Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another Type of Surfing? Don't Mind If I Do!

Don't be so naive. There is a world outside your comfort zone. I know society has molded you to believe that we should say certain things and behave a certain way. But really, how open minded are you? Would you invite a complete stranger to sleep in your house for a couple of days? Once a topic intrigues me, its like I become obsessive over it until I fully understand it or accomplish it.

I just recently set up a profile for CouchSurfing.org. Not everyone finds the concept of consorting with unknown people appealing. I know what you are thinking and I have heard many stories (good and bad), but give me chance to explain. I like to think of it as a blind date where people bring another country's knowledge as well as their toothbrush for a slumber party. I figured, since I haven't been able to travel as often as I like why not bring the country to me and at the same time pay it forward to someone in need of a place to crash. But before engaging, I needed more information.

Last Wednesday, I got a email from Jeremiah, a couchsurfer from Dallas. In his email he explained that he was passing through NYC (for 24hrs) on his way up to Boston. He was looking to have a drink at Blarney Stone, which was right down the street from where I work. A couple other couchsurfers answered, but I was the first to show up. Happy hour turned into my personal research paper. I understood the concept of wanderlust and travelling the world, but what type of person ventured out without a plan, without knowing where they would sleep that very night. It wasn't until we were 4 drinks in and 2 bars down, that it dawned on me. I sat in a group of 11 other like minded couchsurfers from around the world, all with accents ordering their mispronounced drinks in the heaviest accent. Believe it or not, there is a network of people, a community rather, who have an insatiable desire to travel and this method of lodging enabled them to see the world on a budget. I learned that there were so many advantages to couchsurfing. It's not about what amount you save but more the intangible moments, the immediate shift that happens as you turn from a tourist to a local traveler.

When you stay at a hotel, you only see the tourist areas (what they want you to see) but you don't experience the culture. Staying with a local lets you see a day in their world, fully embrace their way of living. It's the authenticity of having a friend in another country who is willing to show you around, a free guide opening their world to you, your opportunity to engage in their way of life. As we got to talking, my new found friend Steffano from Milan, described it to be "bringing a piece of the world into another person living room. The experience is priceless". As we toasted to new friends and a great life, I took in the scenery and let it all marinate. It was a stress free, worry free zone where no one was pressured by society, there was no specific plan, nothing holding them back. It was as though they were confidently going in the direction of the unknown and fully embracing uncertainty. That very moment that it all made sense to me(a little light bulb went off in my head). Why were we confining ourselves to society's standard? I told myself to be more open minded and eventually try couchsurfing for one night.

As I look to the left of me, I see Magda. She was tall, with mid-length dark hair, pale skin girl from Poland with a great personality. Magda looks down to her phone and her smile quickly fades as she proceeds to read her email. Concerned, I ask if everything is ok and she answers that YMCA has a hostel in Harlem but they had replied to her request letting her know they were booked. She turned homeless in a matter of seconds. She seemed nice, was this my chance to host a couch surfer? Open up my doors to a complete stranger, invite them to invade my personal space, to slumber on my couch. How open minded was I really? Perspective played a part, a huge part. This was my great opportunity, but is the risk far greater than the reward?


crt2102 said...

learned something new.

Marielys Quezada said...

What did you learn? ;)

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