Sunday, October 2, 2011

Drop Everything and Go

On Saturday afternoon, around 3pm, I was sitting in front of my computer in my Spanish Harlem apartment watching an old episode of a British Sci-Fi TV show in something like its thirty-second season, of which I've seen the latest six. I was waiting for the newest episode to come out in some form I could watch it. I don't think I was actually eating a bowl of cereal or sitting around in my underwear but I might as well have been, if it gives you an idea of the scene.

I won't say I was bored. I wasn't. Doctor Who is good stuff, if you're into that sort of thing. But I was sitting in front of a laptop, by myself, on a weekend.

Then I got a text message. It was my friend, Barry. It said "Hey I know it's last minute, but if you want to take the train out to Montauk tonight, you're welcome to stay here."

If stopping a spoonful of cereal halfway to my mouth while I'm mostly undressed, crouched in front of a computer screen helps get the gist of the image across, feel free to imagine it that way. I knew almost nothing about Montauk. I knew it was on the end of Long Island, and I vaguely remembered it mentioned in some movie I'd seen. That was it.

Didn't matter. That was all I needed.

I jumped out of the chair, called up Barry and started pacing. He was apologetic. He wanted to hang out, but it turned out there were no trains. Since I'd need to be back in the city by the next evening, it might not be worth the travel time. There was a bus, but it either left the upper east side at 5:30 and got in at 9:30pm, or left there at 3:30. And since it was already after 3:00pm...

I thought for a moment. Back at my computer, after a little searching, I pulled up the timetable and took a good look at that 3:30 bus. It made stops all along the east side before leaving, the upper east side, the closest stop to me, was the first. It passed just south of Grand Central Station around 4:00pm. Perfect. If I timed things just right...

I jumped up, packed a bag, called Barry up again to say I was coming, and dashed out into the rain. I raced up to 125th steeet to grab an express subway to beat the bus down to grand central. I swung out in time to grab more cash from an ATM for the bus fare, and rolled right up to the stop less than two minutes before the bus itself did. I was on, and on my way.

Getting on the bus felt good. But weirdly, what felt better was running through the rain with the bag on my back, out to catch the subway. Because once I was on the bus I was safe. While I was running, I was on an adventure. And it's been a long time since I had a taste of that. I'd forgotten how much I liked it.

That said, the evening and next day was some of the most relaxing time I've had away from "The City," as everyone calls it out here. Montauk is a beach town just east of the Hamptons. Technically it might be part of The Hamptons,depending on who you ask. But if you ask the people at the kinds of places Barry and I went, they would probably not take kindly to the insinuation. But that was because we were going into the kinds of places that didn't allow cell phones, yapping dogs, or, frankly, tourists.

So my Saturday went from sci-fi TV on my computer alone to seafood, drinks on the beach, watching mysterious paper lanterns and fireworks off in the distance... it was not how I'd pictured that day ending when I got up that morning. And then of course the next morning was more good food, more beach time, and then even more good food (first ever lobster roll at the place that made them famous, along with their seasonal pumpkin crab and lobster bisque). It was a great way to spend a weekend. All thanks to one text from a good friend.

Though I have to admit, the ability to pack a bag in under five minutes does help.

Next time you have a chance to just drop everything and go somewhere. Do yourself a favor and just go.
This entry cross-posted to my acting in NYC blog: Constant Audition.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Not All Who Go Missing Are Lost

I was home in Seattle for the last week. Eating breakfast, my mom handed me an article in the Seattle Times. It was titled “Social media's power: People around globe search for Stanford student

The first paragraph was as follows:
“It is every parent's nightmare: a normally reliable child sets off on a journey, then vanishes without a trace. But through the power of social media, a small army of thousands of volunteers produced a happy ending in the case of Jacob Boehm.”

From this, you’d think that, while he was traveling Malaysia, he’d been captured by a militia, gotten lost on a mountain climb, or kidnapped by organ harvesters, only to be rescued in the nick of time by Facebook. If you want to read the article without spoilers, do so now before reading the next line.

He wasn’t in any of those places. He was happily hiking through a Malaysian national park in a group with a professional guide. He just didn’t happen to have cell or internet service in the park.

So why did this make the newspapers, including the New York Times? The huge number of people who became worried enough to get involved looking for the poor guy. Thousands of people, alerted by Facebook, Google+, and other parts of the social media sphere went looking for him. The US Embassy got involved. The Malaysian government went looking for him. They saw he’d last checked in at a town near a national park. So they sent in the park rangers to find him, and voila, there he was.

The “rescued” backpacker’s only public comment? “It’s a long story.”

I can’t really blame him. He wasn’t lost. He just made a lot of people scared on accident. Whoops.

What’s really incredible is that there is now almost nowhere in the world where you can’t be found. Think about it, a 22 year old was just found in the jungles of Malaysia by government officials at the request of his parents on the other side of the world in the USA. That’s nuts.

So, three lessons to learn from this:

First and most importantly, for travelers: If you’re going off the grid for multiple days, alert someone back home. You don’t have to issue a plan, just give Mommy and Daddy a time frame after which they should start worrying.

Second for parents: If your child is traveling in the third world, remind him or her to let you know if they’re going off the grid. And if they don’t answer you phone calls or emails, it’s not because they’ve been kidnapped. The rest of the world is far safer than the news would have you believe. In many ways it is safer than the United States. So, I’m aware that you’d rather have your child safe and embarrassed than missing, but give it some time before you send out a red alert.

Third, for the media: Nobody is rescued unless someone is in actual danger. When you find a person and they were actually fine all along, don’t treat it as a heroic rescue. The story isn’t in that they found him, the story is in what happened when they tried to find him. And while yes that is mentioned in the last paragraph of your story, it should be right up there in the first.

image courtesy of Wikipedia

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Travel Tip: Choosing a Travel Companion

I mostly travel alone. I do what I want, where I want, when I want. But not everybody likes doing things that way. I have teamed up with other travelers a few times and it 's true, traveling in pairs or groups has its advantages:

-Sharing rooms is usually cheaper than getting a single room, and sometimes even cheaper than getting a single bed in a dorm.
-You can go places you wouldn't feel safe or comfortable going alone.
-You can pool together funds for experiences you couldn't otherwise afford solo (renting a car for example).
-Someone you trust can taste that weird local delicacy made out of insect larvae and tell you whether it's any good before you try a bite (Stephen, I'm looking at you and your Korean silk worms).

A good travel buddy can let you go further and have more fun. And they will probably get you to try things you would never have tried on your own, many of which you will really enjoy. Some you won't, but that's the risk you take.

A bad travel buddy can make both of your trips an absolute nightmare. So you want to choose wisely. It's like having a roommate who you see almost every hour of every day for the duration of your trip. Even some of your best friends, and yes, your significant other, can be terrible travel companions.

Here are a few things you need to discuss before deciding to hit the road together, with a few extra notes for couples at the end:

-Budget. This is probably the main cause of friction between travel buddies that aren't romantically involved. If your budgets don't match, every time one of you spends money, one of you will feel like cheapskate and pressured into buying things you can't afford, and the other will feel like an extravagant showoff and like they're being forced into second rate... well, everything. Compare notes on how much you want to spend on food, transport, and lodging, and what your idea of a reasonable price for a day's activity is.

-Travel Speed. Some people like traveling slowly. Some people don't. This also ties into budget-- faster is more expensive. But if you feel rushed or bogged down by your companion, you're going to start to resent them. NOTE: The more people you travel with, the slower you usually travel, just by virtue of everyone having to see if everyone else is ready to do anything.

-Conflict Resolution Skills. You could both be saints, but at some point, I can almost promise you, something you do is going to get on the other person's nerves, and vice versa. When you two have differences, can you resolve them in a mature, efficient manner that leaves both of you feeling okay about it later? This should be discussed, and possibly tested before you hit the road.

-Interests. Having different interests is fine-- the problems start when your buddy is actively disinclined to try something you want to do. For example, if you're an avid rock climber, and your buddy has a panic attack if he's outdoors for more than four hours at a time, you're gonna have issues. Likewise, if your goal is to try every different kind of beer made in a region of the world, and your buddy hates bars, trouble is brewing (sorry). Having different interests usually ends up opening new doors for people, showing them things they wouldn't ordinarily have experienced. But if people prevent you from pursuing the interests you hit the road to pursue, it's going to be a problem.

-Cultural Respect. It's embarrassing to travel with someone who continually puts their foot in their mouth. We all do it once in a while, but some travelers seem to do it every five minutes. If you are going somewhere with a different culture, make sure you're going with someone who will treat it with respect. They don't have to know all the little rules for being polite, they just have to be thoughtful about figuring out what they are and doing their best to abide by them. Having to apologize for your friend's single mistake is a good story. Having to apologize for your friend's repeated mistakes over and over is just aggravating. And I can tell you firsthand, the fifth time you hear "Well I'm just not used to having to _____, because we don't do that back home," you're going to want to smack someone.

-Physical Condition. If you want to go walking all over town every day, and your buddy has to stop for breath after a flight of stairs, you might not want to travel together. Yes, the out of shape one will get in better shape, but it's going to be a long and arduous wait for both of you before that happens. It's hard to predict how much you'll be walking around, but you can guess what your tolerance is, and choose someone with a similar level, so you can walk as much as you want, and don't feel bad calling a cab when you don't want to walk anymore.

-Special Needs. Diabetic? Vegan? Pack-a-day smoker? Your potential traveling buddies need to know before you leave, because it will affect their travel experience, too.

-Alcohol/Drugs. Similarly, if you intend to get hammered and stoned every couple of days, you need to make sure its on your buddies' agendas and budgets as well, since they're likely going to be the ones that have to take care of you when it happens. It's easiest to just travel with someone who wants to try what you want to try when you want to try it, because then at least you can take turns being the designated responsible guy who knows where the hostel is and can walk straight.

Now I would like to include a couple special notes for a special brand of traveling companion: those in relationships. You could be married, you could have just met in a hostel last week and really liked each other. Either way, you need to be clear on a couple (ha) minor points:

-Make an effort to know the cultural norms of dating and public displays of affection. Some places have couples making out on every corner. Others are scandalized by hand holding. Still others find it offensive to even see a woman traveling with someone who is not their husband or relative. For these last places, choose one of those two stories and stick to it. This is not an opportunity to try to force your cultural norms on another nation, even if they seem more progressive.

-If you're sexually active, think about when you will and won't be able to get private accommodations, and bring plenty of whatever birth control methods you use with you. Local variants are not always reliable.

-This is a tough one to approach, but if you are planning on traveling together for more than a month or so, and have never traveled together before, it might be worth discussing the worst case scenario: a mid-trip breakup. Even if you can't imagine it ever happening, being together 24/7 in completely different surroundings and occasional discomfort can bring out sides to people you never knew existed. Is your plan and schedule flexible enough to allow you to go your separate ways?

-On that note, even if you are really happy, you should plan some time apart. You'll each get to do your own thing that the other person doesn't like, whatever it is. And after that, it makes meeting up and being together again feel that much better.

And there you have it! Hope this help you find a traveling companion or three that makes your trips more enjoyable and memorable.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One Year Later

It's been exactly a year since I returned to the US. I've been in this country the entire time. I think a couple of my friends had bets riding on that, so congrats to whoever won those.

The year has been the best answer I seemed able to come up to the following question: "If you accomplish your life's dream at age 23, what do you do next?"

Choose a new dream, I guess.

I remember at one point in college hearing that a high school friend of ours was spending her summer acting and waiting tables in New York City. That sounded pretty good to me.

So, above you can see a wall of my Manhattan one-bedroom apartment. Almost eight months since I moved here, and I've just been cast in my third show. I'm not waiting tables. Sort of tried it as a banquet server briefly, didn't like it much, got jobs elsewhere. I just got home from tutoring a brilliant student from a wealthy family in physics and math. Between tutoring gigs like that and some office work in a voiceover recording studio, I'm able to pay rent and occasionally do fun things. Like skipping town with my girlfriend and some of our friends to see Atlantic City. I think one or two of our friends drank more than I did over the course of my whole trip, and that's including Oktoberfest. I digress.

Nobody seems to know what to make of what I did. It's a bit like a veteran coming home from a war. It's amazing how nobody ever seems to ask you about what it was like. I tell people what I did and they're clearly impressed, but nobody knows what to say next. So they drop the topic and go back to gossiping about what happened on Facebook, complaining about their work/school, or talking about something else that's actually current and relevant to them.

I don't want to be the guy whose stories all come from last year. I think a lot of my life has been driven by my innate fear of being boring. I don't honestly think I'm in much danger of that anymore, but when you set the bar at a certain height for "interesting," your perspective gets a little bit warped.

But it's been a year since I've had to think about being a foreigner anywhere. I mean, in a lot of small ways, I'll always feel like a foreigner anywhere I go now. I haven't been home recently or long enough anywhere to really claim native stats. But the people here mostly speak my language, use the same measurement units I do, are used to the same political system and if not the same customs (I still refuse to accept how hard it is to recycle in this town or what kinds of comments about race and gender pass as acceptable), at least most cultural stuff here is kind of similar.

So, I'm an American in America, and have been for a year.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Travel Tip: How to Host Couchsurfers

Hosting couchsurfers is a great opportunity for people who haven't yet traveled much, or who have traveled a lot and miss travel and travelers. Instead of going out to meet the world, have the world come to you.

Generally speaking if you make a couchsurfing profile and list yourself as having a couch available, you're going to get a couple messages a week asking if someone can stay with you. Hosting is a lot of fun, and usually results in a free drink, meal, gift etc of some sort (or at least a grateful backpacker doing your dishes). Not to mention invitations to stay with new friends all over the world.

If you're not comfortable opening your home up to strangers, that doesn't mean you can't help. One of your status options is "Meet for Coffee." Surfers often take people up on this. It's good for them to meet locals who can tell them about all the best things to see, do, eat, drink, etc in town. Plus you get to meet people from all over the world.

If you are ready to invite travelers to stay on your couch, switch the status to "yes" or "definitely." As the host, you have complete control over who comes to your place. Read profiles, talk to people a bit, and then choose who you'd like to host.

There are a few things you can do to make your experience a safe and fun one:

--On your profile, there is a section you fill out called "couch information." If you want to make sure people are actually reading your profile before sending requests, in the middle write the following sentence: "If you've read this section, please include the word "______" in your request." Obviously you pick the word. I do this to sort through people who actually want to stay with me vs people who just want a free place to crash and have spammed 100 people in town.

--When you get a request, look at the person's profile and check it for references and vouches. If any are neutral or negative, read them carefully before dismissing the surfer outright. If there are no references or vouches, it's your call, but I don't recommend hosting that surfer.

--Familiarize yourself with your local couchsurfing events and make some friends in the CS community. They can help you out in most situations.

--Never feel it is your obligation to host anyone, no matter how desperate they claim their situation to be. If they're out in the cold at midnight in a rough city and claim you're their only hope, that is entirely their fault, and it's not your responsibility to save them. They screwed up their planning. If you want to help such people, find a cheap hostel online and direct them to it.

--If for whatever reason you don't feel like hosting anyone for a time, do yourself a favor and change your couch status to "Maybe," "meet for coffee," or "No couch available."

--If you find you really enjoy hosting, change your couch status to "definitely" (you will come up in more searches) and consider joining a last-minute-couch-request group. Most cities have their own, just search for your city under the community tab, and look at the groups. These are for people whose hosts have backed out on them at the last minute, had planes canceled, or who are just lazy. You'll find a lot of very grateful friends this way.

Next, a few tips to make your guest's stay a good one:

--Know the cheapest public transit routes to your home from airports, bus stops, and train stations. Most couchsurfers are on shoestring budgets and are used to sitting on public transit for a long time.

--Get a couple maps of your town for surfers to borrow. These are going to be very useful to them.

--If you don't have one, open a Skype or Google Voice account. This will let you text international cell phones cheaply and easily, which is handy if you're trying to rendezvous with a guest who brought their cell from home.

--Don't feel that you have to provide constant entertainment or information. Couchsurfers as a rule are very self-sufficient and grateful for you simply letting them come to your home. Usually, if they need something, they'll ask for it.

That should be enough to get started. Happy hosting!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Travel Tip: How to Couchsurf

So you're ready to make like this puppy and crash somewhere new? We all need a place to sleep, and if you've followed the last couple of posts, you'll know why I think couchsurfing is a great travel tool. This post will help you surf your first couch.

First things first, go to, and set up your profile. Fill it out as completely as you're willing to, and go ahead and be a little quirky about it if you like. Memorable and interesting people have a much easier time finding hosts. Make sure you upload a recent picture.

Next, get your profile verified. This means locking your address into the system, getting your postcard, and entering in the validation code. I also suggest donating to complete the verification process, but that's a personal decision.

You're almost ready. Here's the most involved step. It will take a little time and help to do, but I highly recommended it if you want' to find a host: get another couch surfer to write you a reference. The best way to do this is to find a friend who already knows you and is on (Seriously, if you're someone who I know well, and you want a reference, email me with your profile address and I'll write one for you). Post a status on Twitter or Facebook saying you've just joined and want to know if anyone else you know is involved. You'd be surprised which of your friends and family might respond. If it's an especially close friend or family member who has more than three vouches, they might vouch for you (don't ask for this though, it's not polite).

If you really don't know any other couchsurfers, it's time to go out and meet a few. Go to the community tab of the website, and search both events and group for your hometown. Then go out and meet the surfers. You'll have a good time, and you'll make some friends on the site, who can then, if you hit it off, write a reference for you.

Once you've got a completed profile with picture, verification, a good positive reference, you're ready to start looking for a couches.

A good time in advance (a week or more before your arrival date, if possible), start searching for a host. Hit the Surf/Host Tab and hit Couchsearch. Enter in the location you're going to surf (and if you feel like it, some qualifications about gender, age, interests etc) and you'll get a list of hosts. from this list, you are going to choose several to message, asking to stay on their couch.

One trick, before reading profiles: I like to sort the search results by "last login date." The surfers who appear at the top are probably the most active hosts who log in the most often and check their messages. They're often sent fewer couch requests than the people who show up at the top by default, and are more likely to respond to you.

Here are the things to look for:
-Do they appear trustworthy? What do their references say? Do they have a picture on their profile? Have they been vouched for/verified?
-Do they like where they live? After safety, I consider this the most important thing to look for. A host who is passionate about their home can make your stay absolutely incredible. A host that hates where they live will not.
-Do they speak your language? All users list the language(s) they speak and rank them in terms of proficiency. Their grasp of English of course is usually evident from what they've written on their profile.
-Where in town do they live? Is it somewhere you want to stay? Is it safe? Convenient?
-What's their "couch" like? Do they smoke? Have pets? Are you going to be on the floor or in a spare bedroom of your own? Most profiles will have pictures and all will have a description of their "couch" and their house rules (if any).
-Does this look like someone you would want to spend time with? Do you have interests in common? Do like to party as much/little as you? Did you study the same things, or are you pursuing similar careers?

Once you've picked out a few of your favorites, it's time to start sending them request. As a surfer, nobody minds if you message more than one person. I usually send requests to 5-10 people every time I want to couchsurf. However, quality of request is far more likely to get you a place than quantity. Here's how:

Read your potential host's profile carefully, and then in your first message to them write something that makes it obvious that you read their profile.

This is the most important thing you can do when requesting a couch. Hosts like knowing that a surfer has chosen to write to them for a reason. Even if I copy/paste a request message to several people, I always include at least one sentence specific to each host showing that I read their profile, know who they are, and actually want to meet them.

After that... just wait. You should get responses soon.

Or not. There's one other trick you can use for major cities. Under the community tab, click search group, and then search for your destination city. You'll find a message board for surfers in that city. Go to their group's message board and look for something along the lines of "emergency/last minute couch request group." Drop them a message there. If you're lucky and have a good profile, you might find a host that way. But make sure you read your potential host's profile carefully before accepting.

And that should get you on your way to surfing your first couch. Best of luck! Stay tuned for tips on getting started as a couchsurfing host.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Travel Tips: Couchsurfing Safety

The very first question most Americans, especially American women, ask me when I tell them about couchsurfing, is "How can you know if you're going to be safe?" It makes some sense, you're staying with someone you don't know. How do you know that this isn't an axe murderer whose couch you're sleeping on? How do you know you're not hosting a kleptomaniac? How do you know that couchsurfing is safe?

The answer is in three pieces of security provided by the website's structure: References, Vouching, and Verification. Together, these things make couchsurfing just as safe as (or safer than) any other method of travel. These items are all listed on every couchsurfer's profile. The goal of listing them is to make couchsurfing more like staying with a friend of a friend than a complete stranger. Every surfer has an online profile much like they do on Facebook-- pictures, listed interests, a bio, lists of other couchsurfing friends they've connected with. So before you meet the person, you know a little about them. But it also has these three items that you won't find on any other site.

References- Anyone who meets, stays with, or hosts any couchsurfer can write a reference on that person's profile, listed as either positive, neutral, or negative, categorized as to whether they were a guest, host, and/or travel buddy, along with comments. When someone writes you a reference, it appears permanently on your profile-- you can't edit or delete it, only the writer can do that. If someone was a great guest or host, they'll have a lot of positive references. If they steal and break things, or put people in uncomfortable positions, they will have negative references. If you see someone who has a negative reference, it will be featured prominently on their profile. When you have negative references, it becomes hard to surf anywhere or host people, so you always want to do you best to get positive references. Conversely, if you find someone who has a negative reference, always read the comment section to see the reason. Sometimes people leave negative references for reasons that might not affect you (miscommunication, personality clashes, etc). and it is up to you to decide whether it is really a red flag or not.

Vouching- A vouch is an icon you see at the top of someone's profile, once some other user has "Vouched" for them, saying they have complete and utter trust in that person. Here's the thing that makes it special: you can only vouch for someone once you yourself have been vouched for by three different people on Each of those people in turn must have been vouched for by three different people, etc, etc. Anyone who has been vouched for has made deep connections in the couchsurfing community, and is known and trusted by those around them. Ideally you should only vouch for someone who you have both hosted and been hosted by, but failing that, just make sure it is someone you trust-- once you vouch for them, anything they do is reflected back on you.

Verification- It's the first and easiest step you can do, because you can do it by yourself. It's a three step process that leads to yet another prominent icon on your profile. The first step is locking in your name and physical address. Once you've done this, the couchsurfing team will mail you a postcard with a code on it. When you get it, you will enter in the code to verify you live (or at least get mail) at this address. This is the bare minimum of verification. The functionality of it is that in the unlikely event that any sort of legal complaint is lodged against a user, the local authorities can at least track them down by physical address. The last step to Verification is optional and only really shows dedication to the concept of couchsurfing- a monetary donation.

Now I know some surfers who object to this donation on principle-- they say that every other aspect of couchsurfing is 100% free of charge and always should be. But creating and maintaining a community that has more users than Facebook had just a few years ago costs an enormous amount of time and money. Since has no advertising anywhere on its site, donations are its only source of revenue. I say they've earned it. It's a different amount depending on the country you came from, but it's almost always about the price of one night in a hostel dorm bed in your country (Americans for example pay US$25). It's well worth it.

Together, with the fact that all messages through couch surfing are recorded, these safeguards make the backbone of couchsurfing security and should be the first things you look for when considering any potential host or surfer.

Speaking of looking for surfers, here's a special concern for those wondering "is couch surfing safe for women alone?" First of all, yes, it is. More than a million women are on the site and have had no problems. But if you're still worried, I would like to point out that you can be very specific in your search by gender, age, keywords (good way to find common interests), and specific location. A lot of women tell me they wouldn't feel comfortable staying with a strange man they don't know. Simple answer: restrict your search of hosts to women only.

If you want to read further, I recommend what has to say on the subject themselves.

Up next, Tips for surfers, followed by tips for hosts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Travel Tip: Couchsurf

If you don't know what "couchsurf" means, you are missing out. has begun to revolutionize world travel. It is a social network of over 2.5 million people across more than 200 countries worldwide. And just about all of them are willing to let you sleep at their place for no charge.

It's a simple concept. You let travelers crash at your place, and other travelers will let you crash at theirs. Not just any travelers of course-- people can only come stay once you invite them, there is a sophisticated reference and vouching system to determine if they're trustworthy (and how to hold them legally accountable if they aren't). But as accommodation is typically a huge chunk of any traveler's budget, this method can be a huge boon to those trying to see the world for less.

However, couchsurfing is about more than just a free place to stay. It's about all the things you can learn by being the guest of a different culture. A real guest, not just a lone customer in a hotel room. If you are a thoughtful and conscientious guest, you can learn far more from your host in an hour than you might have learned in a day with your guidebook. Finding a couchsurfing host who loves their home is the best and fastest way to get to the exciting, authentic travel experiences that the people on the tour buses can only dream of.

Likewise, as a host, this is very cheesy, but it's true: you're opening your door to the world. Not only are you meeting people from other countries, but you're meeting travelers from other countries. People with stories from literally anywhere. And from a personal perspective, it's a great way to deal with travel withdrawal, comparing notes.

The majority of couchsurfers are single travelers in their twenties. But I've hosted teens, stayed with 70-year-olds, and met entire families surfing couches together. There are added challenges to these things of course, but they can be done.

If you're curious about couchsurfing, go to the website's community page, and search for the place where you currently live. You'll find a forum of couchsurfers near you. If you're in a major city, they probably have one or several weekly gatherings-- usually just hanging out at a bar or coffee shop. For example, If you're in Seattle, the group usually hits happy hours in various bars around 5pm (rotates every week, check their board for details). In New York there's a Thursday evening event at Affair on Eighth in Greenwich Village that usually gets going around 8:30. Go join them, they're probably the friendliest crowd you'll ever meet.

If you want to learn more about this site and community, stay tuned. I'll have more posts coming soon-- first about what makes the site so safe to use, second about the basics of surfing for couches, and finally a little bit about hosting.