by Austin

January 20, 2011

January 19th, 2011

Total Distance for today: 38 miles
Total Distance for Tour: approx. 675 miles
LOCATION: Rowan Ministries Homeless Shelter – Salisbury, NC
STATUS: Couchsurfing, in route to Atlanta, GA
January 16th, 2011

Rowan Ministries Homeless Shelter – Salisbury, NC

January 19th, 2011

I’m sitting in a homeless shelter for the first time in my life, and I’m only able to write this because I bummed a pen and a pad of paper. 🙂 Abnormal as it may be for me, this visit was not entirely unplanned. I was sitting in a coffee shop in Carrboro about 100 miles back, when I realized that I was not going to be able to fill the Couchsurfing void entirely between Raleigh, NC and Atlanta, GA. There were a couple gaps; Salisbury is one of them.

After a couple relatively unproductive calls to churches in Salisbury, I was ultimately referred to the Rowan Ministries Homeless Shelter. My initial hesitation was an ego-reaction; certainly I could not sink to the level of spending a night in a homeless shelter. Fortunately, ego gave way to curiosity and, ultimately, necessity.

As I sit here amidst society’s forgotten, I’m beginning to realize some hard truths. First of all, some of the people here were, to some extent, destined to be here. That is, in the individualistic society in which we find ourselves. Second, others are here because of just plain tough luck. I think the latter will work there way out, but our ultra individualistic society might also prevent them from getting that small level of help they need to get back on their feet quickly. Often times, people have all of the mental tools to move forward, but they find themselves caught in a vicious cycle that they can’t break out of on their own. Ironically, I am an individualist, but my individualism is focused on life path and purpose. I sense that most of our “individualism” is nothing more than thinly disguised selfishness, and that selfishness takes the form of fear, isolation, and cowardice. Tell me: Who has the courage to face the uglier side of our society and affirm his current selfish path? Let him continue on if he can, but I cannot bare him who isolates himself from the misfortune of others out of fear or a protective ego. I’m thankful for the people working at Rowan Ministries and other similar places who are actively seeking to help get these people out of the cycle of poverty. We all benefit.

As I sit in this forgotten place, I feel myself humbled. My ego is on its highest defense. Though I needed a place to stay, the temptation is to be embarrassed. One wants to be seen as a “complete” human being or not be seen at all. To be invisible, and to pass through unnoticed, would be easier for the ego. One wants to explain: “Not I! I am unlike the others here, as I do not need to be here.” I, however, am on a path to training my ego to accept bruises, that I might become stronger and see and feel more.

So, when the temptation came to lower my eyes and escape eye-contact with some of the staff, I forced myself to meet their gaze with a smile. Dignity asserts itself with the eyes, and a knowing smile tells a lot about the health of the mind. It reinforces it. Though it pains me, my eyes are up tonight. I should note that the staff here have been respectful, kind, and helpful.

Things started to get interesting during check-in, as the woman helping me, Linda, began to take interest in my story. She took so much interest, in fact, that she actually helped me to land an interview with a reporter from the Salisbury Post for tomorrow morning. When she found out that my sponsor, APV, has a sister company, APA, which offers patent services, she also became interested in that. It sounds as though she has or knows someone who has an invention in need of a patent. I passed APA’s information on to her.

Clearly, opportunities come from strange places, but those weren’t the only ones to find me tonight. One of the other staff members, Will, has a sister who is the DJ for a major radio show in Charlotte, WBAV – FM 101.9. Will’s trying to set something up for me through her.

Presently, as I sit here, with my eyes still up, I am becoming aware of something powerful and important: I was worried about my dignity when I realized that I would be staying the night in a homeless shelter, but it was my dignity that compelled me to do it in the first place. I knew that my self-worth was not so small as to be damageable by a night in a homeless shelter; rather, it has grown through an interesting and powerful new experience. I can see more now than I could before. But I had to open up. I had to be brave, and I had to let go. My vision is clearer, and my resolve is stronger for it.


About the author 


From a 3412 mile inline skate across America for Freedom to a pilgrimage halfway around the world, speaker and life coach, Austin Szelkowski has lived an intrepid spiritual journey. Over the last 11 years, he has skated across a continent, built 3 successful businesses, been enlightened by a mind-bending spiritual awakening, and endured a terrifying dark night of the soul journey in 2017. His story brings courage in the darkest places – providing a sense of spiritual adventure and hope.

  • Hi! On Jan. 20, I was riding in my black Tahoe going north on Hwy.29 in Salisbury, N.C.( of course, you were going south)…I saw you, didn’t know who you were or what you were doing, but I tapped my horn at you to acknowledge you. Later that day, my friend from high school, Belinda, posted on FB that she had spoken with you in the little town of China Grove. I have since looked up your blog & read about your experience in our town of Salisbury, N.C. I am bothered somewhat that you were only given the option to stay in a homeless shelter, as our town is very hospitable & I would not be happy if that is the only memory you have of our town. I would have gladly let you stay with our family, as I’m sure others would have also. I read your interview in the Salisbury Post. You took an unwanted situation & made the best of it & hopefully it will be a life lesson for you & all of us who will follow your adventure. The homeless everywhere deserve respect & the sense that they are sharing this planet with us, as brothers & sisters on this journey through life. I just wanted to say hello again, wish I could’ve talked to you in person & let you know the admiration people feel when they hear about your cause & dedication to this adventure. Safe travels, friend, you may feel lonely, but there are those of us who are traveling with you…through your blog & in spirit. Safe travels & happy experiences!

    • Bunni,

      I really appreciated your comment, and it’s too bad we didn’t get to speak in person. The homeless shelter was certainly not something I want to be repeating, but at the same time, it was a very interesting and eye-opening experience. I’m glad you will be following me on the blog, and I hope you will enjoy the posts!

      Stay in touch, and thank you for your kind words!

      – Austin

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