Unlikely Places. Ultimate Experiences.

It's been a couple of weeks now since my last cup official of tea. And if my recent tweets didn't tip you off, I've actually spent the last 15 days travelling through Vietnam – working my way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. The trip wasn't exactly tea related – not in the 100 cups sense anyway, but that isn't to say that I didn't meet any strangers along the way- and I definitely drank a lot of tea.

While there are several cups brewing in the not so distant future, I thought I might take some time today to tell you about a stranger who entered into my life in the not so distant past. A stranger who has shown me incredible kindness and hospitality. A stranger with whom I may not have had a cup of tea, but who has had an effect on my life just the same.

My recent trip to Philadelphia to meet Mo Neville for cup # 22 would have me spending two nights in New York City, and after splashing on the plane ticket and accommodation in Philly, I wasn't sure I my bank balance could accommodate anything more – especially heading jobless into a two week run around Vietnam. I wonder if my impulsiveness will ever catch up with me?

I would turn to twitter, I thought – 100 cups had brought me so much already, perhaps it could help me find a couch to sleep on in New York City?

It only took a day, and I was sent in the direction of @adventurousness – though in real life, they call him Aaron. A friend of a friend - or perhaps more accurately, a friend of a stranger – but soon, Aaron and I wouldn't require the middle man. After a brief exchange, Aaron agreed to let me spend two nights on his couch. I was thrilled, and my bank account felt pretty good about it too. But what I would learn, rather quickly upon my arrival, is that Aaron was about to offer me much more than a just couch to sleep on...

After what felt like the longest bus journey of my life (something I didn't allude to when I told you about cup # 22), I arrived in New York City. I was almost 3 hours late. Would Aaron still be waiting for me on the corner of 34th and 8th? I wouldn't have blamed him if he wasn't. What reason did he even have to wait around? I was a stranger from the internet. A silly bugger from London who booked a flight to New York without the financial ability to book himself into a hotel. I was irresponsible. He didn't owe me a thing.

But he waited anyway...

I would learn very quickly that Aaron isn't your average stranger – that fact was ever so apparent in his willingness to treat me as as a friend, right from the moment we met. It didn't matter that we had never met one another before. Aaron already understands the value in opening your life up to the strangers within it – something that I grow more understanding of with each cup of tea that I have. Every conversation, every stranger – they bring me closer to truly understanding what we are capable of as human beings; to understanding the power of these connections that we have the ability to create.

Aaron took me to Shakes for New York's best burger. He took me to the Waffle Truck for the best waffle I've ever eaten – and believe me when I say I've eaten a waffle or two in my time. We went to Union Square and Grand Central. To the Trump Tower, and Radio City Music Hall, and the NBC Studios. He took me to brunch in the morning, and for my first New York bagel experience for lunch. We went to Tom's Restaurant, the diner you'd know from Seinfeld. We walked all over Manhattan - from the Upper West Side, through Central Park, to Wall Street, down to the Hudson River, and through the West Village. We went to the fire hall from the Ghostbusters' movies. To the site where the World Trade Centre once stood. We had Mexican for dinner - sharing stories of our worldly adventures and our mutual desire to experience all that life has to offer.

All of this for a me – a guy that he had only just met.

You could call it hospitality – but I can't help but feel that it's something much more than that. Hospitality is nice, but you don't usually walk away from a dinner party feeling life a different person, do you? Maybe I was still riding high after my cup of tea with Mo? Maybe the magic of New York City was taking its toll? Or maybe, just maybe, Aaron had offered me something much more than just kindness and hospitality. Maybe that's how it feels when someone takes what would usually require years of friendship and trust- the culmination of heartfelt conversations, shared experiences, honesty, and emotional growth - and and offers it to you all at once – the first time that you meet.

[ Radio City Music Hall ]

[ Everything bagel with Nova & Cream Cheese ]

[ Canyon of Heroes ]

[ Who you gonna' call? ]

[ Brunch! ]

[ Monks? ]

I left New York, determined that I would one day be able to pay Aaron back for everything that he did for me – and one day I will. For now though, maybe I can offer to someone else what Aaron so graciously offered to me. Maybe, if you come to London, you can stay on my couch. I'll show you the sights. We can eat waffles too if you like.

And maybe, if your feeling up to it, we can have a cup of tea as well...

[As an avid traveller - Aaron, like me - shares his stories with all who wish to read. Check out his website - have a poke around. Maybe there is something there for you too!]

1 comment:

  1. Aw, that's such a sweet story. It's awesome if you know or get to know someone who can show you the best and their most favourite places!:) Nice to hear you 2 had a great time.