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Friday, February 24, 2012


What are you crazy, letting strangers stay at your house with your family????

Welcome to my world.  Here I go...breaking the mold again, living outside the "norm".

Last spring, my two eldest blessings had graduated from homeschool high school. I wanted to take a memorable family trip before their life paths took them this way or that, farther from the family, be it schedule or geography. I had been saving money from my ESL Homestay tutoring but we still had a very tight budget. I was exploring alternatives for lodging other than in hotels. Here comes CouchSurfing.....

I can now look back in time and remember coming across a guy wearing a t-shirt that said "CouchSurfing" on it. But at the time I thought, ha ha, it was some kind of statement about being lazy, like a couch potato, or another term for bed-hopping. I took note of it enough to remember it now but at the time I didn't "get it". I do now.

In July, one of my ESL students and I were at the top of the Seattle Space Needle waiting for the sun to set so we could see both the city in the daylight and the night lights of Seattle from above. Sitting next to us were two young men. One was speaking with an accent and I was trying to not-so-obviously detect from where. Alas, it was French. My student happen to be a darling young beauty from France. She struck up a conversation with the strapping young man and found out he was couch surfing. As we descended the Space Needle expedition we started talking about couch surfing. I thought I'd be fun and adventurous to meet strangers and be so bold to ask if me and my friend could crash on their couch but I would be afraid to do it by myself as a woman. And I don't think I would sleep very well with my antennae up throughout the night. Okay, so I tuck that into my brain somewhere to be retrieved later this summer.

Seaching for lodging alternatives in August, I considered hostels. My husband and I stayed in one that was completely empty except for us in Maui. It was cheap and we had the place to ourselves. That was before children and the flight tickets were a $99 special that I spent the night in the airport to get. That is another story. I stayed in a hostel in Israel with a rather large group from my church. Again, great price and we were the only group in the place. But taking my five children was way to expensive to stay in a hostel, I might as well get two hotel rooms. That goes without saying, I don't want them in some hostel environments anyway. is another alternative. Again, it could cost the same as a hotel so that didn't fly either. What about this couch surfing thing? Hmmm... Let me see what some people say about it on the web.

The search begins. I find that there is an organization that is called I did a lot of reading on their website. I learn they have a system of checks and balances to help everyone determine if the host and guest are a good fit. You can accept or decline. You can just meet up at a coffeeshop or meet up at an organized local event. This is intriguing. I set up my profile and to see what happens. (I did talk to my darling husband, and then to the kids, before opening our home to strangers. They are already use to it anyway, with my ESL homestay students arriving every so often.) Within three days I had three requests to stay at our house. This was exciting. What have I gotten us into now?!

The first CouchSurfer was a sweet woman in her 30s from Taiwan, then an 18 year old young man from Ukraine, who fit right in with the family, and then a disgruntled guest. I didn't want to be discouraged from the hard-to-please. So I took the kids to a coffee meet up meeting in Seattle to hear from others about their experiences. It wasn't easy breaking into the conversation, but once I did I was happy to have gone. Soon after, I was a day tour guide for a couple from France who just wanted a local to show them around. They didn't speak much English and I don't speak much French. We took a picture together, waved and said our au revoirs.

The big jump was finding a big enough couch for my five kids and myself. My husband would be joining us later on the trip, flying down to meet us in San Diego.

I found a math teacher CouchSurfer host in northern California, who was a member of a church I was very familiar. His profile only offered a couch for four. I sent him a message anyway, asking if he would stretch his couch for us. He did!

We arrived late in the night. I tentatively went into the apartment, taking in the surroundings and evaluating if I felt safe. It wasn't but a few moments and we were all smiles. Introductions were made, me, my kids, "Frederic" and his roommates. We stayed up even later into the night talking, sharing and praying together.

Where in the world do you live?
"Frederic" opens his home to many people who come to northern California to attend church conferences, and he rents bedrooms to male students attending the church ministry school. There are three futons in the living room and two outside in the gazebo on the small patio. After much talk, brownies and ice cream we eventually fell into bed exhausted from the long hours on the road, and the thrill of our first CouchSurfing gig. We are now officially CouchSurfers!  Three of us slept inside and three slept outside in the still warm summer air.

The next day when we were back on the road my youngest son, 12 years old, confessed he was somewhat unsure of CouchSurfing at a stranger's home. Now, that he's been through it, he reveals "CouchSurfing is great!"

Last Wednesday, our latest CouchSurfers left to go back to Canada. We have hosted CouchSurfers now just six months later from: Taiwan, China, Ukraine, Korea, and Canada. In the next few weeks, we will host CouchSurfers from Germany and Sweden.

Have I piqued your interest? Check out