The look people give me when I tell them I plan to travel the world by sleeping on strangers couches is one of pure bewilderment. How does one do that? Why would you want to stay in strangers homes in foreign countries? In their rooms? Isn’t that dangerous? You could be killed or kidnapped. Why not just stay in a hotel?
I have always been a travel lover. Some would say I am a bit of a free spirit. I used to feel bad about this. But, it’s my essence so I have decided to embrace it. I have always preferred spending my money on a plane ticket instead of a pair of shoes. I love everything about travel. From picking the location, buying the travel books about the destination, reading about the place obsessively, learning the lingo, packing and flying. It all leads to that moment when the plane lands on foreign soil and I can’t help but grin with excitement. Traveling speaks to everything I am. I get the most joy in life communicating with others, learning about other cultures, broadening my perspective and challenging myself. I will travel anywhere, try anything at least once and I am always open to trying a new cuisine. I try to embrace everything in life and when I travel I find I am pushed to my limits the most. It’s pure excitement and it awakens the part of me that feels connected to everything around me. I find it romantic when I get lost in a foreign city and love spending the afternoon in a cafe watching the world go by. As a travel lover I have always been trying to find a way to fully integrate into the culture when I am traveling. I have always hated feeling like a tourist. As much as I love travel books, I always felt they gave me a limited perspective of a city. I wanted to know what the locals did for fun and where they ate. I wanted to experience the heart of a city.
When I first heard of the site couchsurfing.org I was immediately intrigued. This was it! This was the way to travel and really learn about other cultures! How had I never heard of this? With a network of over 2 million people. CouchSurfing members share hospitality with one another. Hosts have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world without leaving their home. “Surfers,” or travelers, are able to participate in the local life of the places they visit by seeing the world through the eyes of their host.
I had to do this…first stop Panama. I am forever changed from my experience there. In the course of ten days I went through every emotion in the book- fear, uncertainty, compassion, acceptance and joy were only a few. My hosts are now my friends and I am theirs. I was brought to tears by the experience and touched by the stories I heard. I showered with frogs, learned how to cook Panamanian food, slept by the Caribbean sea, had a man in a miner’s hat sing me a French song to put me to sleep and came back a changed woman. But, the beauty of it was none of it was planned. It was a daily adventure that often had me wondering where I would be sleeping the next evening. It was invigorating and it changed my view of the world. I had forgotten how truly connected we all are. You could say I am addicted now. So now I plan on traveling the world one couch at a time…