I don’t hang out with little kids much. Not many of my friends have any (yet)! This past week, I couch-surfed in the Old Irving Park area of Chicago with two friends and their little kids (2 and 5). “Such good practice!” my grandma said. (Hah-hah!) It was fun, not to mention quite educational.
I learned that putting a Transformer together (“in 17 easy steps”!) is tough (actually, impossible!).
That little boys love digging for worms (then hanging them just centimeters from my face until I tell them to let the worm “go home” and back into the garden, alive!).
I learned that they love yard work.
They also liked decorating the area by my couch with their artwork and stuffed animals, “in case you want to sleep with one”.
And they tried to charm me with freshly picked flowers.
They also LOVED to play Hide and Go Seek.
And I had to try my best to pretend not to see them during this round.
Then, the two-year-old wanted us to go grocery shopping.
“We’ll take my car,” he said. (I didn’t fit inside, so I said I’d walk and meet him there. These young kids sure encourage us adults to be creative!)
When he stopped “driving,” he double-checked that he had locked the door.
He then decided to re-park it, along the fence in his backyard.
I asked what we were buying. He said, “Broccoli, bread, and chocolate ice cream.” I asked for some yogurt. “Okay,” he said in his cute, squeaky two-year-old voice.
On the way home from “the store,” he ran out of gas and decided to push the car home.
Then, I fake-ate dirt from the garden, telling him it was delicious ice cream. (He fake-ate some, too.)
He had not wanted to eat his real lunch, PB&J and a yogurt, so I suggested we eat one of them. He agreed, chose the yogurt, and we called it a day! (Well, at least for that hour!)
Later, he didn’t want a nap, but I sure did!!
So, there you have it… Even if you’re not a “kid person,” per se, you’ll quickly become one when you couch-surf at a place with children! When I left today, they hugged and kissed me goodbye and the five-year-old said, “I’ll miss you, Natalia.” The two-year-old repeated him and I had to blink and look up to prevent crying in front of them. I promised I’d visit sometime very soon…
I am a wimp!
Yes, I grew up in Chicago, amidst the unbearable, arctic-like winters… but couch-surfing in the cold is a whole other story! (Guess I got spoiled couch-surfing in L.A. — plus, having a car made it a breeze versus braving the buses, subways and the cold here! That’s one way to pack light! Who wants to lug more than one suitcase in this weather? The other day, it was 70 degrees! This afternoon, it was sunny and in the 50s. I don’t get it! Earlier today, a Chicago friend told me, “You know Chicago — we get four seasons in one day.” Now, I believe him!)
Here’s a screengrab from a friend’s place where I’m staying tonight:
Yes, a nice 38 degrees — and it doesn’t feel like 38 degrees! (It feels like zero!)
I’m packing for my next couch, in Oak Park. Yay, it’s warmer there (Weather.com says)! We’ll see!
If you have any tips for surviving this coooollllllddddd, let me know!
I always love coming back to Chicago — and meet such great people through Couchsurfing.com each time I do! (I wanted to sleep at my grandma’s nursing home, but I wasn’t old enough!) Aside from couches, CS.com hosts many events throughout the city — game nights, outings to see the Cubs, etc.
It’s a great way to meet people from, literally, all over the world! Have you ever used Couchsurfing.com or attended one of their events? Tell me if you have or do!
Lately, it feels like 52 roommates, anyway. Potential roommates. Finding the right one is tough!
Many of you have heard the news — there is a room for rent where I live!
Isn’t it charming?
It’s the upper unit of a duplex and about 100 years old — though it was remodeled last year!
Here’s another view:
And, finally, the office area/dining room:
Contact me privately if you are interested, or know someone who may be. (Furniture & decor are subject to change, of course!) I will provide more specifics then. Thank you!
Then again, I can always go back to couch-surfing! Hmm…
Lately, The Clash is in my head:
“…Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An’ if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know…”
I know this blog is called 52 Weeks, 52 Couches – but now it’s time for 52 Weeks, 52 Couch-surfers!
As a lot of you know, I now have a place to call my own – with my boyfriend, that is. We picked and chose an adorable duplex together, centrally located near Hollywood. And… we have two couches and a great air mattress!
We’re trying to host couch-surfers and friends as much as possible. And ever since the NPR article came out, we’ve been getting a ton of requests and we’re constantly updating our Couch Calendar! Are you next?
A very good friend who loaned me his couch several times in the last decade starts staying with us tonight!
After four years of being a guest on couches all over L.A., here’s a few tips if you’re going to host a guest:
1) Make sure they’re comfortable – have enough (clean) blankets, (clean/stain-free) towels, toiletries, a sleep/eye mask (if you don’t yet have curtains), ear plugs, etc. Pretend you’re a concierge (or housekeeper) at a high-end hotel and think of every possible thing you’d love as a guest (within reason!). Then prepare those things for your couch-surfer… Is the food stocked? Do they know where to find extra blankets? The thermostat? Light switches? Toilet paper? (A couple couches of mine had run out, and one couch host offered me crumpled Starbucks napkins from his pocket! Don’t let that happen to your guest!)
Here’s some starter toiletries we give (in addition to showing them our linen closet with more!):
2) Make sure you give them a key – and an Internet password – over half the couches I surfed had forgotten their WiFi passwords (which I grew to love after a while, but it’s still nice to have the option to be online). (If you are paranoid about giving it out, you can always create a guest account, change the password after they leave, or sign in for them!)
3) Make sure they don’t stay too long – which is obviously your call, but my couch-surfing research showed that 3-5 nights is optimal. Of course, I know this may vary based on your circumstances and theirs. If you want to keep them at your place for more than a week, I suggest breaking the time up a bit and have them stay elsewhere a few nights, too.
4) Make dinner/meals together – at least one. No, I don’t mean go out to dinner. I mean make dinner. Figure out an easy menu and create a meal together, talk and leave cell phones in another room. (A friend of mine once created a Cell Phone Valet at a birthday party – coolest thing ever! I personally try not to look at my phone once I get home from work, and I suggest this to all of you, too!) Talk to each other, not your phones!
5) Have fun – you never know when/if this friend will ever sleep over again, so be present and enjoy the moment(s). But take a hint if your guest needs some alone time or wants to get to bed!
Have any couch hosting or surfing stories to share? Feel free to do so in the comments!
As many of you know, after over four years of couch-surfing, I now have a place to call my own (well, renting, but still)!! But to keep with the couch-surfing spirit, I am now playing couch host! My boyfriend and I have an amazing duplex in Hollywood — so let us know if you need a place to crash! The rest of this month is already booked, and most of May…!
Here’s one of the couches, and you may even get your own room (depending on availability)!
Have you ever couch-surfed or hosted somebody? What was it like?
As much as I love couch-surfing — the communal aspect, the family aspect and getting to know my hosts/friends better than ever before — I also love having some “me” time via my house-/pet-sitting gigs. After all, over the past few years, I have had plenty of non-me time. This past week, as you may know from my Facebook page, I spent time on a boat in Marina del Rey. Talk about “me” time! Nothing but me and the sound of water, seagulls, and people walking on the dock outside the sailboat, their wood-planked footsteps scaring me in the middle of the night, making me think they were climbing onto my boat when, really, they were just walking toward land, probably to the bathroom. (Yes, my boat was minus a bathroom, too, but I soon grew accustomed to either running to dry land to the very-clean-for-a-communal-bathroom bathroom, or holding it till dawn.)
Would I recommend a non-couch-surfer to sleep on a boat? Absolutely. By looking at this picture, how could you not?
More so, I’d recommend that you find even a moment of “me” time every day, time to sail away. When on a couch, I usually find this late at night, when my couch hosts are sleeping. And, eventually, I began to relish the quiet on the water, even though it was hard for me to get used to at first. Though when my stay on the boat was over, I craved human connection again — conversation and face-to-face interaction with people instead of sea life. Hopefully, you do, too, and have a balance of both. See you back on the shore.
People often private message me and ask for tips on couch-surfing, as well as ask me other questions about my experiences, so here’s some answers to some of the most common questions:
YOU: Where do you find your couches? Websites like Couchsurfing.org?
ME: Actually, I am fortunate to have many friends and friends-of-friends who offer me couches, air mattresses, floors, and the like. Sometimes, even guest rooms! I usually stay with each person for three-to-seven nights, though I house and pet-sit, also, and so my time at someone’s place is usually longer then, anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
Couchsurfing.org is a fantastic organization, though. Sort of like an online dating site – but not for dating; rather, to find couches. People have profiles akin to Facebook, and have testimonials from others on their pages, so you are not choosing couches blindly. I have used Couchsurfing.org when traveling abroad, and had nothing but positive experiences. Feel free to private message me for more specific information.
YOU: You said you would couch-surf in L.A. for fifty-two weeks, but it has been much more than a year now. Why?
ME: Unfortunately and fortunately, yes, it has been over a year now. Actually, over three years. All because I spent the majority of the first year getting out of default with my numerous (about a dozen) student loans, making very high payments to student loan collection agencies, in order to get back in their good graces and to improve my credit score (which is important, and which many people my age/Gen X-ers don’t always take too seriously, though we should).
Long story short, the more I pay off my student loan debt, the better I feel about whittling down that $98,000 to thousands and thousands less now. Since I still make several student loan payments each month, I often say that I still have a landlord – not some middle-aged man, but the faceless Department of Education. J To pay off all my debt and to pay a three-dimensional landlord would be out of my means, financially. And for now, I choose my student loans.
Plus, I really love living with my friends. I recommend that everyone try it, whether or not you’re in debt. It will make you and your friends much closer… usually.
YOU: Do some people not understand your couch-surfing lifestyle?
ME: Of course, not everyone gets it. I think it’s a creative way of dealing with a serious problem. In 2009, I could not pay my rent and I did not want to leave L.A., either, for I feared that if I left, I would not return (as I had seen so many others do; working in film and TV is not easy and takes a lot of perseverance). So I turned to the one thing I had: friends. And they have been immeasurably kind and generous in opening up their homes and pull-out sofas for me. And I swear I will return the favor one day, when I get an apartment of my own again.
Also, couch-surfing and living on as little money as possible has taught me a lot. For instance, there are so many free things to do in the world, where money is not even required. Not to mention I have learned to travel with one, airline/carry on-sized suitcase and a sleeping bag. Sure, I have some things in storage, but I have realized that, when it really comes down to it, I can live without all that other stuff. People are really the most important commodity, hands down.
I can go on and on about couch-surfing… (If you have more questions, feel free to post them here or send me a message.) Thank you!