I am traveling alone this month. Traveling off the beaten path in the jungle paradise of Costa Rica. And when I´m not sleeping in the jungle in my hammock, then I´m staying at Hostels. I have come to absolutely love hostels. Not just because they are cheap, but mostly because of the people. If you want to be left alone, then book a hotel. If you want to meet lots of interesting people, then go to a hostel (I´m currently at th Flutterby House in Uvita – awesome hostel!). Hostels are about sharing; whether it´s the lunch table, the kitchen, or stories, travel tips and life´s experiences. And my work (and this blog) is about communication – about how we connect with others. Quickly, easily and deeply.

This morning over breakfast I met a fascinating Canadian woman with a story about growing up in Germany post World War II. It was a deep and moving conversation that will leave me thinking for a long time. I live for these kind of deep and meaningful encounters.

And when I meet a new person, what are the normal standard questions we all use?

* Where are you from?

* What do you work with (or study)?

* What have been your best experiences so far?

But how can we deepen these conversations? When I meet someone new, in my mind I´m trying to understand this person. I´m trying to decide if I want to connect deeper or just move on. It is a constant selection process. With some people, quick and casual is fine. Just say hello, exchange some niceties and then move on. With others, we can sit for hours in deep, concentrated and meaningful discussions. And I´m fascinated by what makes the difference. What is it that happens? What makes the difference? What makes for a deeper human connection when meeting a total stranger?

So there are two sides: Mine and yours. You and me.

On my side, its mostly about me being open – looking for the beauty and unique genious in others. It´s about me not being quick to judge; always curious about others and the stories of their lives. And always open to allowing a deeper conversation to evolve.

On the other person´s side, it is often about Clarity. Some people are just more clear and easy to understand than others. Clarity is something I think is undervalued. When you meet another person, how clear are you about who you are? Is it easy (and interesting) to learn what you do? Will I quickly get a grasp of what you stand for? Do you make it easy for others to understand you or are you vague and nebulous?

The people on this trip whom I have met that have made the biggest impressions on me are those that have been the most clear. Clear in who they are. Clear in what they are about.

So answer these questions:

* What do you STAND for? (Your mission)

* What are you willing to fight for? (Your values)

* What are the things that move you (your emotions)

* What do you do to make the world a better place? (Your contribution)

These are big questions, but these are some of the things that often make the difference between a casual, non-commital conversation and one that is deep, heart-warming and sometimes life-changing.

So think about this next time you meet a stranger. What do you want; shallow small talk or are you open to having deep human connections? Are you clear in your communication about who you are and what you stand for? The choice (and rewards) are up to you.

Pura Vida (Costa Rican for Beautiful, Pure Living).