When I was in university I took a trip up to Oregon to visit my friend Sheena. What should have been a long uneventful Greyhound bus ride (funded by a guy who accidentally drove into my bumper and didn’t want to go through insurance) proved to be an auspicious journey. For sitting right next to me was an adventurous woman- the kind of traveler I was aspiring to be.
The young woman in her 20s had been WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) in France and practicing her oh la la’s. The more she explained the program and how she was able to live abroad on a very modest budget, the more excited I became. I couldn’t believe such a website existed and that I had not heard of it before!
She was definitely a better seat partner than the one I had on the way back- an ex-convict who invited me to rest my head on his shoulder. Although to be fair, he did teach me how to use an Etch-A-Sketch to steal credit card numbers.
Through a few more fortuitous connections, research on WWOOFing led me to Couchsurfing- a social networking site for travelers. My friends were understandably concerned when I first floated the idea of hosting strangers in my house and in the words of my best friend Jen, “you’re gonna wake up with a wiener in your ear.” Perhaps she meant the Oscar Myer kind.
While a lot of young travelers are initially attracted by the idea of low-cost travel, it’s a bit harder to see the benefit for potential hosts. However, I realized why Couchsurfing was so successful after I hosted my first group. All four of my guests felt like old friends- the kind that fit perfectly into your life, get along with your other arty-farty friends and somehow allow you to see the same city with new eyes. It felt a little bit magical and a little bit like grabbing a live wire.
I’m happy to say that five years later I still enjoy Couchsurfing. I haven’t been as active on the website as I was when I lived in Las Vegas, but my first Sydney Monthly Drinks event confirmed what I had already knew- that the world is filled with fun, interesting, wacky, and trustworthy people and that Couchsurfing is a great place to look for them.