What happens when you decide to avail yourself of the hospitality of a complete stranger? AMAZING things.
Years ago, I heard of a website called CouchSurfing. I thought it was a really cool idea – you get to meet people from all over the world, make some friends, have a place to crash next time you travel to Europe or wherever. Reviews and social media connections meant you could vet the people who wanted to stay with you or host you and make sure they weren’t axe murderers. I promptly signed up, and made all my roommates do the same (however, they weren’t as keen on the whole hosting idea that I was).
Fast forward 5 years, and as I prepped for my travels I decided to rustle up the old CS profile, partially to help keep costs low-ish, but mostly to meet people in the places I plan to travel and get the ‘inside scoop’. I hosted a couple of people at my place in Sydney (all AWESOME ladies) to work up the good karma, and some January I was ready to be a ‘surfer.’
So when we decided to head up to Airlie Beach, we looked around on CouchSurfing to see if there was anyone who seemed like they’d be able to show us around. We found a guy I’ll call “T”, someone with an overwhelming amount of positive reviews from a lot of people who had stayed with him. I sent a request, thinking maybe we’d get the inside scoop on good bars or restaurants.
What we got was probably worthy of being called: The best CouchSurfing experience anyone has ever had, ever.
T happens to be an avid boatsman of all sorts, and has ready access to a number of marine vehicles. Because he had a few days off from work, he decided we should all go on a two-day private tour of the islands of the Whitsundays. After a day out at Langford Reef to ‘warm the boat up’ (more on that later), we departed on day two for a full tour of the islands, an overnight at a magical place called Palm Bay on Long Island (more on that later too), and an afternoon at Whitehaven Beach before we returned to Airlie for the rest of our stay.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘OK, nothing in life is free. What’s the catch? Clearly he was angling for a way into one of your pants.’
I know, I thought it too at first. I mean, this level of generosity just doesn’t exist. Right?
Our host was a 100% perfect gentleman, never tried anything, never even hinted at anything untoward. And I think he just really enjoyed seeing his homeland (which is STUNNING) through new eyes every once in a while, and exploring with people who he would never otherwise have met. Of course, we cooked dinner for him and his flatmate every night we were at their house, and left them with several parting gifts since we not only saved on accommodation, but also saved the hundreds of dollars that a three-day private boat charter would have cost as well.
I’m not saying every experience will be this way, but I do have to say that I had a little bit of my faith in the goodness of humanity restored by the utterly selfless experience I had with a complete stranger in Airlie Beach.
If you’re interested in Couchsurfing, this travel blogger has a pretty good set of criteria he uses when looking CouchSurfing hosts. As a woman, I usually also require a mix of male and female reviews (only girls is a little suspect), more than 10 positive reviews and no negative reviews, and verification.
Til Next time, xoxo!