Posted by: adventuressetravels | June 20, 2010

Couchsurfing

“Sally?” a spritely waif of a girl walked towards me across the parking lot, cocking her head to one side. Was I her couchsurfer? 

“L?” I returned the inquisitive look: thrift-store-chique, hip pixie-cut hair, and a careless confidence that spoke volumes.  This girl would have fit right in at KJHK, my old college radio station.  She flashed a brilliant smile.  We slipped into easy conversation as we headed over to her car.  

Going to a new town and getting into a car with a person you don’t even know?  What on earth was I doing? 

I am participating in Couchsurfing.  What, you might ask, is couchsurfing?

Couchsurfing is far and away one of my favorite websites, organizations, or, I suppose, ways of life.  It is for travelers all over the world.  Not tourists, but travelers… people wanting to get to know the real places they visit, not just go to the tourist attractions to check places off of some “I’ve been here” list.  The ones who are actually interested in the culture, the inside scoop; more than just buildings, the heart and soul of the place.

The idea of Couchsurfing is cultural exchange.  Members are in cities worldwide contribute in all sorts of ways.  Hosts offer their hospitality, time, and help.  How to host is as different as the people are.  Some teach about the local culture, others hang out and show their surfers their favorite places, go to parties, and some recommend cool insider places to visit.  In turn the traveler, or surfer, shares his or her culture, cooks, teaches skills, shares music, or helps out around the house.  In other words there is no one way to participate in couchsurfing, but it is almost always an amazing experience.

Each surfer has a profile that lists his or her interests, information on the individual, and most importantly has references from past hosts and guests.  Surfers look up profiles of in a city they are going, get in touch with someone who shares similar interests or just looks like a cool person, and they get back to you.  I am a big fan and have had fantastic experiences with couchsurfing, learned and lived parts about cultures that I would never had if I had just been traveling in hostels. 

This was my first time using the website in the US.  But the South was so different from anywhere that I’d been that it might just as well have been another country.  Complete with foreign accents.  I’d gotten in touch with L because she seemed like a really cool girl.  A librarian with similar taste in books, music, and what seemed like just a great outlook on life.  Just enough in common to connect, just enough differences to learn.

L shared a charming little bohemian apartment with her boyfriend W, a fellow couchsurfer.  With hardwood floors, records, book, and magazines everywhere and a menagerie of animals, I instantly liked the place.  We talked for hours; music, Memphis, the South, travel, and life in general; I really wished I had a little more time to hang out with them.  After a delicious dinner of stir-fry, L made up a bed for me on the living room sofa and excused herself.  She and W had to wake up early for work the next day.  I didn’t mind; traveling can really take it out of you, and I had to fit all of Memphis into one day tomorrow!

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Responses

  1. Lucid explanation combined with human interest. Just what I needed to know about the subject. The trip makes a good thread to string your exposition on. Just right.


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