As you probably know all too well, spring break is coming up soon. Since I spent my last spring break (and the weeks before and after it) in bed with a fractured pelvis, I figured I had to go do something good this year — but what? What could I do that would be cheap but still far enough away to be adventurous? (My aversion to airplane fares and, as an environmental science major, the fossil fuels they use, mean that I haven’t been farther away than Utah in way too long.) In a show of how boring my life is, this question has been one of the weightier matters on my mind for the past month or two.
Luckily, though, I have a friend from Austin, Texas. Why is this lucky? Well, she’s cool, but she’s also going to South by Southwest, the paragon of alternative music festivals, and I’m going with her. We’ll stay with family, and attend the free shows that apparently fill every spare parking lot and alleyway, and probably get embroiled in various shenanigans — and I’ll be paying relatively little for the whole shebang.
The reason this all works so well is because I have connections — and a place to stay — in Austin. Knowing people wherever you’re going really is often the key, but I can’t be expected to have good personal friends everywhere, right? That’s why I’m so infatuated with couchsurfing.org , a website that connects travelers with people willing to share their homes for a night or two. The organization has actually been around for a few years now, so maybe I’m preaching to the choir here. But I happen to know there are a few people out there just agonizing over what to do with spring break –go couch surfing! Couch surfing makes accommodations completely free, but it also introduces you to friends in the neighborhood. And it seems like you could arrange a plan on relatively short notice.
I first heard about couchsurfing almost four years ago, and have been drooling over the idea ever since, but I still have yet to use it. At least until I’m done with school, it has to stay more of an excellent source of procrastination material than a real option. Seriously, though, just perusing the home page, there are couches available everywhere from Pakistan to Singapore to Arizona or Chile. I get lost for hours envisioning myself raging in Argentina or India, for kind-of-almost-free.
It sounds a little sketchy at first glance, I know, but it seems like experiences have really only been overwhelmingly positive; the couchsurfing website tells me that in the last day, there have been thousands of new introductions and only ten negative experiences. Comments and previous ratings are an important part of the site, and safety seems like a major part of the setup. I have a few friends who have using couchsurfing.org in their travels, and no one has a bad word to say about it. The only people who participate are fellow travelers, and they tend to be a mellow (if eccentric) bunch.
All this thinking about traveling is making me antsy; what am I doing sitting here on my couch instead of on a Brazilian couch? Well, finishing a degree for one thing, so I should probably stay and finish. Unfortunately. But couchsurfing.org really does make the world seem like such a smaller, friendlier place, one where I could actually hang out on a Brazilian couch. I think that’s probably the point of such a site, as well as to make travel just a little bit easier (and a lot cheaper!) for all of us antsy young people.