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Couchsurfing: The New Way to Travel

Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of being as far away from home as possible. I wanted then and now want to feel the bliss of Paris during autumn, and enjoy macarons tantalizing my taste buds while I lock eyes with handsome men with swept over hair and plaid scarves. I will admittedly say that part of this influence came from watching Serena Vander Woodsen rock boho hair and clothes around the world, but it became so much more than that to me. My yearning to travel quickly developed from fascination into a necessity; my soul simply needed to experience more. The first time I hopped on a plane completely alone, I was filled with a sense of irresponsible responsibility. It was my duty to create wild and extraordinary experiences, all the while still traveling on a budget, and more importantly, to discover a way to keep myself completely safe in the process.

Before the era of instant gratification and immediate responses of communication, people needed to plan their vacations far in advance. They had to plan for everything: the flight, where to stay, and what tourist activities they wanted to cram into their brief time away. This method of traveling feels traditional and familiar. And truth be told, it’s still very prevalent in the way many people choose to experience various places away from the familiarities of home. However, with the exponential way technology is advancing, there are many versatile ways to travel that are available to us today. Hotels are taking out desks and ironing boards to lower the costs of a hotel stay, as they have come to realize that millennials really don’t demand such amenities. While this may raise problems for older generations, it reflects the growing influence of the younger generation on contemporary society. We millennials are more about cost efficiency and experience rather than luxury.

Last year, I traveled the United States in my black Pontiac, the end destination being California after traveling for an exhausting 28 hours. I had come across the app Airbnb, through which anyone can pay strangers to host you at their house. This usually costs much less than staying at a hotel, and the price is completely dependent upon which part of the city you choose to stay in as well as what amenities your host has available. Airbnb is a fantastic alternative for young travelers, and many apps similar to it also exist. The app known as Couchsurfing enlightened me to some of the most liberating and genuine experiences I have ever had. As the title entails, you are inherently bouncing from one place to the next. The app allows you to make a profile page on which you talk about yourself, your interests, what you can offer to a host, why you chose this method of travel, and one amazing thing that you have done. It also has a simple verification process that you can go through, however it is not required.

I hosted a girl from Toronto, Canada in my home state of Wisconsin previously, as she was completing an education program at the local college in my hometown. She was the first person that I had hosted, and the experiences we shared were unforgettable. I showed her several of the local places that my town of Eau Claire is known for, and as in any small Wisconsin town, most of them revolve around beer and cheese. We told each other our life stories over sushi, and she shared her rich knowledge of life experiences and her successes of becoming a doctor at the remarkably young age of 28. She also related to me all the advanced and open means of transportation that were available to her in Canada. This included the prevalence of ridesharing apps, which are just beginning to gain popularity here in the U.S. The most memorable moment we shared was when she thanked me with the simplicity of green tea and apple butter. It gave me a sense of appreciation that expanded beyond monetary value; the vast amount of knowledge you can learn from traveling is infinitely more phenomenal than paper money. Because of her, I opened myself up to being vulnerable and acting on my curious tendencies about the world. After my experience hosting my Canadian friend, I was ready to take on the world, one city at a time.

I flew to Boston on a one hundred and fifty dollar ticket I bought from Spirit airlines around the 4th of July. With just a backpack full of my favorite yoga pants, some plain V-Neck shirts, and a baseball cap, I was ready to take on the city. I had met Jeff on the Couchsurfing app, and I stayed at his loft in downtown Boston for six days. Before ever accepting anyone to host me, I always made sure that they were verified through the website. This entails verification of your home address, phone number, and email. I also check out their pictures. In my opinion, the best way to get a feel if you want to stay with someone is to look at the reviews that are left on their page by previous guests.

Once I alighted in Boston I used my phone and had an Uber driver pick me up. This saved me money as airport taxis are notoriously expensive. Besides, Uber is much safer and for me travel is again all about being safe while having the time of your life. I asked the driver to take me to Jeff’s where we formally met and I dropped some weight from my backpack. Jeff graciously showed me around his place and told me if I needed anything to simply ask. He really was a gracious host and his place was everything it was advertised to be and more. Since Jeff had some personal business to attend to, I set out on my own and decided to see the sites of Boston proper.

Aside from the historical sites in Boston relating to the Revolutionary War era, I wound up checking out Harvard Square. I was mystified looking at the crimson sweaters and cobblestone streets. Chic girls in alternative type dress entered in and out of Urban Outfitters, each diverse in style and background. Like following trends, I scavenged UO for $10 crops tops and high-waist shorts in hopes for a night out. While grabbing for the same knit top, I met Kaylee and Laura both dressed with Connecticut taste and captivating laughter. We made small talk, and eventually ended up in a Boston suburb dancing as the bass screamed. It was my first rave and attending it with strangers was completely odd, but redemptive. The percussion bounced off the grey slab stone steadily in perfect time and my heart soared as we danced and drank. I was alive.

  Reflecting back upon my thrill seeking summer, I feel more alive as ever. And as Autumn has bid summer good bye with a farewell kiss I think about a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Life starts over when leaves get crisp in the fall.” So dare to be ambitious, challenge yourself to get to know someone you might think twice about, and like the colors of autumn, be bold. After all, all significant daring begins from within your soul.

 

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