Posts Tagged ‘couchsurfing’
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!
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!
I know, it has been far too long since I last blogged. But thanks for continuing to follow my Facebook posts!
Been (couch)surfing in Hermosa Beach lately. In all my years in L.A., over a decade, I have never spent so much time here as I have lately. I never wanted to be one of those people to live in the South Bay, for “those people” seldom seemed to leave it. Instead of opting for a birthday party in Santa Monica, oftentimes, my friends would stay in the South Bay. And now I know why. It is gorgeous here:
That pic was from my friend’s deck!
Here it is in the day:
And living so close to the beach (two blocks) motivates you to exercise every day, walking or biking on The Strand here, alongside the Pacific Ocean.
Saw this dad pushing his baby… Aww!
And this is one of my favorite houses. (A girl can dream, right?)
And here’s one thing from The Strand in Hermosa that we should all keep in mind:
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
And all the exercising makes you eat healthier. Here’s a pineapple/coconut yogurt-and-strawberries smoothie I made after my last walk.
I don’t want to leave this couch, but I must.
Later tonight, off to another South Bay town I go – Manhattan Beach.
And here’s one final sign I LOVE:
“Leave only footprints.”
What kind of footprints are you leaving in the world?
A few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store and only had a few minutes to grab a handful of things. In the paper towel aisle, I came across a frantic woman. Her curly hair was in all directions, and more black mascara was below her eyes than on her lashes. I love talking to people in grocery stores (or anywhere, really) and even have a rule not to bring my cell phone into stores like so many other people do, chatting away or texting. I prefer to be 100% present in my surroundings, to talk to other customers like we did back in the day, comparing apples to oranges – literally. But when the frantic woman approached me, I took a couple of steps back. I was in a hurry…
“Could I ask you something?” she said as she wiped away mascara, like a clown badly applying makeup. She was holding two types of paper towels, Brawny and Viva, so perhaps that was her question? “Sure,” I said. “I need to boil this chicken for my dog, Oscar,” she continued as she showed me the freshly packaged chicken breasts. “He’s really sick and the vet said to give him plain, boiled chicken. Can you tell me how to make it? Do I just put it in water and cook it? I’m a vegetarian. The doctor said not to add any seasonings. Do you eat meat? I really love Oscar…”
As she continued to ask me question after question at rapid-fire speed, I scolded myself for having been hesitant to have her talk to me. I guess I feared her having a question more than the actual question. We continued talking about her dog and how to boil chicken for several minutes. At one point, I even offered to come over and make the chicken for her. By the end of our conversation, even more mascara was on her face, as she was crying. And I was too, at the love she had for Oscar. “I’m so grateful for the advice,” she said. “So many people just talk on their cell phones and can’t be bothered to answer someone standing right in front of them.”
Every time I’ve eaten or made chicken since then, I can’t help but think of that woman and her dog. I hope the chicken worked for him.
Do you talk to people in the grocery store? Or do you just try to get in and get out?
Have a deadline… but it’s too loud to get any work done? See how I went from writing in silence to needing noise in my latest couch-surfing article, right here in WOW!
I just had my couch-surfing anniversary: two-and-a-half years. Who knew a 52-week project would turn into a 130-week one… and counting. The thanks and gratitude I have to every friend and acquaintance who have opened up their homes – and loveseats, sectionals, and yoga mats – to me is immeasurable.
“So why are you still couch-surfing?” people ask.
With the still-unstable job market and my ever-excessive student loan debt (which is where my “rent” money goes each month), taking my sofa out of storage and putting it into a place of my own hasn’t happened yet. Nor do I want to risk it… and then discover I can suddenly not make rent one month. Believe me, that was the most stressful part about having an apartment.
Besides, I still have many friends’ couches to sleep on… Have I slept at your place yet?