Let’s go back to January 17, 2021.  The world was still in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic and the first shipments of the vaccine were rolling out to healthcare workers and the elderly.  I had been working from home for 10 months.  My passport sat there, calmly and unused.  It had been 11 months since I had been on a plane.

I had seen a few Facebook friends mentioning this new app called Clubhouse, which required an invite to join.  I didn’t know much about it, but I’m always up for a new way to connect with people, so when a Facebook friend of mine said he had two invites, I raised my hand and he sent me one (nowadays you no longer need an invite to join, iPhone and Android users alike can join by downloading the free app from their respective app store).

How little did I realize how meaningful that app would become!

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse calls itself a Social Audio app.  Others call it a “drop-in audio” app.  Basically, you open the app and are in your Hallway, where you will see a variety of rooms you can join, depending on the room topic, your interests, and the people you follow.  When you find a room that interests you, just click the room and you’ll join in.

Each room in Clubhouse operates in the same way: there’s a stage and an audience.  Those who are on stage are allowed to speak, those in the audience can only listen.  Moderators decide who can join the stage and generally lead the discussion.  If you like what someone is saying or find them interesting, you can click on their picture and follow them.  

If you’re thinking to yourself “it sounds like a variety of conference calls you can join” you’re not far off.  Twitter and Spotify quickly made imitations of Clubhouse and LinkedIn is now piloting the same concept.  

The app saw tremendous growth in early 2021, since many people didn’t have anything better to do.  Celebrities join rooms for curated interviews, from Elon Musk to Carole Baskin.  John Mayer held a room to debut his newest album, talking about the story of each song followed by its debut.  Those special experiences were unique and wonderful, but that’s not what made the app so special to me.

Clubhouse democratized the sharing of ideas.  It didn’t matter how many books you sold or how many countries you visited, if you had interesting comments on the discussion at hand your ideas would be just as valued as those with more notoriety.  The more I used the app and joined rooms, the more people I connected with across the world who had similar interests…which eventually brought me to the Traveler’s Chill Lounge.

The Traveler’s Chill Lounge

A girl who I had seen in a few travel rooms began creating a room called the Traveler’s Chill Lounge.  I joined in because a lot of the people I enjoyed chatting with were in that room.  We talked travel, got to know each other a bit, it felt like a regular conversation except we were spread across the globe.  The next night the same room happened.  And the next night.  And every night since, 367 days running!  So many wonderful people have joined the room, some for a little bit and others with regularity.  People of all shapes, colors, beliefs, and life stages, all of us sharing a common interest in travel.  Some, like me, used points and miles to travel in luxury for relatively small amounts of money.  Others knew all the tricks to use on ultra low cost carriers like Spirit to fly for dirt cheap across the country.  Some had been to all seven continents while others were content with their first.  There was no pecking order, everyone was included.

As we got to know each other better, the conversation would drift from travel to other topics, as happens in friend groups.  It was amazing that a sense of community developed when few of us had ever met in person.

Traveling with Clubhouse friends

It all changed in May.  The founder of the Traveler’s Chill Lounge (TCL) club had bought a house and had a random idea: why not invite her Clubhouse friends to her home in Florida for a housewarming party?  Everyone was vaccinated by that point and 30 of us made our way to Florida, curious what it would be like to meet people in person who we had been “talking” to for the past four months.

It was amazing!  It felt like we all just picked up where we left off in our conversations the day before.  It was a beautiful time and drew us closer together.

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After the first meetup, it was wonderful to see so many people heading out into the world together as things reopened.  Some friends went to Aruba together, others would crash on each other’s couches when visiting their town.  Another friend won the lottery for a permit to hike The Wave and five of us joined her.

Image courtesy of Janiel Green, http://www.culturetrekking.com

A friend, who has a hilarious and undying love for a Persian restaurant in LA called Raffi’s Place, found a cheap flight to LAX from the DMV area, mentioned it in the room, and before we knew it there were 20 people (including many of us after The Wave) who decided to join an impromptu LA meetup!

Meetups happened everywhere: Chicago, New York, Florida again, and even my trip to Italy in October.

A TCL friend from Florida decided to pursue his master’s degree in Vilnius, Lithuania and moved over the summer.  Surely you can see where this is going, but a group of 9 of us flew out to see him around the US Thanksgiving holiday!

And there’s more coming in 2022, there are plenty of trips coming up in our little group, including a bucket list trip of mine in May where a small group of us will go to one of the most incredible landscapes in the world (not telling where quite yet).

What Clubhouse taught me

The human brain naturally develops assumptions based on patterns it notices (for example, your nose is always in your field of vision but your brain basically ignores it until you look at it) (if you looked at your nose after reading that previous statement you have to leave a comment).  One of those patterns is giving credence or clout to something someone famous/visible says over someone else.  Clubhouse changed all that for me.  It didn’t matter what someone looked like, it didn’t matter how many followers they had, if their ideas were interesting and they treated other people with kindness they could find their community.  It helped me understand that everyone has something valuable to contribute, and Clubhouse has been a beautiful venue for that.

I’m thankful for the app, for my friends in the Traveler’s Chill Lounge, and I can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store!

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