You see, couch surfing is basically getting up off of YOUR couch, and going to sit on (well, actually SLEEP on) someone else's couch. EEEEW-I so do NOT want to catch THAT wave with you (says YOU, the skeptical reader). I am here to completely change your mind and open your eyes to a wonderful new world of travel experience. I actually first heard of couch surfing when my daughter was living in NYC (in a hostel). She had done an interview with someone involved in it and it really piqued my interest. Basically, you "host" someone (a complete stranger--well sort of, you actually do converse via email, phone, etc prior to them showing up on your doorstep). I mean, come on, I'm crazy but NOT crazy like that. So, it's kind of like just opening your home to a friend or family member---you just haven't met them yet! They get to experience your home and community as less of a tourist and more of a student.
Kind of like a foreign exchange student--only for just 1 night (or however long you want).
If you ever toyed around with the thought of being a host for a foreign exchange student, but didn't want to commit to the long term contract (a few months)--THIS IS FOR YOU! It's basically like it, just without the commitment. Perfect for "commitment phobes". It allows YOU and the SURFER to learn about different (each others) cultures. I am a gypsy at heart and have been fortunate to have lived and visited other countries. I spent 4 years living in Italy, 4 years in the Philippines and all my life traveling in the US and abroad. I can say without hesitation, my most fond memories are those of living abroad and being exposed (actually immersed) to other cultures. We always lived off base when assigned overseas. You had the choice of living on the base but my parents (Thank you Lord) felt we would learn more by living with the locals. I am SO eternally grateful for their choice in this. It truly caused me to grow up "color blind" and appreciate people for who they are on the inside and not what they look like on the outside. In essence, living abroad with the locals shaped me into who I am today. I wouldn't change one thing.
So, back to a little more detail on this couch surfing cult. OOOH, I really hate that word--it's so strong. Why did I use that???? I'm not sure except to say that people sometimes get an image in their head of someone based on their "title". Case in point: Hi, my name is John and I am a backpacker. You probably already have an image of John as a dirty (obviously, he IS backpacking so therefore doesn't shower) 20 something year old who is lazy, doesn't want to work and just wants to "freeload" off anyone he can. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. John could be a 45 year old CEO of his own thriving company and he just loves backpacking. He could very well have the financial resources to stay in a 5 star property but maybe, just maybe, he wants to travel like a local, meet REAL people and not be "judged" himself. Maybe he wears a $1000 business suit to work 5 days a week and when he takes time off work, he just wants to roam freely with no schedule and no first class special treatment. He just wants to be treated like everybody else. You see, it's not only lower income people that are pre-judged, its EVERYONE.
We ALL just ultimately want to fit in.
Couch surfing is SO much more than just letting someone sleep on your couch. It is a way to connect with another human being and embrace our differences so we can learn from each other. THAT is why I am passionate about this wave. I TOTALLY need to catch it and want you to enjoy the ride all the way to the beach with me.
This "sport" is actually a team sport. Hosting someone on your couch is only one part of the game. You can also go surfing on their couch. Actually, you can go surfing on LOTS of peoples couches. There is a verified safety system in the process so you don't have to worry about ending up at some psychos house and being on the evening news the next day. Is it 100% guaranteed? Is LIFE???? I mean, are you guaranteed to not be hit by a drunk driver when you leave your house. In everything in life, there is risk. Honestly, if you never take a risk, you're not really experiencing life. Of course, take ALL safety precautions you possibly can and always trust your gut instincts.
Here's my example of not letting your fears keep you from living a life you enjoy. I hate snakes. I am TERRIFIED of snakes. A snake would not even have to bite me to kill me (because of course ALL snakes are poisonous and if you get bit you WILL die). I would just have a heart attack at the sight of one and drop dead before it even had a chance to say hello. Game over--dead, done. Well, in case you didn't know--I live in Texas. We have snakes in Texas. I love nature, water, camping, hiking, the outdoors, etc. Is my fear of snakes going to keep me from doing all the things I love??? NO! I am just going to EDUCATE myself on recognizing the difference between venomous and non venomous snakes so I can try and NOT freak out the next time I see one. I am not going to let the SNAKE win and keep me on my couch all safe and sound. I want to experience the whole world. There's gonna be snakes. I just need to arm myself with the knowledge and tools to recognize the BAD ones and calmly walk away from them. They are not going to come chasing after me to inflict their venom. They've honestly got better things to do. Like go sun themselves on a rock or something.
As a Journalist, my mission is to bring you a FULL story that you can feel like you actually experienced with me. Because I don't rely on others to do my job for me, I actually couch surfed for the first time last week. I was going to Dallas for the screening event of the AMAZING new movie "One Couch at a Time". It is one woman's story of her around the world couch surfing experience. BEST.MOVIE.EVER! I am going to buy it and show as many people as possible this Guy/Chick Flick documentary. Its basically a romantic comedy AND action adventure all rolled into a beautiful movie experience. It's the best date night movie, hands down. There were about 150 people at the screening. The audience was a very diverse group of individuals, couples, friends, cultures, etc. Everything I love about my 2 favorite cities: Vancouver and New York City. Everyone looks different, speaks different and has something different to bring to the table. Kind of like an all you can eat buffet. Lots of variety--my FAVORITE!
So anyway, I planned to couch surf in Austin on Monday on my way to Dallas. I figured it would be a good, close to home, convenient way to personally research this activity. After narrowing down my search options on the couchsurfing website (selecting only females with references) I reviewed profiles online and picked my host. For her privacy and protection, I will not include her profile name in this article. She did give me permission to post her picture and use her first name so, ladies and gentlemen, meet my FIRST couch Host, Gwen and her fabulous cat Tortuga:
She took the couch instead.
If thats not 5 star service on a Zero star budget, I don't know what else to tell you.
So, my goal today is to just INSPIRE you (or make you curious enough) to go check out the website and see for yourself. All the information you need to research and allay your fears is right there. The website is http://www.couchsurfing.org. If you want to watch the trailer for the movie it is at http://www.onecouchatatime.com. If you still have questions, send me a comment below (or personal/private email via my link at top of my website page). Even though I am a new surfer, I am an old student. I have done extensive research (I LOVE research) so you don't have to :-) So what do you say, get off YOUR couch, hop on somebody else's and "Let's go surfing now, everybody's learning how, come on a safari with me...dooo, doooo, doooo, come on a Safari with me"!