So I’ve spent almost a week sharing the houses and couches of a couple of people via couchsurfing.org now. It was on the whole, and indeed on the half, a wonderful experience.
I’ve already explained how I apparently chose my first host very well simply judging by the apparel adorning her walls, and I certainly did. I had a fantastic time hanging out with Karen, Elaine and Hope. I’m pretty sure I’ve detailed what we got up to elsewhere, so I’ll not repeat myself. However, I will say I was shocked and almost overwhelmed with Karen’s generosity and kindness. Not only was I given somewhere to stay, but she made lunch and dinner for me (and the others living there) both the days while I was there, as well as left all the entertainment choices up to me (far too much pressure to decide there, I might add). It saddens me that I can’t reciprocate somehow – I’d offer to let them stay with me except that has a couple of fatal flaws. One, I have no fixed abode, and two, they’re more than likely moving to Iceland, and who wants to come to England when you live in Iceland?
My second host was in Chicago. I contacted her and she agreed to let me stay with her for a few days on the basis that she liked my name. Well, that’s a saving grace for this otherwise cursed nomer I have been given. I reckon nomer should be a word, because misnomer is, and if you remove the mis, surely you’re just left with a nomer, right?
Anyway. I arrived later than I expected because my coach was a little delayed (America’s transport infrastructure really is shocking), and I decided to walk the two miles from the Greyhound station to her house in one of the neighbourhoods instead of getting a bus. I arrived about 20 minutes before she was due to go out to a party with her boyfriend. She showed me around the house, told me to use any of the facilities I wanted/needed, handed me a set of keys to her house, and left.
Handed me a set of keys to her house and left.
I’d met this girl not half an hour before she left me alone in her house with the keys. The level of trust given to a perfect stranger here astounded me (not that it was unfounded at all, but still, it’s the principle).
It turned out she and I got along very well and we spent quite a bit of time hanging out over the couple of days I was there. She lives in the middle of one of the largest Mexican neighbourhoods in the US (did you know, Chicago, very soon, will have a higher population of Mexican people than any other ethnic/racial group, including us whiteys?), and so I was given the chance to eat lots of authentic++ Mexican food while I was there, as well as get a detailed rundown of some of the culture and history of the area and the ethnicity in Chicago.
So all in all, so far, couchsurfing has gone well. The friendliness and helpfulness of the community as a whole is incredibly impressive and encouraging. It’s a great way to travel and stay, because having a local host who knows the area and can recommend places for you to visit, eat, see, makes a real difference to staying in an area. Wandering aimlessly around can only take you so far.