January 12, 2009

The Broke But Happy Traveler

I thought couch surfing was for kids, like my 20-something nephew who, at this very moment, is en route from Michigan to Honduras. This peripatetic child has been known to friend total strangers. He once met an older couple on a 24-hour airport layover and went home with them where his temporary grandma and grandpop served him a warm square one
and invited him back again.

Well now that I think of it, I once did that very thing in Malaysia and ended up in a Colonial-era gated estate in Georgetown, chauffeured by servants who picked us up along with our just-met hosts at Penang International Airport. Maybe it's a genetic defect I share with my nephew. Mind you—I did not stay overnight.

Anyhow, was I startled to discover yesterday that friends of mine—a perfectly respectable couple in their 50s and 60s—have taken to couch surfing! Yep, Renee told me she and Ben recently crashed on strangers' futons in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Delray Beach. Further, they hosted a guy from India and didn't even come close to barely escaping with their lives. "He was great," Renee said cheerily, "and was also a Christian, just like us."

Renee says they've gotten a good feel from someone's profile and ensuing correspondence. So far, they've experienced no unpleasant surprises or massacres. "I would highly recommend [it] for people like us who love to travel but are rather strapped for money," she said. "Ben has been underemployed for two years, and I am scrambling for photography gigs in this weakened economy, so this is really the only way we can travel."

I have couch-surfed with people I've gotten to know at a conference or met secondarily /tertiarily via friends. I have also hosted same, but not yet with strangers—strangers met on The Internets. Check out these:

www.couchsurfing.com
www.hospitalityclub.org

By the way, Renee emailed, "We actually do sleep on couches and almost always share a bathroom. This is why we take flip flops. Linens have been clean everywhere so far."

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. Perhaps it's more commonplace than I know. My nephew just saw this post and added, "I've slept on a few sofas of people when I didn't even know their first name. A few weeks ago, I stayed with a kid in New York City, and we never actually did meet in person." I'm guessing the door was unlocked, or a key left under the stoop?

    Reminds me of Grandma's stories about feeding "hobos" who hopped off trains and knocked at her back door. They would ask for a meal and permission to sleep in the barn or on the back porch.

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