I’ve been hosting strangers my entire life. Around the time I was 5, we hosted our first Rotary exchange student, a girl from France who was a talent drawer and mildly creepy (she dressed up as a skeleton for Halloween and scared all the children away from our candy). From there, we had students from Indonesia, Brazil, France, Turkey, Japan, Denmark, Mexico, Italy, Finland, and Australia. In between, we had adult study groups from India (who gave me a bindi to cover an inconveniently-placed chicken pox scar), worship teams from denominational colleges, and kids who had been kicked out of their parents’ houses for one reason or another.
In short, our door was always open, and that gave me the opportunity to experience huge parts of the world I never got to actually see.
On the flip side, I’ve stayed in an Quechua village in the Peruvian Andes with 3 dozen strangers, set up cots in a former Jehovah’s Witness house in Dublin, crashed enough couches to open my own furniture store, and even became a Rotary exchange student myself, relying on 3 families of strangers whose own children were abroad for my room, board, and support for a year.
I was always willing to go somewhere, and have been blessed to have a bed at each place.
Which brings me to Couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing has gone on and off my radar for a few years. I scouted it when I was living in Europe, but never really used it as a service, using other networking methods. When I lived in Ann Arbor, I signed back in and set my status to “Available for Coffee” and got connected with a great person who was just in town for a few months. When I moved to Pittsburgh, I let it slide – I didn’t have a couch and I wasn’t familiar enough with my new city to make it useful.
I’ve hosted 2 couchsurfers this month, both really positive experiences. Sure, it’s work to host, but the rewards have been great. I hosted a student from Australia on a US tour after her internship who took me to places in my own city I had never been, and a woman from very near my hometown on her way to a yoga convention. Each brought a lot of new experiences, great discussion, and a renewed interest in my city. (They also both did my dishes at one point – not necessary, but I won’t argue with perks.)
It’s an opportunity for both host and surfer. If you find yourself curious, check it out here. Register, poke around, and see what’s happening. You might find yourself experiencing the world.