Couchsurfing in Austin: In the Wild with Jen Billock

Staff in the Wild is a Couchsurfing program that seeks to connect the staff at HQ with the community at large. We’re hosting travelers, organizing events, and will be out surfing around the globe. Request a staff member in your city!


Name: Jennifer Billock
Role: CEO
Where to? Austin, Texas
Couchsurfing makes me… think about this quote: “Imagine what is possible when you’re willing to share your life.”
– Casey Fenton

What unforgettable moments have you shared as a Couchsurfer?

I recently visited Austin, Texas and not only Couchsurfed in a unique space, but also met some great folks at a locally organized Couchsurfing event. I’m always amazed by how generous, interesting, and kind Couchsurfers are.

I’ve hosted plenty of Couchsurfers, but wanted to try my hand at being a guest. And who did I choose to Couchsurf with in Austin? The (in)famous Jeff Wilson. If you don’t know him from Ok Cupid’s Craziest Date Ever, you might have heard about the 36-square-foot dumpster he lives in on Huston-Tillotson University’s campus. And if you haven’t been privy to either of those media frenzies, you might have been one of Jeff’s Couchsurfing hosts (after all, he’s Couchsurfed in more than 60 countries).

I felt like I was a TV star during most of my stay (Jeff has a camera at the ready and is a stellar documentarian) and I so enjoyed learning about the dumpster project, as well as his partner Clara Benson’s forthcoming book, “No Baggage,” to be published by Running Press. It documents the pair’s three-week adventure with zero luggage and no plans.

Jeff Wilson and Jen Billock in front of the Dumpster Project

Jeff Wilson and Jen Billock in front of the Dumpster Project

Jeff, Clara, and I stayed up comparing stories and talking about life into the wee hours of the night.

The next morning, Jeff greeted me with an Austin “breakfast taco” followed by an introduction to his dad, who told me, “Couchsurfing has really changed my son’s life.”

After bidding Jeff farewell, I stopped in at a local Couchsurfing event where I met Sheila, a new Couchsurfing ambassador. When I arrived, she handed me a gift bag full of local goodies from Austin and the printed local guide that she gives to all of her Couchsurfing guests. How thoughtful!

Couchsurfing Event in Austin

Couchsurfing Event in Austin

At the event, I also met Palmer Stevens, who is an RV park host who hosts Couchsurfers in a few of his RVs near Austin. And what would my trip be without meeting 23-year-old Stephen Tranovich, a recent graduate of Yale, who was Couchsurfing across the country on his way toward relocating to San Francisco. I also met with many other upbeat Couchsurfers from Austin and other places in world – all and all, there were more than 30 people at the event.

Sheila (a Couchsurfing Ambassador in Austin) & Palmer, the RV Host

Palmer, the RV Host & Sheila (a Couchsurfing Ambassador in Austin)

I loved experiencing both the unusual and the everyday as a Couchsurfer – and I look forward to doing it again soon.

What does Couchsurfing mean to you?

Couchsurfing helps me experience people living in cultures around the world that turn out to be not so different from my own. Even when we don’t speak the same language or come from similar backgrounds, there is so much about being human that is connective, borderless, and ultimately universal.

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