Today’s post is from cantaloupe, a 25-year-old American living in Abu Dhabi. I stumbled across her I-don’t-know-how-long-ago via one of her previous blogs (two blogs ago?) and followed her adventures in teaching abroad with interest. Some couchsurfing may be in my near future, so I was more than casually curious about her recent experience. Take it away!
This past summer I was lucky enough to travel in America. I’m from America, but I’ve been living abroad for a job and thus don’t have a place to stay in the States anymore. But I do have a lot of friends. And these friends were gracious enough to offer me their couches and futons, more couches and futons that I even needed. Free place to lay my head at night? I’m in.
But my summer of couch surfing offered far more than just a free place to stay.
One of the most unexpected perks of crashing with people was the ability to peer into their private lives. Which sounds really creepy, but was actually really awesome. No matter how brief my stay, I learned a lot about each one because I was intimately in their space. I saw where they took their showers and what foods they think are worth stocking. I learned their daily routines and secret habits. One friend that I stayed with is loud and outgoing when we’re out, but has some surprisingly hermit habits. She turned down multiple invitations just to stay in and watch TV. Another friend is a total minimalist, with cupboards so bare that even I, a minimalist myself, was shocked.
And seeing all of their private lives made me realize some things I wanted to change in my own private life. I saw the clever way a friend had arranged her bags and jewelry and made plans to copy the model into my own bedroom. I realized what clean really means, by seeing dirt in odd places that I rarely check for in my own home, but easily noticed in a new one. I saw an inexpensive TV dinner tray used as a side table and imagined it perfectly into that empty corner of one of my rooms. And I realized how nice it might be to turn down invitations to stay in and watch TV.
Plus I experienced new brands and media. I have a routine of my own, after all. I watch the same shows, read the same genres of books and have certain brands that I prefer. But as a guest, you don’t necessarily get to pick the channel or the label of shampoo. I found a great new shampoo in one bathroom. I played against a friend in a computer game that I found insanely addictive. I played it on a MacBook Pro too, despite the fact that I refuse to buy Apple for myself. I watched sports that I had forgotten that I enjoy. I’m still not going to go buy an Apple product, but I totally downloaded the addictive computer game I played on it.
After four weeks in five different borrowed spaces, I got to see new sides of the world. Sure it’s great to travel to foreign lands, but I spent my summer in cities I’ve lived in and it was just as eye opening. Just in a more private, self-revelatory way.
Have you ever couchsurfed (formally or informally?)