“The best CS experience was a trip to South Dakota”

Brandon Clifton spent two weeks driving up the east coast staying with Couchsurfing hosts. His goal: Interview, photograph and get to know them in order to tell their stories.

After leaving Wilmington, I headed north to Richmond, Virginia to meet Gage and his partner Rory. Both were exceptionally kind and made sure I had everything I could possibly need. I thought the world was supposed to be this dark place full of people out to get you, but when you actually get out in the world and meet people, you realize there’s a commonality to all humans that’s universal. From my own experiences, people are inherently good.

“I’m actually about as much of an introvert as you can get, so probably not a lot of people close to my level of introversion would do this kind of thing, but I think it’s fun.”

The following day, Gage wanted to take me to some of his favorite spots in the city knowing good and well I’d want to photograph everything along the way. I was thoroughly surprised at how much Richmond had to offer. And to think, I only came here because of this project. Couchsurfing can be used as a way to explore cities you never had any intention of traveling to, and in my experience, open your eyes to new places to explore. One of Gage’s favorite spots (and mine too) turned out to be a cemetery that overlooked the river and was filled with beautiful architecture. If you could get past being surrounded by death, it’d be a great place to get married.

“The best couchsurfing experience was a trip to South Dakota. The person I was staying with actually was out of town because he was getting married, but he let me stay with him anyway. I stayed in his master bedroom of the house he had built himself. There was another guy staying there who was moving to South Dakota because he was buying an RV. He was going to start traveling the country and living out of his RV, and still does that to this day. So anyway, I had never gone camping before and was a little nervous about it. He went with me to the Badlands in South Dakota and, like, I hadn’t even set up a tent before. So we set up our own tents and explored the Badlands and it was just a lot of fun. So many things about it were unexpected and new, like the host I had just missed because he was going to pick up his soon-to-be wife to get married. I made a friend that I still talk to and I went camping my first time ever, which in itself was a crazy experience.”

“Couchsurfing has made me even more open to other experiences with people. It has given me a more positive view of people in general.”

After I left Richmond, Gage left a review of me on the platform that said, “I really enjoyed Brandon’s visit! He’s friendly, a creative type, and appreciative of the time you (gladly) spend showing him cool things during his visit. He’s welcome back. The spirit of Couchsurfing lives!” And with that I say, let’s hope he means it, because I’ll definitely be back soon.

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