I first learned about couchsurfing a few years ago when I was scanning gumtree for potential sublet opportunities. It struck me as an irresponsible thing to consider — a breeding ground for potential kidnappers and rapists. I immediately dismissed the idea and went on living my life, pining away all the while with desire to one day venture to Australia.
Two years go by. I’ve finally purchased the plane ticket to Sydney and everyone in close proximity to me is freaking out. My mother suggests, “You should look into finding a friend down there to show you around.” I suddenly remembered the idea of couchsurfing, and forgetting my previous notions, it struck me as a brilliant idea. I joined the official CS website and attended a local CS meeting and started sending out requests.
That’s how I found Jim. I was slow to send requests to guys at first simply due to the solo-girl-in-a-new-continent fact and the safety considerations that come with it, but he had the highest praise out of other Sydney hosts, including the thumbs up from multiple female travellers, so I figured I’d be in good hands.
I arrived in Sydney, stayed in a hostel the first few nights, and met up with Jim on my second evening. I met a bunch of his friends, another couchsurfer, and we headed out to a rugby game.
In my short two days that I couchsurfed with Jim, he took me to the fish market, South Head, and Bondi Beach, I met Melissa and Raquel, and we spent Easter together (in the form of a pub crawl – ssh).
I then left Sydney and did a small tour of Australia, including Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast. But I got along so well with Jim, Raquel, and Melissa that I decided to pay them another visit before heading to New Zealand (plus Switchfoot was playing a show in Sydney…)
Anyway. I stayed with Jim for another 5 days and hung out a great deal with Raquel during that time. I also had a firsthand celebration of ANZAC day as Sam and Jim are in the Australian Navy. And, finally, I left Sydney and moved on to New Zealand.
I’ve been back in the US for almost three months. In that time, I’ve stayed in pretty good contact with both Raquel and Jim, if only through Facebook chat and the occasional text. I’ve missed both of them a great deal, and Melissa posted a photo of the gang out without me, and commented on my absence. Jim said he was planning on “swinging by” North America next year after visiting South America, and we discussed a New Orleans – Nashville road trip.
A couple weeks ago, Jim got a wild hair and decided he was coming to the US. I received a couchsurfing request from him, and was overjoyed — and, sure enough, yesterday afternoon, the doorbell rang and there he was, on my front stoop.
After coming back to Nashville and returning to my old life, it was hard to believe at times that the people I’d met and the places I’d been had all been real, not just a vivid trance. Yes, there were pictures, and I had facebook friends to prove to myself that I did in fact meet these people — but I didn’t realize how much I’d altered my future by going. Okay, okay, that may be a bit dramatic — but had I not gone to Sydney, I would not have enjoyed Jim’s company last evening, and in my own house back in North America — and I can’t imagine that! It was such an awesome evening, it proves to me that there are more potential friends of mine out there — I just have to find them (or host them!). It’s also proof that the world IS there for the taking.
Jim surfing my couch in Nashville
In summary, I can’t give CouchSurfing enough praise. And, so far, the only folks I’ve seen in both hemispheres are Switchfoot and Jim. And I’m excited to watch that list grow…