Name: Jen (aka TheInfamousJ)
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Member Since: 2009
Surfers Hosted: approximately 80
One amazing thing she’s done: Ridden a Zebra
Meet Jen: A spirited social butterfly whose memorable username, The Infamous J, dates all the way back to her high school days. She exemplifies what it means to be a Couchsurfing Ambassador: a community-oriented host with an active social life and plenty of stories to share. Jen is very active in her local Couchsurfing community in the Triangle Area, North Carolina, attending regular camping trips and Couch Crashes, hosting themed parties and community meetings, and helping new Couchsurfing members online. Her playful nature and exuberance for life radiates throughout each word, making every encounter with Jen one to remember.
Jen got her unofficial start with Couchsurfing before she was even aware of the website and the impact it would have on her future.
While Jen was in college, she joined a coed fraternity that was a part of an informal couchsurfing network. “I have always had the travel bug, and it was extremely convenient for me to contact the nearest fraternity chapter and see who wouldprovide gratis lodging. Naturally, I was one of the first to volunteer to host in return.”
After college, Jen was looking forward to completing a hike of her state’s end-to-end trail: the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail.
“I had helped build sections of it since high school, so completing the trail was an exciting next step”, says Jen. Since the trail organization had limited funds to buy the land, there were long sections along the single-track trail where they didn’t own the land on either side, thus camping was not an option. While trying to find a solution to this problem, Jen uncovered something very familiar.
“[I was] researching the trail journals of the thru-hikers who had already completed the trail,” she explains. “As it so happened, one of the first 20 thru-hikers was a woman who divulged that she used Couchsurfing to find lodging when in the no-camping section. So I clicked the link to Couchsurfing on her blogger journal entry and read about hospitality exchange. ‘There is a website for this?’ was my first thought. I signed up to host then and there.”
Of course, you must be wondering about the story behind her username, THEINFAMOUSJ. Jen explains that the nickname started when she was in high school.
“I would regularly ‘tag’ my desks and classrooms with a capital J with an accent above it. I would mark the corner of chalkboards as well as the inside corner of the desk or the corner of the desk’s top. Sometimes it would be carved, other times it would be with a permanent marker. The chalkboards were always with chalk. One day, a friend was lingering after he had finished his class in one of the classrooms as I walked in and tagged the chalkboard. He saw me, and said, ‘Oh, so you’re the infamous J.’ And so it stuck.”
An Ambassador was Born
“She simply demonstrated community and let it form around me. After experiencing that, how could I ever go back to being just a member?”
Jen’s journey to ambassadorship all started with a trip to Philadelphia when she learned through example what the Couchsurfing spirit was all about. Working as a teacher at the time, Jen’s school had funded her admission to a Philly-based conference, leaving the travel and accommodation costs to her. Couchsurfing and Megabus ($1 tickets for the win!” recalls Jen), were what enabled her to attend the conference. Olivia Haesloop was Jen’s second host on her Philadelphia trip.
“She was to her community what I was to mine when I was offered ambassadorship: a really, really actively involved social member. Because I was coming into town and she’d seen something in my request or perhaps on my profile, she organized a backyard potluck barbecue for dinner and, being the social butterfly that I am, I was thrilled.”
Her experience at the potluck inspired Jen to bring this idea home with her to the Triangle Area in North Carolina: a grouping of several cities which operate as one metropolitan area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary and Morrisville).
“[Olivia] is single-handedly responsible for turning me from a “member” to a “community member”, even though she didn’t say a word to me about it. She simply demonstrated community and let it form around me. After experiencing that, how could I ever go back to just being a member?”
These days, Jen prides herself on being a welcoming and knowledgeable host whose favorite thing to do with her surfers is sitting back and listening to their stories. She says that hosting has helped her learn to be more assertive and that it’s okay to have boundaries– something that has helped Jen in all aspects of her life. Jen goes on to explain how having low expectations for her guests and the impact they will have on her (be they good or bad), have really helped her appreciate the more meaningful interactions.
“With a guest, I expect that they will sleep in my house and do so without being destructive or intolerably disruptive. Pretty low expectations, right? What this means is that anything above that baseline is something I treasure. It is a gift. It is a pleasant surprise. Perhaps we end up chatting late into the night. Perhaps they want to go explore the area and I end up learning about a new place or sharing the joy of one of my memory-filled landmarks with them. Perhaps we tackle a recipe I thought impossible. Perhaps we stay in and play video games and tell jokes. Each of these is a treasure and a lovely one at that. And not every guest can provide these treasures, which is fine. I don’t resent the ones who don’t, but treasure all the more the ones who do.”
Jen’s Favorite Couchsurfing Memories
“I now work as a nanny, and earlier today my eldest charge asked me what my favorite song was. I told her that I don’t have a favorite song because there are so many fantastic songs in the world and I haven’t heard all of them, so how can I decide that I prefer one above all the others? I feel the same way about favorite memories. I cherish so many different Couchsurfing related memories that I dare not rank them in a hierarchy.”
That being said, Jen did have one pretty great story to share about her experience at the Washington DC Couch Crash of 2016.
“As one of the organized events, we had a silent, roving dance party. I am a fan of EDM to begin with, so as dusk was falling on the Washington Monument, I popped in my earbuds and used my LED light-bedecked finger to hit the play button on my phone at the same time as everyone else attending the event. The explosive, heavy beat of the custom dance mix started to thrum in my ears, and it was as if magic itself were loose upon the Earth. We danced our way through the different monuments – taking care to avoid disturbing the gravitas of war memorials – and night fell more heavily. All the tourists that encountered us lit up with giant grins, probably aided by the fact that extra LED finger lights were being given to children as souvenirs of our encounter. From the young to the elderly tourist, we were met with whispered commentating of, ‘I think they are doing *that thing*!!!!’ accompanied with pointing fingers and Cheshire cat grins. We were received happily by all who we encountered. And that positive energy was tangible and intoxicating.
And I danced. Oh, how I danced.
And you can, too! Come to the next Washington DC Couch Crash! Make this memory your memory!”
About Couch Crashes
A Couch Crash, sometimes called Couchsurfing Camps, is when Couchsurfers from all over the world congregate in a city at the same time and participate in organized events. These events could include anything from hikes to trips to the beach or dance-parties! Check out our Couch Crash Calendar to see upcoming Crashes around the world. Jen is no stranger to the Couch Crash. In fact, last year alone she attended Couch Crashes in DC, Charleston, Seattle and Connecticut (where the locals call it ConnectiCouch). In years past she has attended in Charlotte and Philadelphia as well.
The 2016 DC Couchcrash, before the dancing began!
Jen invites you check out the Triangle Couchsurfing Community’s website to stay informed and get involved in Couchsurfing events in the Triangle Area, North Carolina.