Years on Couchsurfing: 5
Hey Richard! So tell us why you got involved with Couchsurfing.
At the time that I found about about CS, I had already visited about 80 countries. As I reflected back at all my travels, I realized that in almost all of those travels, I stayed at hotels with little direct contact with locals. I saw a lot of sites, but didn’t really get the flavor of each place from a local perspective. I also calculated that I spent tens of thousands of dollars on hotels. CS sounded like a great way to truly get to know each new city and to save some money while doing so. My initial attempts at surfing weren’t successful, so I gave up on CS for a short time. Then, after I had an accident that injured my back and kept me bed-ridden for more than a month, I decided to look into CS again, but as a host in New York City. Hosting surfers forced me to get out of bed and take them on short trips near my home, and as I continued hosting more and more, I was able to build up my strength and go an walking tours further and further from my apartment. The act of hosting actually helped heal me. In the end, I turned out hosting way more than I surfed – having only stayed with about 5 hosts in 5 years, but hosting more than 60 surfers/groups in NYC and then later in Seattle.
Wow amazing! Glad to hear CS helped you heal. What was your first Couchsurfing experience like?
My first surfer was a young woman from Indiana who was traveling for the first time through New York to Europe and on to visit her family in Vietnam. She had zero experience surfing and I had zero experience hosting, but we had a great time. As mentioned earlier, I could not show her too many places because of my back injury, but I was able to take her on some motorcycle tours through NYC and ended up visiting places that I myself hadn’t see, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Two first timers! Very cute. What has been one of your most interesting hosting experiences?
I hosted a great surfer from Australia, Kelly, in NYC and we ended up doing a bunch of things that I hadn’t done at all, including walking across the George Washington Bridge and taking some great pictures on the NJ side. She was also very kind to treat us to dinner at “The Hudson”, a scenic restaurant right on the River with great views and food.
Great. What about surfing?
I had a business trip to Buenos Aires, and I tacked on some time to visit Uruguay and Paraguay for the first time. On my way in, I took a picture of the soccer stadium in Buenos Aires and posted it on Instagram. I had a one night layover in Buenos Aires when I returned from Uruguay, and I received a message from Lola, a surfer that I hosted from Argentina. I had hosted her in NYC and we celebrated her first birthday away from home while she was there. She saw my Instagram post and offered to host me in Buenos Aires. She and her mother hosted me for an evening, provided a home cooked meal, and helped me get back to the airport the next day. Her mother was very appreciative that I took care of her in NYC and cooked a wonderful meal to celebrate. The whole experience was completely unexpected and serendipitous and highlighted what a great network CS can be.
Amazing. Sounds like a great trip. What is a cool gift you’ve received from a surfer?
I had a pair of surfers from Russia who brought me an entire bag full of specialty Russian chocolates, which was great since I have a sweet tooth. I also had a surfer from Australia bring me some of my favorite Australian chocolates – Tim Tams, in multiple flavors.
Delicious. I have a sweet tooth too. If you could surf with any celebrity or historical figure, who would it be and why?
I’d want to surf with Peter Jackson in New Zealand. I’ve traveled to 100 countries, and NZ is at the top of my list. I made a special month-long trip there to see many of the filming locations for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I’d love to talk with him about his childhood in NZ, his visionary film-making, and our mutual love for J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.
I’d love to visit New Zealand, and I’m sure Peter Jackson would have the best spots! What book has inspired your travels?
I would say the Traveler’s Century Club website inspired my travels more than any book. https://travelerscenturyclub.org/ It is an social club for travelers that have visited at least 100 countries/territories in the world. Whenever I travel, I refer to their list of countries and territories to discover new places. That’s how I ended up visiting the Chatham Islands off the eastern coast of New Zealand.
Very cool. I had never heard of the club before. What is one thing everyone should do in Seattle?
For the picture-perfect postcard views of Seattle (and on a clear day, Mount Rainier), there’s no better place than starting a walking tour of Seattle from Kerry Park in the morning, making a big circuit around the city, and coming back to Kerry Park at Sunset to see the city transform.
Sounds beautiful! What is your dream vacation?
After cruising through islands of the South Pacific, such as Bora Bora, Tahiti, and Fiji, I’d work my way down to Antarctica, round the southern tip of South America to the Falkland Islands, working my way up north to the remote island of Tristan da Cunha, back down to Cape Town, around to Madagascar, and end up in my favorite country, New Zealand.
Wow. That sounds like an incredible (and already planned) trip. I very well may steal it someday! Last question, what is your advice to new Couchsurfers?
Take your time to read the profile of a potential host, CS isn’t just a free hotel room, and most mistakes from new members happen when they treat it as such. Additionally, be honest in your reviews. As is the case for most online communities, there will be those that take advantage or aren’t here for appropriate reasons. To keep the community safe and ensure a positive experience for everyone, it’s better to be honest so we can identify and remove them than to stay quiet and let them continue on the platform. In addition to honest reviews, make sure to write a reference period. This community is built on being able to trust strangers, and the way to measure that is through references. A host generally saves you a lot of money on accommodations, the very least you can do is take a few minutes to write about your experience.