Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cowabunga duuuuuuuudes! How to couchsurf with nomads!

We've all been stranded places. 

In fact, I'm sure many of us have had to rely on complete strangers for directions, information or maybe even a place to stay and/or a lift home. Hell, when I was in Europe, strangers opened their homes to me left and right when I was lost with no place to go. It was amazing!

However, I've always felt like we're less hospitable in the states. I mean, have you ever been the one doing the helping? Have you ever picked up a hitch-hiker? Have you ever let a complete stranger stay at your house?

Besides letting "friends of friends" crash at my place, the closest I ever came to helping out a stranded traveler was when I was working at a restaurant in Ventura a few years ago. I happened to find a sleeping person (dressed like a gypsy!) in the women's restroom near the end of my shift. When I woke her up to see what was going on with her, she began to tell me how she needed money, because some guys she came to Ventura with from San Luis Obispo (2 1/2 hours away!) had just ditched her. So, I told her to wait for me to finish my shift, and then I gave her a lift to the train station all the way across town. I also gave her $5. Not much, but I figured it was a start. It was pretty scary, but also pretty eye-opening. The woman was obviously fucked up on some kind of drug, but I felt bad for her and wanted to do something. Perhaps it's because I kept picturing some asshole guys laughing about totally using her, getting her all fucked up and then leaving her in a town far away. (I'm like tooootally a feminist.) So, she didn't try to kill me or rob me. Instead, she thanked me the whole way, said some spacy things, offered me some pot (which I refused), and stunk up my car with patchouli oil.

You've gotta love those transient hippies.

Anyhow, here are just a few resources for those who want to help poor travelers, and for those who need a little help from strangers. This way, you don't have to go to sleep in the bathroom of a Greek restaurant. 

The Couch Surfing Project:
The name gives it away, but here's their hippified mission statement -- 
As a community we strive to do our individual and collective parts to make the world a better place, and we believe that the surfing of couches is a means to accomplish this goal. CouchSurfing isn't about the furniture- it's not just about finding free accommodations around the world- it's about participating in creating a better world. We strive to make a better world by opening our homes, our hearts, and our lives. We open our minds and welcome the knowledge that cultural exchange makes available. We create deep and meaningful connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures. CouchSurfing wants to change not only the way we travel, but how we relate to the world!
(SN&R's write-up about the Web site)

A similar mission statement --
Our aim is to bring people together - hosts and guests, travelers and locals. Thousands of Hospitality Club members around the world help each other when they are traveling - be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town. Joining is free, takes just a minute and everyone is welcome. Members can look at each other's profiles, send messages and post comments about their experience on the website.
Craigslist Ride Share:
I'm a little scared of Craigslist stuff sometimes. Here's a sample post that kind of creeps me out, just because it's so nice... also, he uses the phrase "velvet-bellied"  --
Hi there! Tomorrow morning I am headed to the beautiful land of north and could use some company for the long drive. From Sacramento on out, there will be room to comfortably seat 4 adults (or children masquerading as adults), 5 if we put an extra in the front middle bench seat. I'd be willing to drop you off in whatever town you wish along the way, be it Yuba City, Chico, Redding, Mt Shasta, Ashland, Medford, Grant's Pass, Roseburg... The plush, spacious, velvet-bellied boat of a car I'll be driving is a purple air-ride Lincoln Town Car- very comfortable and cushy for such a long venture, but unfortunately not equipped with A/C. I also have a bike rack on the back with room for one more bike!! I will be coming from Berkeley and am shooting for about an 11 am departure from Sacramento. Let me know who you are and where you need to go. You can reach me on my cell phone, any time, at XXXXXXX. Thanks very much for reading and I hope you have an excellent day. Happy travels!

This online guidebook may or may not have been started by a certain awesome musician named Tom Thumb, but I'm not sure if it's the same one. Either way, here's what this gang is all about. They get extra points for their stellar use of a certain (commonly masculine) default pronoun --
Road Junky Travel Guides are by no means the authority on the world. They are instead written to make you think, laugh and get a rough feel for a country. We go the extra step and tell you things other guides don’t and won’t dare to discuss. We’re for the inspired, independent traveler. The person who can just get up and go. The person who is moved by what she sees. The dreamers.


1 comment:

oki said...

there are wayy creepier craigslist rideshare ads, i know because i'm car-less and usually desperately fantasizing about traveling.

especially when they specify gender and start talking like its a personal ad...

but i've heard some great things about CouchSurfing