India, New Zealand, Germany, Poland, Spain, France and Turkey to name a few...
Surfing -- you know I am all about it. And I am sure you know of couch surfing, whether it be in the form of a flashback from 1969 or a current reality (p.s. your friends are getting tired of your dirty laundry all over their couch). You might have also read about my brief encounters with couch surfing in previous posts, but over the weekend I had what one could consider a "full on CS experience", and I would like to share it with you.
Yes, there is actually a website called Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing.org to be exact. The mission of this website is to connect travelers with other travelers as well as locals all over the world. It is not only a website that hooks people up with a free place to stay for the night, but also a forum to post casual activities like, "Drinks tonight at Bondi", so that people such as myself who don't have too many friends don't have to drink alone. Noble, don't you think?
While I usually use CS to meet people to surf with, this past weekend I decided to join a camping trip to Jervis Bay, three hours south of Sydney. I saw that a few people I know (and like) were attending, so I decided, what the hell, and signed up.
By the night before we were to leave, nearly thirty people had signed up for the trip. How was anybody ever going to organize and coordinate getting thirty people - mostly backpackers, who are about as easy to herd as cats - into cars at 9am on a Saturday morning?
Miraculously, people showed up on time, perhaps because the organizer, a guy named Dan, threatened to leave anybody late behind (which I am pretty sure we did). By 9:30 we were on the road headed for Jervis Bay. I was riding with my buddy Alex, who is also a keen surfer (the real kind) so along the way we sussed out a few waves.
Although we had an agonizingly long stop at a Woolworth's for everybody who didn't buy food and drinks to do so before we went out into the boonies, everything was amazingly well coordinated. I guess it just comes down to the fact that, being adults, when told to be at a certain place at a certain time, we can usually do it.
Around three in the afternoon we finally made it to the campsite, where the rangers stuck us in the far corner so as not to disturb any of the nice families, which we managed to do anyway. However, we had a nice big space to ourselves - our big, happy family.
The thing that struck me most about this experience was the cultural mismash of people. It was amazing. We had people from all over the world: the UK, the US, France, Spain, Estonia, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Poland, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Russia, New Zealand, China, Japan, India and Australia. We had Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Hindus, atheists and devotees. Sure, there were a few religious and political discussions, but people were far more concerned with playing soccer (football), swimming, drinking, eating and having a good time than solving the world's problems.
No cheesy icebreaker games but a cheesy underwater picture (or 200).
There were no cheesy icebreaker games and although there was a general game plan: arrive 3:00pm, start drinking 3:01pm, we were all free to do as we pleased. Alex and I considered sneaking off to go find a decent wave to surf, but decided to hang out with the group and get to know people a bit better.
There is something a bit exhausting about starting a friendship from square one, but it is exciting and exhilarating as well. Particularly with Couchsurfing, people come from such different backgrounds than mine that they always have at least one mind-bending story to tell. From sharing ridiculously strong (and bile-like) spirits with a Turkish dude to watching two British chicks trying to set up a tent, we had many entertaining moments.
I tend to like the people I meet on CS. Granted, you can pick and choose the people you want to interact with, but I find that, in general, Couchsurfers are genuine people, interested in other people and doing interesting things. They are the people who did more than just talk about getting out there - they are out there doing it right now.
But you don't necessarily have to be a backpacker on a budget to be involved with CS. I have met a few Ozzies that host couchsurfers just to keep their lives interesting. When things get a little boring, invite a Russian to crash on your couch for the night and that should spice things up!
Granted, as with meeting anybody online, one has to use good judgement when meeting and finding people to stay with. Everybody has a profile and can get responses and feedback from other people, but I guess to takes faith in humanity for this site to work.
As far as my experiences have gone, Couchsurfing has only given me more faith in humanity, as it is not only good for a casual beer and an interesting conversation, but also demonstrates that people from all over the world and from all different backgrounds and can have one hell of a time roughing it out in the wilds of Jervis Bay for 24 hours or so.