After we managed to make it through all of March without spending a dime on lodging, we mentioned that we’d used CouchSurfing, along with the farmstays that we’ve been doing since we began this adventure. We thought we should tell you a little more about CouchSurfing because we’ve been blown away by how awesome the experiences we’ve had have been.
Thus far, we’ve CouchSurfed in Tucson and Flagstaff, AZ; Tulsa, OK; and Little Rock, AR with an upcoming stay in Chattanooga, TN. At every stay, we’ve had the good fortune to meet some incredible people and get a level of personal interaction that no hotel or even bed and breakfast can offer.
Yes, we know, (as a friend informed us) horror movies start with a couple going into a stranger’s house, but it’s actually quite safe considering there’s a Vouching system. Friends of ours that have CouchSurfed have had nothing but good experiences. In all of our stays, we’ve met travel-minded, friendly, and open hosts.
We were joking about that with one of our hosts and they made a point that we agree with. People that aren’t trustworthy tend to be very untrusting. Basically, an overwhelming majority of the people you’ll find that are trusting enough to open their doors to travelers are going to be amazing people. That doesn’t rule out some basic common sense precautions, though, like female surfers opting to stay with female hosts.
Our first CouchSurfing experience was in Tucson, AZ. Unfortunately, our host wasn’t around, but her boyfriend was. The fact that our host was willing to let us stay in her house and eat eggs from her backyard chickens and greens from her vegetable garden while she wasn’t there was incredibly cool. We also met some other CSers, one from Mexico and one from Italy, traveling across the western states protesting Arizona’s banning of some books.
We left Tucson and headed north for Flagstaff. After navigating a serious snowstorm (no, really, 3″ per hour at times), we arrived at our host’s house. Like in Tucson, he wasn’t around, but a couple of his friends were. They proved to be laid-back travelers spending some time in Flagstaff.
One of them had also WWOOFed, so we were able to swap stories. He even told us about two great places for us to go do a farmstay, plus some ideas for our visit to southwest Colorado.
After our Colorado farmstay, we headed eastward through Kansas and Oklahoma with a one-night stop in Tulsa. Through CouchSurfing, we were able to find a fun, young, recently married couple and spend an evening that included a few beers, a great joint effort dinner, and more than enough laughs for four people.
Our most recent CouchSurfing experience was in Little Rock, AR. We had planned to stay only two nights, but since we had no firm plans after Little Rock, our host invited us to join her for a hike on Sunday, then for an Easter cookout with her friends and stay an extra night. So we did. Instead of eating whatever we threw together at a campsite or hotel room, we provided a side and a dessert for a potluck that include grilled ribeyes and chicken, potato salad, a green salad, edamame succotash, Texas caviar, sauteed kale, and cupcakes. Oh yeah, and a couple bottles of wine. And some Whipped Cream-flavored vodka. And more fun than we deserved.
One of the big tenets of our traveling has been to be immersed in the culture, to meet locals, to eat where the locals eat, to find the destinations only the locals know about. The other communities we’ve become part of (WWOOF, WorkAway, and HelpX) have certainly helped with that, pointing us to the best places to go. CouchSurfing is yet another way for us to be community-oriented travelers that make acquaintances and friends everywhere we go, rather than just passing through.
Just like with the farmstays, CouchSurfing isn’t about just not spending money on hotels (though that is a nice side effect). It’s about being part of a culture and community of like-minded travel lovers and sharing the experience with others. As a “Thanks” for opening their doors to us, we offer to cook a nice dinner for our hosts and enjoy an evening or two of conversation. It’s the give-and-take that makes the community (over 3,000,000 worldwide) work.
We’d love to hear from others about their experiences. Have you CouchSurfed? Hosting, Surfing, or both?