–With almost forty references between hosting, surfing, and random interactions, proudly all positive, Couchsurfing has influenced my travels a lot more than I realized. My most recent cross country road trip initiated this thought as I miraculously had four hosts in a row to accommodate me on my ride from Chicago, Illinois to Humboldt County, California. Each one unique, sweet, and as necessary from any host (I believe), friendly.
My first host was working in the Dominican Republic, so I did not even meet him. He gave me his address, door code, and directed me to the first room on the left. It was a big, old house with at least six people occupying the plethora of rooms. I met a roommate or two, but mostly kept to myself. I made a sandwich, took a shower, charged my electronics, had a snooze, and was on my way.
Though my first host was very hospitable, my second was much more engaging, because he was actually present. Hugh is photographer, who has lived in three different cities in the past three years. His profession is his passion and with the ability to travel whenever he feels, happiness has never shined brighter. Hugh is a cool guy and we instantly hit it off. Luckily, he had a map of the U.S on the wall of his living room to reference throughout my stay.
My third host was a combination of the others. Ashley is a nurse on night watch, working 6pm to 6am. I arrived to another empty home, made some mac and cheese, showered, read a book (twenty minutes max), and passed out. CRASH! A bicycle and guitar hit the floor, scaring all three of us. Wait what? Two other guys were uncomfortably sleeping in the living room with me, one on the floor and the other on a love seat. I vaguely remembered she was hosting another surfer. Our host caught up with us in the morning and after an hour of discussing what had brought us all here to this point in time, I was gone.
Last, but not least was probably the best, only because I stayed with my host for more than one night and we were able to hang out. Nate hosted me over the New Year’s holiday and while I was oblivious to the insanity that came with the holiday to Lake Tahoe, I managed to sneak by peacefully. I had a sleeping pad on the floor of a cozy, warm cabin about five minutes walking distance from the lake. Nate is a plumber, born and raised in Tacoma, and though he has other ambitions down the road, he enjoys the simple pleasures to wind down from the chaos referred to as life, which I greatly appreciate. The amount of tea we drank over the course of my stay granted me a noticeable cleanse. Nate is a tea connoisseur and while he may not agree, he is.
Couchsurfing is why many of my journeys are so memorable, such as my excursion to and from Alaska, Ecuador, New Zealand, Austin, Texas, Lake Tahoe, and many more. Some hosts I have never met, but stayed in their homes. Others, I spent weeks with, while some I still befriend today. We were/are buddies, lovers, comrades, a shoulder to cry on, companions through thick and thin, well in those moments anyways. A community, a network; a mindset. Ahhhh, it is refreshing to go just about anywhere on earth and find that many of us are on the same level. We want to peacefully enjoy our lives, living happy and healthy. We want to explore and learn, or maybe learn from those that explore, and then share.
Music therapists, lawyers, scientists, plumbers, nurses, musicians, and so many more contributing members of our society open their doors, their hearts, to a greater cause. Of course, hosts enjoy the company, which makes a difference. The cultural exchange or even a simple conversation is one of the most significant parts of the experience and without it; couchsurfing loses its appeal. The local hotspot, secret view, and the undiscovered restaurant are just a few perks to befriending a local; however, hearing and expressing dreams and doubts are just as fascinating.
The concept that is Couchsurfing has existed for decades, it was just not networked. Another underground idea that never blossomed fully into the public eye, yet many still participated. The gypsies, transients, drifters, hippies, and all types got by for many years and though they may have not had a source as convenient as Couchsurfing, word got around and people connected. We trusted one another, which I cannot say the same about nowadays.
As much of a hermit, introvert, or shy as I may be, I love people. I do not like customers, idiots, and assholes, but I love people. If I was antisocial, I could not couchsurf. Socializing weaves the intricacy that makes this tool so valuable. I have said it time and time again, “Couchsurfing gives me faith in humanity.” People, strangers, black, white, Muslim, Christian, men, women, from across the globe, contribute what they can to make the world a better place. Some send waves around the world, some through the community, and others keep it in the family. One way or another, our network is made up of people who are making the world a better place.