew: [00:20:22] Yes. Yes. 

Bagel: [00:20:24] Yeah. And similarly, now that I've been living in North Carolina in some way, shape or form for the better part of the last decade, it's interesting to hear some people say that where I live now in Charlotte, it feels a little diverse. But at the same time, like you, I grew up in,  central Jersey, close to New York City and inbetween Philly and New York. And I think I took a lot of that diversity for granted and just the idea that, yeah, we're constantly surrounded by people of different races and different cultures and different religions and, and backgrounds. And  it wasn't until I moved away from the cluster of,  the density of all of that,  all those differences to a place where things are a little bit more,  white would be a good word to use here in North Carolina. Homogeneous. It made me realize how much first, how much I appreciated that diversity that I grew up with too. And not saying that I'm a perfect Saint or anything like that, but I appreciate the fact that I was exposed to all of that. And it helps me, I think, trying to find some of those differences as opposed to push them out. And I don't know if you feel the same way of where I almost I'm attracted to understanding and learning about those differences that people may have. I almost feel   it's   those are the types of people I want to find. And I want to find ways that we might have some differences so that we can also find ways to connect. It's  this weird dichotomy.

Andrew: [00:21:52] I agree. Yeah. And I mean, I guess similar to you that, to your experience with Charlotte. I, I feel that for many people, Portland is  very diverse compared to where they grew up. Which sometimes was  a smaller town in  Oregon or somewhere else in the country.  And Portland is diverse compared to that,  also just like in  any area, different parts of a city has have  different levels of diversity basically, and  different  communities have different aspects of diversity. And I think to be honest, that's one thing that I really like about the couch surfing community is one, there's a lot of travelers, which are nice. But also a lot of travelers aren't from not just not from Portland, but sometimes not from the US as well,  or at least from a very different area of the US. Yeah, there's maybe a slight greater degree of diversity than if you just went to   a sports related group or something like that, the people are getting together. 

Bagel: [00:22:59] Yeah, that makes sense. Since you mentioned the couch surfing again, I wanted to just set us up with a little story and I think you know this, but maybe you didn't know how significant this was for me. So I'm going to just take us back to 2016 and I've, I've sort of shared little snippets so far on this podcast that I've done a big trip before but I don't think I've sort of really dived deep into it.

So in 20-, at the end of 2015, I decided to take this big cross country road trip. And, I had a really great job in Wilmington, North Carolina, and I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the people I was around. But I just decided that I didn't want to put off my dream up until that point in my life, which was to travel across the country and not to do it in two or three weeks. But to really take  the better part of a year and really see the country.

And it was inspired by a trip my dad and his brother and friend did when they were younger. But,  over the course of, I don't know, 20 years, I just had this goal in the dream. And when I finally decided to do it, and I remember, I don't know if you remember the day, but I remember it crystal clear.  It was around New Years going into 2016. We got together at a coffee shop and I sat down with you. We had a coffee. Okay. And I said, Hey, Beard.  I'm thinking about learning a little bit more about couch surfing. I really know very little about it, but it seems like something you've really enjoyed and jumped into.

And I think I even told you my bias at the time, which was, it sounds like it's just for hippies and  people who  just like are totally carefree and just like, are willing to take on risk and danger and have no concern for their own safety. I don't know if I said all that at the time, but that's what I was thinking at the time. So I can be really authentic now and say that I wasn't understanding it. And that was my limited understanding and knowledge, but I was open, like one of your values is being open minded. I was open to hearing a little bit more about it because I knew that this was big, especially outside the US and you shared with me some stories and,  it, and it helped change my perception a bit.

And I ended up doing, I won't, say a ton, but a good amount of couch surfing related activities, including staying with hosts and some different places and going to couch surfing events in different cities. And ended up having some of my best memories through that. So I just wanted to set the stage, not to put the pressure on you.  But thank you for that. And  I'd love to hear, and maybe the audience would love to hear a little bit about your interest in couch surfing and what that's all about. 

Andrew: [00:25:44] Yeah, so I'm happy that I was able to inspire you to, take part in couch surfing, first of all. Cause I love it and I love the people that are the focal points of it that are, or at least the focal points of the communities that have been made. I would say I've just had a lot of   awesome experiences as well, within couch surfing. That aspect of generosity and open-mindedness is  huge within it. Just I mean, people can be so awesome. Obviously there a wide range of different people that couch surf and that host. And I mean, everyone, everyone does their own thing. So I would say I've maybe had a handful of experiences that haven't been like perfect. They haven't been bad. They just  I mean, I mean I probably wouldn't have been hanging out with that individual. Well, if, if I hadn't, been sleeping on their couch.

Bagel: [00:26:50] Right. Yeah. 

Andrew: [00:26:51] But I've had way more  really, truly amazing, amazing experiences. And I'd say one of them that  comes to mind is in Belgium. I love that country.  Have amazing beer and really wonderful people. I was couch surfing with this guy in Antwerp.  And he had  seen on my, on my profile,  about  wanting to meet up with friends at Burning Man. And he had, he had gone to Burning Man  the year before. And to be honest, I think he was trying to  get his friends to join him and go to Burning Man as well. And I think that might've been part of the reason why he had me over, but I mean,  there's no, it's not  a bad thing,  to help spread, interest in Burning Man is I'm very happy to do as well. So he had said that he could  host me for a one night, because he was going to a really big festival called Tomorrow Land.

The like the next night or the next few nights.  And he would be more than happy to host me for a night. And I said, great, wonderful. I'll be there, on this and this date. So I get there,  and we are  hanging out a bit.  And he ends up taking me to his hometown over a couple months, which weird,  kind of thing, if you've ever heard of  Mercator maps.

Everyone's seen those flat maps. They're called Mercator maps. There's a new map of math that kind of shows countries. In a more realistic kind of look cause Mercator maps kind of flattened things. And so things at the polls look much bigger and things in the,  in lower latitude to look smaller than they really should be. How like Greenland becomes like huge and Russia is like this giant enormous. I mean, it is a big country. Anyway. Anyway Mercator who made these maps was born there. It's kind of a weird, a weird   side fact that they were really proud of. They have, there's a plaque or whatever.

And anyway, so I get there, we meet up with his friends at this bar. It's  kind of the town bar,  and they were  drinking awesome Belgium beer.  And his friends asked me if I'd like to  go around and see the town,  one of his friends is really into history and, says he would be happy to like show me around. Like show me, the different parts of the town.

Give me  a little history of the area. So I say, yeah, that sounds great. And so, we actually take our cups of beer with us, cause  they  know the people really well. and he's kind of going,  telling me about  about the town. About Johann Mercator and just, I mean, it was also  sunset. It was really beautiful, but so we're going around and let's just say  long story short. It was  awesome night. We ended up at  this outdoor summer bar underneath like crazy weeping willows.  Just  these huge weeping willows  in the middle, there's just  this bar set up and lots of little tables around us. Just all like outside in,  I mean, not quite the woods, but  a wooded area. And so anyway, we were like hanging out and during the night, one of his friends, this guy says  Hey, you seem like a cool guy.  If you want to  stay in the area a little longer, you can  crash at my place.  Tomorrow night I heard that the guy who you're  couch surfing with he can only host you for a night. And I said, that sounds great. Really wonderful. So, I mean, after that night of drinking more delicious Belgian beers and kind of  going around for this little tour history, lesson of the town,  go back to this one couch surfers place and sleep there. And then the next day he takes me to a Rupelmonde, to stay with and he goes off to Tomorrow Land.  And I ended up staying and hang out in Rupelmonde for  I dunno, maybe  four or five days close to a week, something like that. There was  a bunch of other things going on. There's  this huge festival,  where  a town called Ghent just totally stops all work for 10 days. It's called 10 days off and they just have a festival for 10 days.   And there was this  girl's birthday, but I mean, lots of  crazy fun stuff. Just I don't know, just summer fun.

Bagel: [00:31:33] Yeah, it sounds like summer fun for sure. 10 days off in the middle of the summer, just to hang out and probably drink a bunch of beer and meet a bunch of people.

Andrew: [00:31:43] Yeah, that that was a very, very beautiful area.  Everything's very close by. So people  bike everywhere and their group of friends were lending me their bike regularly. Anyway, it was a really, really wonderful time and I would have never met any of them.  I wouldn't have happen to be in Rupelmonde if it wasn't for couch surfing,  that's not  exactly a destination people go to.

Bagel: [00:32:11] Yeah. That's awesome. And I've had a few similar experiences on my trip too. And like you said, not every single one was, was great, but I would say the good ones far outweighed the so-so ones. And, and I don't want to generalize, I imagine a couch surfing experience might be different for a female. Might be different for a few other different groups of people. And I know you and I are white males, so we have our own experience but, we can speak to our experience. But yeah, I felt a very similar from a lot of the people that were host. For example, it felt so similar generosity that you've described that you have, and that you seek out. Which is like, Hey, you're here in my town or you, or you're doing something in here wherever we are. And  I want to show you what this is all about. I want to share this experience with you. Just literally taking the role of a host, like really seriously, even though you're not necessarily paying them right. For staying or anything like that, there's this investment that you are asking them. If they're hosting you, for example, you're, you're asking them for a place to sleep and you're also willing to invest in, and engage with them in their home, their home place and, not that you have to do everything they're doing. But it's this idea that you're participating in their life and you're wanting to engage in what they're doing. And I think that was the piece that I didn't fully grasp until I actually started to stay with some hosts through couch surfing and realizing like, Hey, not that I have to drop everything that I had planned on doing in the city, but it's really nice. And it shows that there's a two way effort where you're willing to do some things that they want to show you. So that there's a bond starting to form. And then you get to, and also you get to learn about that, that particular area that they're sharing with you.

Andrew: [00:34:09] Yeah. And I mean, that is another thing that I love about couch surfing. Just when, when a host is actually able to  show off their city has been awesome. You get to see places and  get to, find  interesting parts of the city that, I mean, I know I wouldn't have necessarily seen or  gone to, if not for that person that lived there. And I would say that that also inspired me to in turn, do the same thing when I was hosting people. So. I mean, I didn't want to, it's not just about paying it forward and also is about creating this awesome experience for another traveler.

Bagel: [00:34:52] Yeah. That's, yeah, that's powerful. Do you want to, just for our audience, cause I have a feeling that there may be some people out there who have maybe zero to 1% knowledge of, of what we're even talking about when we're referring to couch surfing. Do you want to just maybe give a real quick overview of how can you interact or engage with couch surfing and what it is at a high level?

Andrew: [00:35:16] So couchsurfing as a big overarching idea is well, so there's a, there's a website. You have a profile and you kind of say something about yourself, what your ideals are,  what your interests are, things  that you've done, kind of what makes you you, why are you interesting? I mean, and, and I guess other stuff as well, but, 

Bagel: [00:35:39] Mostly why you're interesting. 

Andrew: [00:35:41] Yeah. Why, why should people want to  invite you to their home other than just being like very wonderful, generous people. Which some of that, sometimes that's all,  that's enough. But I mean, people, all over the world  open up their homes to other people. You have a profile and within this profile,= then if you're traveling, you can send out requests to other people to hosts. Ask them,  one tell them who you are,  something about why you're there, what you want to  see, and  then also, and hope that they can host you.  And so when it comes to being hosted or hosting, this can  range greatly. There it's anything from  just a floor to sleep on to  a, your own separate room.  And I've had like the everything 

Bagel: [00:36:39] Yeah, you probably more, more experiences than me, for sure. And as a traveler, you're probably  willing to take whatever is provided for you. And, and that's,  you're appreciative of that. I will say though, it is nice to know what the situation is before you get there, because I did have my very first experience was, Hey, here's a room for you, which I was  shocked. And so appreciative of, and it was a bare empty room with a wooden floor and nothing to sleep on. And of course, I mean, luckily I was traveling across the country and I had a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag that I was able to use, but it would have been helpful. You know what I mean? To know ahead of time that like, Hey, this is literally a wooden floor. And maybe that's, I don't know, maybe that's me asking too much, but that was one thing that I remembered just like those expectations.

Andrew: [00:37:32] And I would, I would agree with that and I think that's really important. And to be honest, there's actually a section that people should be. They should be  writing in,  their situation, what their couch looks like or what, whatever the situation looks like  whether it be a,  a couch, a full on bed, just a floor. Frequently people will put pictures. Right now I think actually the picture of my couch is an old, is a different couch, but still  a couch regardless. 

Bagel: [00:38:02] Roughly what they're yeah, what they're sleeping on.

Andrew: [00:38:05] But then  ideally there's  a whole description of what, what it is. Is it  a shared space? Is it, are you, is the person in the middle of the living room?  Are there  10, 15 dogs are  a hundred kilos? Are, is it  a totally private,   a room that with  a door and   a beautiful, nice bed.

Bagel: [00:38:29] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:38:29] And everything in between.

  Bagel: [00:38:33] What thoughts are coming up when you hear this story? Have you tried couch surfing before? What attracts or repels you to this idea? How do your values relate to this?

Andrew: [00:38:54] And I think that honesty is very important. That, I mean, obviously people, there are different people doing couchsurfing for different reasons. And in some cases it's just as  a kind of tit for tat like I will host people so that then people will host me. And that's it. And that's fine. There's nothing  terrible about that. But for so many couch surfers is definitely something more of not just,  doing something so that you will get something in return, but doing something just,  because it helps spread   great, great thing to other people.

Bagel: [00:39:32] Yeah. I would agree and I think the concept you're talking about of maybe people's  hosting others because they then want to be hosted by others is  this idea of  okay, let me get a reference on your profile. And that will help you basically. It's almost, everyone's familiar with rating systems now between Airbnb and Uber and all these different apps that we have, and that helps build your credibility a little bit. Yeah. But I think you're right. I think there's something beyond just that.

Just getting a good rating, which is, I think for me  it felt like there's this network of travelers who want to share experiences and share, yeah. Share, share things with other like-minded travelers and get to meet people and globally and bring different cultures and different people together. And that to me was more unique, especially when you're thinking about why would I do this versus just finding an Airbnb or staying at a hostel and on those things can be really nice and have different benefits. But I don't know if you have any thoughts about  the differences there. 

Andrew: [00:40:38] Yeah. And so I guess the, first of all, I think of couch surfing, which was before Airbnb is like Airbnb, except for free. I mean, in some ways I think that even though   maybe an Airbnb hosts might feel obligated to do certain things.  They also maybe see it   slightly as a job instead of  just as a host. And obviously I'm sure  Airbnb hosts range greatly and kind of how they see  their hosting within Airbnb. But it ranges sometimes it's  a totally  separated section of a house or a house in itself. And Airbnb versus couch surfing. It's almost always you are in the same living space as the person that's hosting you. Or at least maybe not in the same room, but in  the same place  and you are  interacting with them. And I mean, I feel that there is a lot of I mentioned before, a lot of generosity, a lot of giving between different people. And one thing I always love to do when I'm being hosted or when I'm hosting, I like to make a meal for the person that is hosting me or the person that I'm hosting.  And I think that one   it's just nice to make a meal for another person. There's something really nice about that. It feels really good. And I mean, as long as your cooking is good, then it  may feel really good too. And I feel my cooking is pretty good. So, 

Bagel: [00:42:13] Yeah. I can attest to that. You are a good, a good chef, Mr. Beard.

Andrew: [00:42:18] Thank you very much. And I mean, not only that, then there's  I don't know. As I said before with my friend and how generosity and giving can be contagious. It's not a,  I'm doing this so that you should do  something for me, but frequently then people want to do something as well for whatever reason. Cause it feels nice. Or maybe  someone feels that they want to want to,  give something back. I don't know. Everyone has different reasons for doing things, but I want to say it's usually out of  a good, positive feeling. And then, I mean, there is  a closer bond between you and your host and you can allow two strangers to become like friends from that. And not just  from sharing food, but also sharing experiences or  when possible to like show someone around or be shown around and in a city that you were new to.   And you had touched on this and mentioned this one really important aspect is this reference aspect. That obviously there's  I mean, I do think most people are good people. There are evil people. There are terrible people that do terrible things, but most people are good people. But  the idea of meeting a reference system as a check to make sure that everyone's being a good person and not taking advantage of people or doing terrible things, it's there. And so, you see somebody with  10, 20, a hundred references and they're all like positive references you can read through them.  I'm sh I mean, sometimes really nice to read through a handful of references. There are some  cool experiences that people write about and. I mean, it's very unlikely that all of a sudden this person is going to be a terrible person.  That on the a hundred and first person that they  host or are hosted by that they are all of a sudden become  a terrible person. No, they're going to be a great person.  And while, I want to hope that in most cases, even without the references, you'd be fine to stay with  a stranger. I mean, there's a little risk in that. So the reference system helps to solve that  fear of the stranger and the possible issue of  risk in  a stranger not being one of those bad people.

Bagel: [00:44:49] For sure. And, and to jump back to something you were saying before about  just, spreading  the kindness, the generosity, and cooking a meal for someone and how that brings people together. I, a hundred percent agree and maybe we'll do a little bonus thing at the end of the episode. Maybe we can share some, some more couchsurfing stories. Cause I know we both have a bunch, so maybe we'll do that. But for, for just keeping episode a little more slim here, I'll just say that there were definitely some of the best memories around couch surfing experiences specifically when I was traveling and staying with hosts around the country. And I've only done it in the US as you know. Yeah. Some of those best memories have been around shared meals specifically when either we're cooking, I was cooking for them or they were cooking for me. So a hundred percent food food always brings people together, especially when you're cooking foods from different cultures.

So that's really awesome to hear and that  really segues beautifully into my next question, which was going to be talking about an example or two from a time when someone, and it does it doesn't have to be couch surfing related. Although I know you have a lot of those experiences. But maybe just as a traveler or maybe just in life, even now, Portland.  A time when you feel  a complete stranger  or very close to a complete stranger, maybe went out of their way to be kind to you or, or someone close to you. And also maybe an example of the other way around, a time where you went out of your way to be kind to a stranger.

Andrew: [00:46:20] Okay. Yeah. So, I guess I have,  I guess a bunch of different situations where strangers have been  exceedingly helpful to me.  I would say a lot of them revolve around  hitchhiking.  So, some of this has been within the US as well as outside of the US.  And I guess one of the, these situations that come to mind, and this was actually a couch surfer. So it wasn't a complete stranger, but the whole situation, I mean, they we're a complete stranger, but  I had some connection to them. 

Bagel: [00:46:59] You hadn't met them before,  previously before that experience. 

Andrew: [00:47:03] So, I was on my way to Sofia Bulgaria and I, was hitchhiking over there. And, this man had picked me up. He turns out he did not speak really much English. He did speak a little bit, he spoke  German pretty well, which  my German was a little better at the time. Not that good though. So there was a lot of hand gestures. I did some drawing to get points across. It was a very awesome, interesting, and just on its own, just that he picked me up at all was like really cool and awesome.  But so, he is, he drives he's driving me to Sofia. That's where he he's  on his way. I think it was, to Georgia.  The country, Georgia, obviously. So he is  driving me there. We are communicating in some way in some fashion, but obviously  language is a big barrier. This is wonderful. I can tell that he is a wonderful individual. And  so I'm  on my way to Sofia, obviously since I was hitchhiking, I didn't know, exact times, so that was going to be getting there and everything. But I had seen a message from the person that was hosting me, kind of trying to find out when I'd be there. Cause she has     work the next morning and she's gonna have to go to sleep at some time. So, she includes in this message that  if I get into  the city  late or whatever, it's totally fine. Just   once I get to her place, just call her and she'd let me in. And so, I mean, we're on the road? And he kind of it's,  it becomes  too late for him. He, we get to Sofia, and he's  tired, he's going to stop. And he says I mean, we're here, we're in Sofia.  So I'm like, Okay. And I was still trying to get to this woman's place, which was somewhere else. And so,

Bagel: [00:49:21] Yeah, you're right. Not wherever he decided to stop.

Andrew: [00:49:24] It, wasn't just kind of, I mean, it was in Sofia, but not in, in Sofia. And so I'm basically thinking, I'm going to try to figure out  a way to,  contact a cab and, and get over there. And so I'm just walking over to other people in this parking lot that are talking, they are drinking and actually pretty drunk there next to their cars.  But while I was talking to them, they, I mean, I was just saying that I was in town. I was kind of trying to ask for directions. And  information,  and so I'm talking to them and they're saying actually that they're not going anywhere tonight. Cause they're drunk. 

Bagel: [00:50:07] Good for being safe at least. 

Andrew: [00:50:09] I think was  really good.  Though, I guess this guy saw me talking to them and thinks that I'm trying to get a ride with them to this other place.  I mean, I tried to tell him that, that I wasn't, but I mean he just because he's a great person then just decides to drive me more in the city center.

Bagel: [00:50:31] The same guy that drove you in, or are you talking about someone else?

Andrew: Same guy that drove me in.

Bagel: Oh, so he senses that you were trying to get further in and

Andrew: [00:50:41] Yeah, he doesn't want me to get a ride from these people that were obviously drunk . I was a complete stranger to him, I mean, he had just  picked me up off the road.  But  I said, it was extremely, extremely nice, wonderful individual. So he drops me off,  within  and in like Sofia and I dropped him off by where there's a cab pretty much. That's one of the most important things, I guess. And so I take the cab then to her place and I call her and she wakes up, which, I mean, it was late at that point. It was probably  12 or one, I feel kind of bad.  But she also expects me to be coming still. And I hadn't, I mean, I probably should have other plans, but I had no other plans.

Bagel: [00:51:31] Yeah. You're  well, this is what I said I was going to do. So might as well show up, even if it's a 1:00 AM.

Andrew: [00:51:38] Yeah.It's fine. So I mean, this is just one instance of the generosity of others. There was another instance that comes to mind that was  a lot, much shorter story. I was going to a friend's wedding in Santa Barbara. And this was  a friend from Denver and me and another friend were getting to the airport around the same time. So she had offered to give me a ride. We were staying in different places, so she was dropping me off at my place and then heading to her place. And so she  drops me off and I  go up and knock on the door and  I mean, it  the person,  has no clue what I'm talking about. I mean, it was just someone's house.

Bagel: [00:52:25] It wasn't someone who was expecting you. It's just someone's house.

Andrew: [00:52:29] No, no one was expecting me. It was that me and another friend were staying in  a private room of a hostel. And, it's actually  a pretty nice place. But  I mean, this was just an individual's home. And I was like, Oh, I'm so sorry.  I take my stuff and then kind of continue and just,  I think my cell phone  died or something or low on battery, I forgot. So I was just  going down the road and just asking people like what direction is,  and I'm nowhere we were staying. And I ran into this couple that was outside, they were getting into their car. And I asked this one guy who kind of  where, where this place is.

And,  I mean, he's like I've been in your situation more than I've been on this side of things.  Get into the car and we'll take you there.  So then, I mean, it was really helpful because I would have definitely at least missed  the thing that was going on at night, otherwise. But it was just  it was totally random person, but just  drove me to where I was staying.

Bagel: [00:53:33] Yeah, they were. So here, so I can't help, but have  some questions about those types of experiences. So on this podcast, what I'm trying to do is, is also think, not just my own perspective. But maybe what the audience might be thinking since they're not here right now to ask you a question, I'm trying to think about what questions they might ask, hearing what you're sharing. So the, one of the first things that comes to mind is "Whoa, hitchhiking" or "Whoa, getting in someone that you don't know his car," like no way I would never do that.  What, what makes you, Beard,  comfortable? What allows you  to say yes to those types of things without. Well, and maybe you do, I don't want to say you don't have any sort of guard up. But what allows you to say yes to those types of things?

Andrew: [00:54:26] Well, I mean, first I am  very, very sure.  Almost positive that  I'm not going to be getting into a car with  some psycho killer. Okay. Like it's very, very unlikely. It's  probably much less likely than getting struck by lightning that I'm going to randomly get into a car with  some psycho killer, not to say it's impossible. There are people out there that,  they do that. But I think it's probably less than, maybe less than winning the lottery. That I would be getting into car  that. So I'm not  fearful for my life.  I mean, with the exception of  if I notice that they were drunk or something like that, then I wouldn't get in the car. But I would say, in general, I'm not fearful in that way. I have  maybe a slight fear that maybe someone might want to steal my stuff, which like isn't the end of the world. Like you can always get more stuff. But it could be a really shitty situation. It wasn't an issue that actually happened. But I did get into a car on the same, kind of road trip as  when I was going down to Greece. So from Sofia on the way down to Greece someone had picked me up. And he also didn't speak a lot of English.  He didn't seem as nice as the other guy. I,  you get a vibe from people, their mannerisms, how they carry themselves. And I mean, I had nothing against him. He still picked me up. And so I was definitely more guarded with him.  He stopped and there was  a, like a spring, which was really cool. He like stopped to,  to allow me to  fill up my water bottles at the spring. Cause he was doing that the same thing. He was  filling up,  his water at the spring. 

It was like, this is really cool. Just I don't know how many of them are, but anyway, so I filled up my water bottle and he asked me you don't want to fill up all your water bottles. And, I mean, I was  thinking there that he wanted to steal my stuff.  Maybe I should, but  I was just like, no, I'm fine.  I mean, I had,  there was  a big Nalgene of filled with water and it wasn't I mean, it wasn't like it's impossible to find water. Otherwise it wasn't  the middle of the desert or

Bagel: [00:56:42] Right. It's going to say it's  almost sounds like a little bit of an odd question. Like, are you sure you don't want to fill up more water bottles?  

Andrew: [00:56:49] I mean, it didn't, it wasn't exactly sounded like, because he didn't really, his English wasn't so good or there was language barrier. But that was kind of the gist of what I got from him when he was like, water, no? All your water? And, so I, I said, I definitely had my guard up with him more than with all the other people that I had gotten rides from. But, so you can definitely get to know somebody,  get a good feel for them when you first meet them. And again, this isn't staying with them for  months or years. It is  a car ride.

Bagel: [00:57:29] Right. I'm just curious.  It's interesting to hear people's comfort level with things. I'm sure again, white males, right? So we have a little bit of a different experience than maybe some other people. And of course we, we don't know what that experience might be like for people who are different than us, but it is helpful to hear sort of your thinking . And I sense that you can be a little bit more trusting than maybe some other people are in terms of  where the fear outweighs the ability to trust your instincts with somebody and see that the person in front of you feels like they're reputable. And feels like you're, you've kind of got the sense that they're truly just trying to help as opposed to being scared of what could happen or what the risks might be.

Andrew: [00:58:17] Yeah. And I mean, sometimes in some way, and again, like you said, I think, especially for myself, at least I think being a male that I, there's a lot of fears that I don't have to deal with that, that females  might deal with. I would say that I also kind of think, and this goes with a lot of things. That  people that are  really bad people might also be scared of a stranger than,  if them picking up a stranger or them letting a stranger into their home. Because they know what they would do. And unless they're like a con man or they  are, I mean, I guess it depends on their level of  terribleness.

Bagel: [00:59:04] Yeah, it's sophistication, 

Andrew: [00:59:06] Yeah, they, I mean, they might be, I would assume at least. So they would be just as fearful or more fearful of the other stranger than  I would be of them or, or whoever.   

Bagel: [00:59:21] Yeah. That's a good point.  There actually does need to be some sort of two way trust there where that other person,  not that it has to happen at the exact same time. But it sounds like there's a little bit of trust one way. And maybe that helps build the trust the other way. And in a quick, intuitive sense, you kind of say, all right, like, this is fine. Let me help this guy. Let me help this grow, whoever it might be.  And sounds like for the most part, those those have ended well, you're still here to tell the story.

Andrew: [00:59:52] Terrible has happened to me. Cause I do understand that, that there is the possibility or the potential that something bad could happen. But I mean, there's a lot of bad that could happen. I mean, and sadly I've known   people that bad things have happened to. They generally haven't been those kinds of things though. They've been someone that got hit by a car,  or somebody that, I mean,  I don't know anyone that got struck by lightning. I wish I did, but

Bagel: [01:00:23] I actually do know someone, a professor who not directly, but  very nearby. Crazy, crazy story.

Andrew: [01:00:31] Crazy. 

Bagel: [01:00:32] Yeah. But you're right. That's a rare, that's a rare one.

Andrew: [01:00:35] I mean, I've definitely, I've known  a number of people actually that got hit by cars. I think that's much more of a thing to be fearful of than like somebody is gonna  chop you up into little bits and put you in the floorboards.

Bagel: [01:00:49] Right. Yeah. The likely, yeah. And that not trying to, I'm not trying to laugh at that  because that's scary as hell. But like the actual numbers that support what you're saying, you're you're right. I mean, the likelihood of something like that happening is so, so, so much less than something as common as getting struck by a moving car. Yeah. That's, that's so true.

Andrew: [01:01:11] And so, I mean, these are, this is part of the reason why. I mean, I mean maybe why like try to look both ways before, well, crossing the street. But even that, as someone makes a turn or whatever. Anyway,  I mean, can't be  scared of everything. You can take precautions and trust your gut.

Bagel: [01:01:31] Yeah, for sure. Is there any time you can remember specifically going out of your way to be kind to a stranger, someone you didn't know that that well?

Andrew: [01:01:39] Okay. Yeah,I mean, okay. So there have been a bunch of smaller instances where  maybe somebody that was homeless  was asking for some money or some food and I  got them a meal or  gave them  some money or something like that. I feel  most of my examples are surrounding people that, were, or are homeless in some fashion. So actually the first time that I hosted anyone. And so when I was interested in hosting, I was in the process of  figuring out  trip plans to be honest. And I was one of those people that were, that was  I want a host because then I'll have references and other people will host me. So I wanted to host some people before going on this trip, so then  I would one know a little more about it, but also then people would be open to hosting me. So the first person actually that I hosted, was this guy from Detroit and he was coming to town to reconnect with his father.  He, his father lived in Boulder and there hadn't been a falling out. He had a whole bunch of issues. I don't have to go into them. But  he had come my comeback to try to reconnect and he didn't really come back with too much of a plan. He was just gonna try to couchsurf if I think. That was his idea. Couch surf or sleep on the streets. So, I had him couch surfing with me for, it was  maybe it was  five days or something like that. Which again, I had no clue what the regular amount of time was, you know? 

Bagel: [01:03:24] First experience hosting. Right?

Andrew: [01:03:26] It was my first experience hosting. And I mean, he was  a  a nice enough guy. And he  towards the end of the week, he goes into his story about his situation. And at the time I was, the apartment that was living in was a decent sized apartment. And my roommate,  actually was a doctor, but  wasn't  ever home. So I basically had the apartment to myself.  And I saw, I felt like I had all this room and this guy has a need. So I'll  help them out. I say you can stay here while you're figuring out your, your thing with your dad. And I'll  I mean, I told him that,  I was going to be leaving the apartment,  by this and this time. So,  that's the longest you'd be able to stay. You'd have to figure something out after that.  But,   until then,  well, there was first  cause I had never done this before. There was first,  I did, I kind of extended it  another week first. Just to. And then I kind of, I just came to the idea that, of just,  letting him stay as long as I'm still there. But,

Bagel: [01:04:33] Yeah. Which was how long,  a couple of months or?

Andrew: [01:04:36] No, no, no. It was  maybe, maybe it was  a month. I don't think it was more than six weeks. At the very most, it was like two months, but I think it was, I think it was  a month,  three weeks to a month.  So he was able to at least reconnect with his father. Things weren't  perfect by any stretch. I think there was still a lot of  anger.  But he was able to reconnect with him. He saw him a bunch of times,  before   heading back to Detroit.   Yeah, and I mean, there've been a few other instances later on. And I mean, he's not the only person that kind of is in this kind of a situation and is using kind of couch surfing in a hope that,  that you can stay longer. But I've had a I, and I'm not a big fan of that of well,  I wasn't, no, that wasn't a problem in that situation. I mean, partially because I just, I mean, that was, that is what it was, what it was.   But I appreciate it,  in more, more recent times, or at least  since then,  when someone's just  open and honest about their situation.  And  there've been a couple of times where it's been   when I was living in Denver or whatever, and it was cold outside and they're.   Hey,  I, it was,  somebody with a couch surfing profile and they   at this time they were homeless.  They and,  they were,  just asking about  a place to stay for  a night or two. And I mean,   that's totally fine with me. And again, it wasn't  there still is that  reference aspect where you can see who they are and stuff. And I mean,  there were some awkward conversations. But  they were   these people were  at their heart, they were good people.

  Bagel: [01:06:29] Have you ever picked up a hitchhiker or hosted a stranger? Or maybe you've been on the other side of the coin. Maybe more relatable, have you helped someone in a time of need? Were they a stranger? What barriers might prevent you from taking this kind of action? Do you have a sense of where your boundaries are? What consequences have occurred when you cross them? When you say awkward conversations,  anything you can share around that? Was it awkward because they were awkward? Or is it  trying to figure out the expectations or what about it?

Andrew: [01:07:14] I mean, so in one situation, there was   I mean, and I knew this at the time they had the couch surfing profile had said, in her request that  her and  her friend, I forgot his name. But that they were they were looking for this place. There was this whole situation with her friend's roommate  being  addicted to drugs or something like that. And they didn't want to be around that. That was bad.  And this is  how they became I mean, I don't know how temporary the homelessness was, but at least temporarily homeless.  and so just while talking, cause we were talking and having a good time and stuff. I think her friend, who was a really nice person who had  helped to make  food or whatever.  He was talking to me and I said something about being Jewish. And he was joking around about   something like, Oh, I thought all Jews were  rich or something like that. And it was a joke, but  it was like seriousness too in his, the way he said it, which again, there's nothing terrible. I think.

Bagel: [01:08:23] Yeah. We've heard worse, right?

Andrew: [01:08:24]  I said, I think they were both  good people and everything. But, and maybe,  there was  a stereotype or stigma that they thought about Jews that,  was changed at least to some degree after this encounter. I don't know.But that was  something that was a little weird. It was also, I mean, not in this situation, but also weird in other situations, especially  in Europe, when  there was more than one person who  said I was the first Jew that they met. Which coming from New York, it was  so weird, like every, 

Bagel: [01:08:55] It's so true. It's such a weird thing.

Andrew: [01:08:58] And  just to hear that on not just one occasion, but multiple occasions. And they were they weren't, it wasn't  a thing out of malice. It was just said in truth that you are the first Jew I met and okay that’s cool. 

Bagel: [01:09:13] Yeah. And I, and I'm, I mean, I'm sure we can have a whole conversation about this. Maybe, maybe for another episode, but yeah,  there's some weight that can come with that, right. I mean, not to the same degree, but I've had some of those experiences, even actually, when I went to Delaware or someone on my floor said that to me. And then since I've been in North Carolina, there've been many times where I've, I've been the first,  first Jew, someone has met or  they know very little about our culture and you're sort of having to be in that role of responsibility of kind of teaching them. Which I mean, you don't have to. But you and I, as giving people, I think sometimes we  take it upon ourselves to say, Oh, sure.  I'd be happy to educate you a little bit about, about this. If you're interested, right. We're not gonna push it on people, but if they're interested, I think you're the type of person that, that would be willing to share those things similarly to how you might, share experiences  with 

Andrew: [01:10:07] And I like to do that. And I mean, to be honest, that's something that I always loved about New York is that everyone just shared these different things about their own  religion or culture or background. And I did the same as it's, I think it's very nice sharing things about oneself. I mean, Obviously, I like somewhere in my  verbal diarrhea that  while I'm talking to them, I do  get to the point where a whole  idea that  you have, three Jews. Yes. And five opinions.

Bagel: [01:10:40] Right. Of course you got, you gotta make a  self-deprecating joke at some point that's kind of part of the code, but,  may be defense mechanism to some extent, but 

Andrew: [01:10:52] I mean also the, and the fact that,  there's  such a wide range of  Jewish practice and Jewish communities that  I'm obviously not the source of Judaism.

Bagel: [01:11:06] Right. Yes. As wise as you are the illustrious beard over here. Yes. You're you are not the only source of that knowledge, so yeah, no, you're right.  Not to stereotype, but when there's someone who maybe is very one dimensional in terms of their religious or cultural understanding, sometimes it does feel like they look to you.

As having to  tell them everything and to share everything and to, and to be this wise person. And you're  and yeah, I've been in those situations here. I'm  dude, I don't know everything. Like I did go to  Jewish day school for like seven, eight years. But that doesn't mean I, yeah, remember anything I learned.  It's like, I'm not responsible for   expelling the Bible here, but at the same time I think  it's nice and it's cool. And it fits perfectly. I think in the conversation of couch surfing and traveling and kindness and generosity that you can share a token or a bit of your own perspective on your cultural upbringing and your religious upbringing and the types of traditions that you have and the things that you do.

And,  and maybe how that influences how you treat people too, which I think is interesting.   You mentioned having a friend who was Muslim before and  there's, there's this connection over cooking and food and sharing those meals together and think about all of the reasons why our two cultures may disagree on things yet there's something it's connection over, over other things.

Yeah. And I think being able to find sometimes. Kind of  what I was saying before.  I think appreciating the differences, but also finding the connections at the same time can be such a powerful thing because I think it's so cool to be able to celebrate those things that do make us different and make us unique. Yet there's also that moment where you can say, Oh, I kind of understand how that tradition is important to you and your family, because I feel similarly about a certain thing that I do in my culture. And they may be totally different things. But the feeling that they emanate or that you get around participating in that tradition, for example, could be the thing that brings you together.

Andrew: [01:13:10] Yeah. To be honest, at least with this friend of mine   I would say while there was  a big difference between   sort of American culture and  Syrian culture that we were brought up in different cultures. I mean, I would say if anything, maybe the  similarities between Judaism and Islam were things that connected us more.

 Bagel: [01:13:33] Yeah. How amazing is that? 

Andrew: [01:13:35] Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I think  there was  a bit of maybe  him trying to show that  Muslims aren't  all bad kind of thing. I mean, which I knew, like I definitely grew up in New York, so people like every religion,  all around you.  But I mean, there's also a lot of America that does not, and just sees    this  idea of  Muslims as being bad in some way. So, I mean, other people see that throughout the world, I'm sure. 

Bagel: [01:14:06] Yeah. Yeah. The stereotyping I'm sure is a very real thing, but but I think it's nice,  just, just to bring it in the context of what we're talking about of having those values, like you have you shared that I wrote down here being open minded, having compassion for others, community, acceptance and inclusion.

I think. I mean, I'm biased. I love those values. And  I think we share a few of those together. But I look at those things with you, and I say,  it's nice to see and to hear how you're able to live those values and  in lots of different ways in your life. Whether it's through traveling or whether it's through hosting other people or just in your everyday interactions that you're able to hold those true. And to say, Hey, if we are able to find those connections to build those communities, to be a little bit more inclusive. You don't have to be perfect, but I'm hearing you saying  just keeping those in mind,   can provide for a better world in a sense.

Andrew: [01:15:04] Agreed. Agreed so, so much so.

Bagel: [01:15:08] Yeah, so to, to round out the conversation what tips, maybe lessons combined with some tips and advice do you have, for other people who are considering  traveling. Who may be a little bit timid about approaching strangers, whether it's through couch surfing or just generally in life? What thoughts might you leave somebody to help them navigate that?

Andrew: [01:15:35] One, I mean, I would say that assume the positive until your experience tells you something different. I don't think it's, I don't think there should be anything wrong with  taking in what people say and are doing their mannerisms.  how they're presenting themselves to make decisions of   how you feel about them, especially when you first meet them.  You can, I think in many in cases,  assume that they're going to be a good person. And then if  they show you different then they show you different.  But more often than not  they're going to be a good person.    And obviously, like you had mentioned, I say that being   a white male, an American white male. And so, I mean, there's ton of privilege that I have from that makes  a lot of  my interactions a little easier. Cause there's  maybe not  an issue of  someone there just trying to hit on me or something  that. I mean, though, that maybe has happened before, but that's a different issue.

Bagel: [01:16:35] Hey maybe. It may be, but yes, maybe in a different sense.

Andrew: [01:16:38] Yeah. But I mean, so I mean, just, I would say in general,  seeing  the positive and people. And this is what I try to do, obviously, I mean, there are bad people.  But in general,  I would say people are good.  And then also, you shouldn't be doing anything that you're not comfortable with. But  pushing  one's boundaries and  maybe things that  you didn't think you could do, but to  try them out. And again, this isn't to say that  if something in your gut is saying,  this is a really bad situation, then like, Hey,  it's good to trust your gut. That's not a bad thing.  There's frequently times that  it's telling you that for a good reason.  It's a dark alley and someone's offering you a lollipop and 

Bagel: [01:17:27] Do the criminals still do that? They still offer lollipops? 

Andrew: [01:17:30] Only in like in vans with no windows.

And the other thing is just saying yes to experiences.  To  just trying things out that, I mean, and this goes with  being open to new things and new people. That if you're traveling or  about to travel, if you're meeting people,  ask them about the places that they've been in,   things that they liked. And I mean, taking ideas down from other people is really good. Or if you have an adventure that you're on,  inviting somebody else. Or  if someone's telling you about their own adventure,  seeing  if it's okay for you to come along. And I mean, especially, I know personally when I travel, I frequently apart from enjoying  couch surfing, I like to go to hostels and to be in hostels because there's  such a great atmosphere of people.  I mean, while it can be nice, it's  cheaper or whatever. So you can travel for longer. I don't like to have a hostel that there's  some hostels that are just there  for cheapness,  that's their reason. And they are as packing as many people in as possible to like a small of a place as possible. Or, I mean,  the main reason I would go to her is for, to be able to talk to people and interact with people and to then be able to even plan trips with those people and go to other cool places, whether it be within that city or other cities.

Bagel: [01:19:10] Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. I think the, just the sense of community and connection, I think, is a thread throughout the whole conversation that we've had. And a lot of what I think you're. I'm looking for too and try to provide is that sense of connection and I totally agree. There's always going to be people who look at things like couch surfing and hostels for the, for the pure aspect of a bargain. But I think if you're looking a little bit deeper at these things and trying to understand the true value of it, it's not just that you get a cheaper, free place to stay. It's that there's this sense of comradery, community, likeminded people, open-mindedness and getting to learn and engage and, and have an experience and share an experience with other people. Can really impact and  really make lasting memories. Which is just, is very unique. And I think really cool.

And I was just, and I'll just say, I love what you said about pushing the boundaries just a little bit outside of your norm. I think that maybe if there's anything that our listeners take away from the conversation amongst all the wisdom and fun stories and experiences, it's that. I mean, it's  I've had friends and I've talked to people where, where I've encouraged them to do that. I'm just thinking a little bit beyond their norm a little bit beyond their every day and their, their bubble. And it doesn't be that you have to  go skydiving tomorrow. If you're scared of heights. But maybe you do that one thing that just feels  a little scary, but that, you've kind of, you almost feel like you're  like actually really  kind of excited about it, but I'm also really scared about it at the same time.

 Those little things that push the boundaries, allow you to see whether or not that's possible for you. Which I think is  so cool and necessary about being a human being and. Or an or it'll tell you, tell you where your limits are. And sometimes you start to realize  your limits are a little bit further than you than you ever thought. And can also open up so many great things and opportunities and experiences from happening.

Andrew: [01:21:18] Completely agree.

Bagel: [01:21:20] Awesome. Well, that's all I got for you, Beard. Is there any ways that you would like people to be able to connect with you, whether it's on social or otherwise?

Andrew: [01:21:30]  Yah, so people are free to connect with me on, I have  Instagram,  and my Instagram name is a yanks one, five, seven, as in short for Yankees.

Bagel: [01:21:44] There you go.

Andrew: Yeah. Bronx bombers.  And then I also have a, I guess  an online journal.  A travel journal kind of thing that I have done. Some of the entries are a little bit,  more lengthy wordage wise and some are more just  pictures with some little headings to collections of the pictures. But it kind of,  in both cases they tell a story of places that I've been and have enjoyed. And so, that is yank one, five,  I'm hoping to continue to put stuff on there. I think the less stuff I put on there where was, within my trip to Spain and Morocco and  London.

Bagel: [01:22:38] Very nice. I'm gonna, I'm gonna have to go check it out myself. Yeah. Well, we'll include all of that in the show notes. And I just want to say thank you so much for being on the live your value show. It's been a real honor and great to hear all of your stories and wisdom.

Andrew: [01:22:55] The honor is all here.

Bagel: [01:22:56] Awesome.       

I hope you got a lot out of this episode with Andrew Braunstein or the Beard. If you like what you heard, please hit subscribe in your podcast app so you get notified about all new episodes of the Live Your Values Podcast with me, Bagel. Special, thanks to Emma Peck for logo design, Danielle Gelber for marketing strategy, and Rebecca Kittel and my team at Free Your Time Virtual Assistants for operations support.


   Until next time, get out there and LYV.  



Bagel:   How about, how about least favorite fruit?

Andrew: [01:23:41] Least favorite fruits. 

Bagel: [01:23:43] Yeah. 

Andrew: [01:23:49] I would say, I'm not like I'm not against figs, but off the top of my head. No, actually grapes, grapes are my least favorite. 

Bagel: Oh yeah, because you’re allergic.

Andrew: Yeah. They, they don't, they don't like me. They like to punch me in the throat.

Bagel: [01:24:03] That's right. Yeah. That's that's fair.