My eyes flickered as I scanned the profiles, carefully considering each one. I am generally picky and have high standards in all areas of my life, and this occasion was no different. Besides, as the saying goes, you never forget your first.
I set very explicit filters in my search parameters because, after all, I am a girl who knows what she wants. Carefully, I selected a particular age range. A specific part of town. Oh yes, and a requirement that he spoke English. As I hit the search button, about 30 profiles popped up.
The world was suddenly rich with possibility.
(Yes, I’m quoting Jack Kerouac. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. There are some books, that come into your life, at precisely the right time, and have an astonishing impact on the rest of your days. This book was one them.)
But, back to my search.
I knew in an instant who I wanted. His name was Martin and he was ten years my senior. A British ex-pat who spoke beautiful English and lived in the Central district of Hong Kong. I was intrigued – there are SO many things to do in Hong Kong.
In reading his profile, I quickly learned that it was his first time, too. I tested this new uncharted water cautiously by sending him an email, which is the digital equivalent of dipping my toes in. I asked him bluntly, “What is it that you do for a living? And, do you have any references?”
His reply came quickly. “I’ve sent you some references. As for what it is that I do, that would be best recanted over dinner and wine. Are you interested?”
I certainly was.
I made the decision, then and there, that this was going to be one of those experiences that I would regret not having.
Knowing that I would most likely chalk this up to “stupid $&#*” that you do in your twenties didn’t deter me.
I was going to do this.
Ok, we, as in my husband and I, were going to do this.
The “this” that I’m referring to is couchsurfing. Are you familiar? Couchsurfing was created with the idea that each of us have friends, all over the world, that we simply haven’t met yet. It’s a platform that connects travelers with hosts literally the world over.
The best part? No money is exchanged. That’s right – strangers host strangers, in their home, for free. Why on earth would someone do that?
Because it’s fun to show people around your home town. It’s an interesting experience. A great way to meet really cool people. It also brings together like-minded people, because let’s be honest – it takes a certain type to consider such an exchange. There’s something so refreshingly idealistic about the whole situation – the nomadic traveler, relying on the kindness of strangers and the reminiscent host, reliving the days of their own youthful adventures through shared stories of the road.
That being said, it’s always a good idea to take as many precautions as you can. It’s best if you have a travel partner. It’s a good idea to ask for references, and read online reviews. And make sure you’re going through a platform that does verified background checks on both parties. It’s also a good idea to have enough funds on hand that if needed, you can make alternate arrangements.
Our experience flying half-way across the world would not have been quite as magical had it not been for our dear Martin.
He opened up his beautiful home to us and treated us like family. He showed us around Central Hong Kong. He treated us to an awesome dinner. Shared many bottles of wine. Hiked side by side all the way to the very top of Victoria Peak.
What we anticipated would be a single night’s accommodation turned into almost a week. And as we packed up and said our good-byes, he connected us with his good friend in Malaysia. And then she connected us with her good friend in Singapore. We traveled to each country and met up with these perfect strangers who quickly became good friends. Yet another reason I love to travel without an itinerary.
So tell me – have you ever couchsurfed? Would you dare?