Sidebar on CouchSurfing

January 5, 2011

For the Daytona Beach News-Journal, where I work, I’ve been writing a series of articles about my month-long adventures in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales with my best friend. I mention CouchSurfing quite often. (I would love to provide links to said articles, but they disappear from the Web site after a week.)

A co-worker designing the April 19 MyWeek, the travel and arts section of the newspaper, mentioned that it would have an article on Couch Surfing, and she thought it would be great if I could create a sidebar about my experiences.

I wrote something on the fly, unsure whether it would be used, because the editor had the weekend off and I was going on vacation the next day and would be unable to speak to him. I left him an e-mail but didn’t hear anything the following week.

Happily, though, they used my sidebar. It’s nothing fancy, but it does accurately convey my experiences with the Web site.

Update: If you use Google News to find an article on CouchSurfing, my article is the first one to come up (at least today). Score!

Update 01/05/11: The News-Journal takes down its articles after two weeks, so here is the original article. Sorry, Twitter followers! I know now to check my links!

I hesitated when my best friend Jessica, a recent college graduate, mentioned CouchSurfing.com as a way to cut expenses during our month-long trip to visit Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. It didn’t help when people in the newsroom thought I would be showing up on the news soon — and not in a good way.

I didn’t need to worry because the Web site is all about fostering community and mutual respect. In Dublin, Ireland, nearly 20 people turned out for a random pub meet-up.

In Cork, Jessica and I met up with two American backpackers and an Irish journalist — whose friend on the phone turned out to be someone we had met in Dublin — for what turned out to be a spirited conversation with locals in a pub.

CouchSurfing.com turned out to be a fantastic way of meeting people, getting recommendations for places and easing convenience, particularly in Stratford-upon-Avon, where the hostel was miles away from the city center. We brought our host coincidentally her favorite sweets from a local shop and slept on a comfy pull-out couch. (I also managed to get actor David Tennant’s autograph from my host’s suggestion.)

Surfing doesn’t even have to be done during a trip. I made friends with an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University exchange student through the Web site. She turned out to live in the same apartment complex as me.

The important thing is not to be stupid about it. In meeting someone in York, England, we gave out the person’s name and phone number to the desk attendant “just in case.” Though the meeting started off OK with him picking us up from our farflung hostel, introducing us to people and conversing, he later became so drunk we had to walk back in the rain.

On the whole, however, couch surfing made our trip that much more memorable, and we now laugh about the cold walk we had in York.

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