Why do I always wait till the last minute to clean my house before a Couchsurfer arrives? Maybe it adds to the excitement of meeting someone completely new and sharing my life with them.
Couchsurfing.org is a social networking site that connects people looking for a free place to stay the night with a person willing to host them. I have been a proud Couchsurfing host for the last five years. I remember my first “surfer”. She was a 20-something from Paris who had just finished her year-long stint as an au pair (fancy name for a nanny). She was traveling across the US by bus before she had to high tail it back to France. I was so nervous picking her up from the Greyhound bus station, which had only a single spotlight shining down to break up the darkness. Turns out she was amazing!
I took a day off work to spend with her. I showcased our hospitable town and took her on a scenic mountain drive to Bishop’s Castle. Now, after hosting over 25 times – individuals and groups – I rarely take a day off to play tour guide. My hosting adventures usually consist of meeting a guest after I get off work, going out to dinner or eating in and driving around town to historical landmarks or interesting sites.
I get messaged through Couchsurfing.org that a person has requested to stay at my house for a night or two with a few details about their trip. I always look up his/her profile to make sure the surfer has references from other hosts and to see if we’d get along in general.
Although many emotions dominate me the day I meet a new surfer such as anxiousness, excitement and stress at cleaning my house, I’ve never been scared. Never have I been afraid for my safety or threatened by a Couchsurfer. The worst situation I’ve experienced while hosting is a lack of compatible personalities.
Couchsurfers and hosts usually have one thing in common: we want to travel in a way that connects us to the community. Wh
y isolate yourself in a hotel room when you can learn about the city from an actual resident? And, it’s free!
I’ve surfed a few times. Grand Junction and DC were nothing to write home about, but my recent trip to Los Angeles provided me with exactly the kind of surfing experience that I craved. I met my host at the University of Southern California where he was getting his Doctorate in Marine Biology. After dropping my bags at his place, we ventured to the Arts District to his friend’s weekly Friday night party.
I can tell you personally that getting to know people my age on a rooftop patio in the middle of downtown LA was a much better experience than being cooped up in a hotel room. I now have a friend in LA – a few actually! Not only that, I have friends all around the world that I’ve hosted.
Many people ask why travelers would stay in Pueblo since we’re outside of the Denver and Boulder hotspots and away from the mountains. Pueblo actually gets quite a few surfers due to bicyclists needing a place to stay while traversing one of several trans-American bike routes. Cyclists cannot express how excited they are to be done with the monotonous, brown roads of Kansas and finally see the mountains before them. I’ve also hosted hitchhikers, college students on road trips and those who travel by car.
When I host a fellow traveler, I am reminded of the things I love about Pueblo. I get to describe over and over the artistic, historic and cultural menities Pueblo has to offer. It not only makes them happy to have stopped in Pueblo; it makes me happy, too.
By Jenny Kedward