Featured Ambassador: Steven from Okawa Village, Japan

Name: Steven
Location: Okawa Village, Kochi Prefecture, Japan.
Originally from: Miami, Florida
Words of Inspiration: “In the future, I hope to make a change in the planet we live. [To motivate] more young people to travel and learn about people and culture. And when I say travel, I don’t mean tour buses, 4-5 star hotels, fancy restaurants. I mean: travel with friends or by yourself, explore for yourself, learn how to plan and be out of your comfort zone, eat street and local food, use Couchsurfing to meet some amazing people, and learn!”

 

Steven Carerra, at only 28 years old, has made the most of his time on earth by seeing as much of it as he can. Steven has made several extended trips to Asia, as well as various other countries, and currently lives in Japan. He thanks Couchsurfing for helping him achieve the life he lives today, “Couchsurfing changed my life in many ways. I am where I am thanks to the community of Couchsurfing.”

While attending University in Florida, Steven used the 2012 summer break to take a solo trip around East Asia.

“Every day I stayed with someone from CS, sometimes staying 2-3 days at one place. After that first trip in East Asia, the rest is history. As soon as I returned from that trip, I started hosting people with my roommates in Gainesville, Florida where I was a University student. I was lucky my roommates were into meeting people and one of them even joined Couchsurfing as well. When I came back to Gainesville, I wanted to give back to the community and at the same time bring the world to me until I could travel again.”

Roommates, friends and surfers at Steven’s place in Gainesville, Florida

Steven took his involvement in with Couchsurfing one step further and began hosting a monthly potluck for the Couchsurfing community in Florida. He kept this tradition alive when he returned to Asia to travel – this time in the South-East region – eventually moving to Beijing where he continued to host surfers as well as potlucks.

Couchsurfing potluck in Beijing, China

Steven admits that when he initially heard about Couchsurfing on a trip to Germany, he was a little skeptical.

“Our tour guide had mentioned that he had Couchsurfed through all of Europe and it was amazing. I thought it was a crazy idea to sleep at a complete stranger’s house because I was always taught never to trust a stranger. However, that all changed when I started traveling and growing up.”

But before all of his involvement and eventual nomination to become an Ambassador, Steven recalls a trip to Egypt in 2011 when he got his first taste of the Couchsurfing spirit.

“My first actual CS experience was not through surfing, rather it was through a meeting. I thought it would be worth a shot to try meeting someone through Couchsurfing while I stayed at a hostel. It turns out my flight into Cairo was getting in at around 12:00AM. Originally, I was going to wait at the airport until the first bus out to the city but I decided to browse the group page of Couchsurfing and I found a group in Cairo that picks up Couchsurfers from the airport. I gave it a shot and posted a message on the group forums and someone quickly replied. We exchanged messages and contact information. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I called the number and he came to pick me up, took me around Cairo that night, showed me some spots, helped me get a SIM card and finally brought me to my hostel.”

That eventful evening was enough to spark something inside of him that would lead to great things down the road.

These days, Steven is an excellent example of what it means to be a Couchsurfing member. With 280 references on his profile, his hosts and surfers have nothing but good things to say. Steven and his wife, whom he met in Japan, now live in the countryside in the Okawa Village; a place so rural that he has a hard time receiving mail there. With a population of only 402 people, it is the perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts and those looking for that small-town feel. Even his current job working for the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Program he can link back to a Couchsurfing experience.

“In Japan, I stayed with a person who was working on the JET Program as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). She hosted me for six days, in her apartment in the countryside of Japan. Since she saw I was into academia, she invited me to give a presentation about myself and my trip to her students in a course of two days. This experience allowed me to understand a little bit about the JET Program and about the life at a Japanese public school. Three years later I joined the JET Program and I am now finishing my second year on the program and looking forward to the third year. In addition, I love my life here and look forward to living the rest of my life here with my wife who I met while living and working here.”

One of Steven’s surfers who came to talk to his students, just as he had done several years prior.
“My host Kojiro in Kagawa, Japan. As soon as I moved to Japan, I started to plan some travels all around the island I live in. My main goal was to meet people all around Japan and of course in my island. I did many trips throughout the weekends. When I came to Kojiro’s place, I felt right at home. Him and his family showed me some amazing udon restaurants, the amazing surrounding area and shared with me their life. One of their sons just recently joined my school and that is because they know me. They are considered part of my big family here in Japan.”

It’s safe to say that Steven’s life was forever changed by his involvement in the Couchsurfing community. His journey thus far has been nothing short of inspirational. It just goes to show that you never know what kind of a life is waiting for you on the other side of the planet. With a little faith and a lot of courage, Steven changed the course of his life and is never looking back.

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