Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Best Kept Secret

Let me introduce you to Couch Surfing. It's one of those things that seemingly nobody knows about until you permeate its outer layer and then you realize that there are a million people all over the world that are not only familiar with it, but they live and breath it. I don't remember where I first heard of couch surfing, it is entirely possible that it came to me in a daydream while I was trying to figure out how to travel cheaply in Western Europe. At any rate, my trusty friend Google led me to the website and so it began.

I surfed the couches of two people in Amsterdam and three people in Paris. It was truly amazing. The warmth and hospitality of my hosts was incredible and a little shocking to my New York-jaded psyche. For example, two of my hosts left me alone in their apartments while they were at work. While I, of course, had no intention of doing something to betray their trust in me, why would I?, I was surprised to say the least. Though now that I have been indoctrinated in the Couch Surfing implicit circle of trust, I would not hesitate to do the same.

The most obvious reason to Couch Surf is for free lodging. And internet and sometimes breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The other obvious reason is because it is awesome. Not only do you have a local who can tell you all the cool things to do wherever you are staying, but you get to share travel war stories and have the comforts of home while you are away. Sometimes the bed you stay in is far more comfortable than what you would get at a hostel (pull out couches from IKEA are all over the world!), and sometimes it is not (two loveseat coushins splayed out on the floor, for example). But, regardless, the experiences and conversations are priceless.

I implore you, even if you have no travel plans right now, to find the Couch Surfing community in your town (It is there, trust me. They are in Ghana!) and go to a pub crawl or picnick. I went to two meetings when I was in Paris and met the most interesting people who have traveled the world and love to talk about it! Sure you can randomly meet really cool people in hostels, and I have, but your odds are better with couchsurfing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

One Week 'til Philly!

At this time next week I will be on a plane headed to Philadelphia for staging where I will meet all the other volunteers (there's 67 of us!) headed to Ghana on June 4th. We will spend 3 days getting acquainted with one another and learning about health and safety in Africa and what we can expect for the next 27 months. As eye roll-inducing ice breakers can be, I'm really excited to meet everyone and form a support system that I am sure to lean on over the course of my service. We will also be receiving the rest of our shots (Hep A, B, and C at the very least) and start taking malaria pills. Bring on the throbbing arms and weird dreams! I'm ready!