Couchsurfing around the world

The idea of extending hospitality to like-minded strangers is brilliant. Couchsurfing can foster tolerance, interest in the world around you; it’s a global community.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, it’s basically a group of people who communicate through the website http://www.couchsurfing.org to find places to stay, people to hang out with, and travel advice and recommendations.

When people ask whether Couchsurfing is dangerous, I usually say that its similar to any large network of people. There are people of all types, including some not so nice ones. This means you have to be fairly savvy to use the site, but reading reviews and talking to the person you want to stay with/host can help you establish mutual trust.

To anyone considering trying it, I would heartily recommend it. Sometimes securing a place to stay can be difficult. You might not get on with your host. But Couchsurfing is one of those things where, when it works, it really works, and feels so worthwhile.

If the idea of sleeping in a random house is not your thing, local meet ups and events are also a fun way to get involved.

Although I have surfed a little in England, I feel like travelling internationally has given me a much greater awareness of what it takes to be a good host. That’s something I can use when I get home.

I’ve also refined my behaviour as a guest. This changes depending on the host; how outgoing they are, how they like to spend their time and what they enjoy talking about. My favourite way of thanking hosts is to cook for them – I find it a more personal way of giving back a little something.

During this trip I’ve stayed with hippies and hipsters, revolutionaries and ex army, liberals and musicians and marathon runners. They have shown me amazing things; I’m incredibly grateful.

A taste of Texas

Texas was never in my original plan. But enough people encouraged me to stop in Austin (it’s nothing like the rest of the State! It’s a bubble of liberalism in conservative heartland!) and it was a good halfway point between Arizona and Louisiana,  so I decided to pay a visit.

I’m so glad I did. Austin was wonderful. The shops and restaurants were cool and quirky, there was live music every night and they even have a gorgeous park to hang out in. The city might even make it onto my top cities list!

In the heat of my first day I braved the bus system (very cheap) to go visit the local swimming hole – the cold water was delicious. South Congress was my favourite neighbourhood, but watching a brass band and eating lobster from a food truck was pretty amazing too.

A lot of what made my time here so good was the people I spent it with. My Couchsurfing host John was incredible, with detailed information on what to do, see and eat, as well as great stories to share.

The other surfers at his house were also very cool  and it was nice to have some company exploring the city.

It was nothing like I had pictured Texas to be (guns, cacti and prejudice) and I’m really glad to be proved wrong. Obviously the state is huge and there will probably be parts where that picture does fit – but it’s so good to know Austin definitely breaks the stereotypes.

Welcome to La La Land

I landed in LAX four days ago and have been spending my time in a hippyish community at Long Beach. So far, the US is everything I hoped it would be and more. The streets are wide with ridiculous names, the sun is shining and the people are definitely friendly (apart from the customs officer who confiscated my apple :( )

Here’s my first impressions in numbers of…

Beaches visited: 3

Waves successfully surfed: 1/2

White picket fences viewed: 2 (yes I took a photo!)

Hare Krishna worship meetings attended: 1

Times I’ve been told to Have a Nice Day!: 5

Hours spent on the metro: 7.5

Times I’ve jaywalked: 5

Clouds in the sky: 0

Crazy people I’ve seen: had to stop counting

I’m currently staying in San Francisco, so more soon on beautiful houses, Silicone Valley and my first ever drive-in movie!!