Posted by: Shanna Germain | 10/10/2009

Pg. 172: Couch Surfing

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Couch-hopping. Or, rather, couch-lounging. I am more lounge lizard then jumping toad, it would appear. (And, no, that’s not my underwear hanging out. That’s the boy short that’s part of my skort. I swear it.)

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Have you ever surfed? I don’t mean the kind that starts with a board and an ocean and ends with you face-planting in wet sand and swallowing six gallons of sea water and an unsuspecting starfish (or at least it did for me). I mean couch surfing. The sport of traveling around, crashing on people’s couches (or extra beds), seeing a lot of the world without having to pay for hotel rooms while gaining the opportunity to spend time with interesting, kind people.

I’m couch surfing right now. I tend to couch surf with friends, instead of with strangers, mainly for two reasons: 1. It gives me a chance to spend quality time with said friends and 2. Crashing with friends means that I can say things like, “I really need six or seven hours today to write, but I’d love to hang out with you tomorrow instead.”

Traveling this way also means that you get a guide to wherever it is you’ve landed — someone who lives in the area and knows all the ins and outs (as in: “There’s a Saturday Market every Wed. and Sat., but you have to go early because everything sells out really fast” and “Oh no, you do NOT want to eat at that Mexican restaurant. No, no, no, no, no.”). You’ll also have the opportunity to learn some cool new things from your host. If you’re staying with an artist, check out their work and working process. If you’re staying with a gamer geek, step up to the microphone and try your hand at Rock Band (for the record, I suck at Rock Band. I cannot sing worth a damn and my hands do not want to do the button-button-button-strum thing. No, they do not.). Share your favorite recipes and learn theirs.

I think the true way to be a good couch surfer, whether you’re staying with friends or strangers, is to set some parameters ahead of time, and then to stick with them. The parameters I set tend to have to do with time (“I really, really need x number of hours per day of alone time in order to write. Is that okay with you?”), with money (“I’m happy to chip in x amount of dollars toward the monthly groceries/rent/utilities, etc), and with your way of being (Don’t be a slob, pay attention to the way that your host keeps his or her home, if you use something up (toilet paper, paper towels, a light bulb) replace it without squawking, pick up your shit (!!) and generally help out. The house I’m staying at now has a ginormous, energetic dog — as it turns out, it behooves us both if I take her for a long walk while my host is working. We both get exercise, she doesn’t pee on the rug, and I feel like I’m being useful around the house).

Couch surfing isn’t for everyone, of course. You’re in someone else’s house, on their schedule, smack-dab in the middle of their life. You’ll need to decide (ideally before you land somewhere) if couch surfing is going to be the ride of your life, or if it’s going to dump you and your host face-first in the ocean and leave you with a truckload of sand inside your bikini.

So far, so good. The waves are high, the water is warm and the only face-planting I’ve done has been on the couch, to sleep.

Far and fast, s.

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No, I don’t know what’s so funny either. Probably listening to someone in the house sing along with Bon Jovi on Very Drunken Rock Band (TM)

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β€œFor oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
~William Wordsworth
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Responses

  1. […] Pg. 181: Couch Surfing Β« Chapter 37 […]

  2. Yea, the complete strangers, and in their home to boot, aspect of couch surfing kind of turns me off of it. I don’t like most people on a good day, so it’s a bit of a crap shoot to end up with annoying or creepy couch owners. I guess if they seemed cool enough online, and the savings were noteworthy I would take my chances though. Maybe I’ll give it a try in the spring in Oz/Nz and see how it goes.

    I like that you walk the dog, good on ya πŸ™‚

  3. I just checked the cities for Shanna poll. My choice of Asheville, NC seems solid (even without me cheating and voting ten times on different computers).

    I am coming to couch surf when you move there.

  4. Hehe, Shawn. That would be good way to see Oz. Most couch-crashing sites have a system to make sure you’re not ending up with complete psychos, but yeah, still a risk.

    Awesome, Dean. And yep, my couch will be wide open for crashers … once I actually get a house πŸ™‚

  5. I’m looking into this whole couchsurfing thing… Since I’ve done it for years with people I know, why not the devil I don’t?
    I’m sure it can be weird, but thats just another spice, right?
    I love reading your stuff! You’re a fantastic journalist.

    Pablo
    (I’m doing good to talk to others about what they write, I never get around to writing my own stuff!)


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