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Couch Surfing – Brainwashing or Converting to the Cause?

I think it’s pretty safe to say I have lived a pretty tame life when it comes to experimentation and venturing into the unknown; if something smells fishy, and it’s not fish – but, especially if it is fish – I’d be best to pass on it. Sure, I could miss out on a sweet learning experience and story, but I’d really rather not eat the stinky, past it’s prime fish. It’s not a life philosophy that everyone subscribes to, but it’s just how I roll.

Love those Spanish streets…

A few days following my sweet bench and drug-stalker adventure in the fair city of Barcelona, my travel companions and I were setting out to spend our last night sleeping in less than conventional accommodations. Yes, we would be crashing on someone’s couch.

Maybe I was naïve, but I had never heard of such a concept and I could not imagine ever wanting to partake in it. My friend however, was stoked. He had heard about this on one of his hippie love-in share-fest commune forums and thought it was the next big advancement in travel culture.

Him: “Dude… it’s going to be sweet.”

Me: “Are you sure? It seems sketchy. I mean we’re staying at someone’s house for free.”

Him: “Yeah. That’s awesome!”

Me: “What are the hosts getting out of it?”

Him: “I don’t know… I think it’s an exchange of culture for people without having to leave their home. Doesn’t that sound awesome?”

Me: “Uhh… sure?”

A common theme in my worst case scenarios is the harvest of my organs and I would be lying if I didn’t suspect there was a 90% chance of that happening in this situation. Then again, I could be overreacting. But still… most people, and I think I can get away with proclaiming this, are wary of free accommodations in foreign countries. How can you sleep with visions of being night diddled by a stranger dancing in your head?

Some people may love it, I just found it awkward…

As would be expected, not well. The guy was single, owned every computer known to man (in different stages of dismantlement), and lived in an apartment too small for himself let alone three extra guests. The previous night’s tenet was just vacating when we arrived and he smelled vaguely of ripe cheese and urine – the trademark scent of any travel mooch.

It turned out our host was a Catalan nationalist, determined to inform us of the ills of everything Spanish from its vulgar language to its barbaric leisure pursuits. We realized there was a strong possibility that he had people sleep on his couch as a means of converting people to his cause. Not really sure what to say, we let the conversation drift where it may until finally his estranged pre-teen son showed up for the night after having a feud with his mother, you know, just to break the tension.

Worthy of mention though, is that he did take us to the airport in the morning, so it wasn’t all a loss. Oh, and I am still in possession of all my vital organs. I’m not saying I lost hope in humanity after the experience, as it was an enlightening experience that surely took me out of my comfort zone and made me realize it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it may have given me some hope that there are people out there who are halfway decent and not solely after financial gain. Fishy fish didn’t taste that bad! On the other hand, it did not sit well with me and even my eternally optimistic friend decided he would not be couch surfing again – there was just something weird about it. It just wasn’t for us.

It sure beat sleeping on the beach again…

I know the thought of crashing for free and meeting interesting people at the same time may appeal to some but, then again, the same can be said about drum circles and other hippie nonsense. I’ll continue paying and complaining about it, thank you very much.

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