Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A New Way to Travel

Senior Gordon student Scotland Huber spent two semesters studying in Oxford. During his time in the U.K., he took the opportunity to travel in Europe using the increasingly popular way to travel cheaply: couchsurfing.
He writes of his couchsurfing experience on the continent:
“I first heard of this peculiar method of travel from two friends. One took a trip to Italy for a few days and the other, a friend I made during my semester in Oxford, was fortunate enough to spend a month of her summer exploring far more of the United States than I as a native had ever dreamed of seeing. Their secret: couchsurfing.
“Couchsurfing is a free, Internet-based, international hospitality service that connects travelers to one another. Individuals create accounts full of as much personal information as possible, then can search the 232 countries and territories covered by CouchSurfing, find someone with an open couch, and simply ask to stay with them.
“Already being so close to Europe, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to travel, but I couldn’t afford to incur the normal expenses. Therefore, for its economic advantages I explored couchsurfing, but I was unaware at the time how much it had to offer beyond its price.
“Two of my friends and I bought Eurorail (unlimited European rail travel) passes to take us from Porto, Portugal, through eight different cities to Geneva, Switzerland. For 20 days we stayed with American immigrants, college students, retired TV documentarians, and married couples. We slept on floors, beds and, of course, couches. Many of our hosts were native to their area, and all of them spoke both English and the native language. Some of our hosts took us out to dinner, some made us home-cooked authentic Portuguese cuisine. We did have the occasional host who lived outside the city, but most of the time we stayed right in the middle of the culture we wanted to explore. It was magnificent. Even better than all of that, we made friends. We talked about religion, politics, art, food, culture, America and countless other things. Couchsurfing felt like a natural way to travel. There was something organic and profoundly human about it—relying on others, sleeping in homes, building relationships—and it felt like a scriptural way to travel.
“Obviously couchsurfing carries with it a certain amount of necessary caution, but I do think it is both simultaneously safe and adventurous. I think it is a fantastic way to travel for the individual (or group) who wishes to more fully engage the culture they are traveling in—and doesn’t mind sleeping in less-comfortable quarters. Couchsurfing provided a perspective of our destinations that we would never have been able to attain from a hostel pamphlet or a travel book, and I plan to couchsurf the next chance I get.”
To hear more from Scot, visit his blog.

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