I’ve been researching all the different, cheap alternatives to hotels and I came across Couch Surfing. It sounded great: Free place to stay, interactions with the locals and did I mention Free!
But how would this work with kids?
Was this even an option?
Going out as a single traveler or as a couple, this seemed like an obvious choice. Thankfully, the website had some good practical advice and yes, it was possible to do with kids. It would be a little harder and not as flexibility was still an option.
One of the first pieces of advice was to be a host in your own home before trying it out on the road. Especially for kids, this would get them used to the idea and make them more comfortable with strangers. I want to teach my kids the ability to meet new and interesting people and go outside their comfort zones.
When we reach out to new things and people our brain explodes with possibilities we never imagined.
Here in America, we teach our kids “Stranger, Danger”. I never liked this very much and it explains a lot about our culture as Americans. I want my kids to be able to trust their instincts, but when they get into a situation they’ll need to have enough courage and knowledge to get them selves out of it. If we teach our kids to just avoid every stranger, how can we teach them anything about being a kind and generous person willing to help and meet others? I want my kids to feel confident with adults and kids.
So, I signed up and was a little apprehensive about letting someone into my home. After all, “Stranger /Danger” takes on a whole new perspective when you take in a complete stranger into your own home. Meeting and talking to people in public is one thing, but letting them stay in your home? That just boarder lined crazy and irresponsible parenting.
If I wanted my kids to go beyond there comfort zone, I had to show them I was willing to try too. If I couldn’t do it in the comfort of my own home, how were we going to try it ourselves?
Living in Santa Cruz we got many requests off the site. I’m sure we got even fewer since you can create your own profile and as a family of four we may sound less than “ideal” for many travelers. I was very clear that I had two small kids, went to bed early, woke up early and I would be busy with kids routines during the day. I also let people know what we were doing next year so we could have some travel info exchange. This seemed to attract the “right” people.
Turns out there’s a lot of traveling single women looking for a safe place and the idea of a family away from home sounded “safe” for them too.
Meet Sophia from Germany
Having red hair and a light complexion, I have to admit it helped that she looked like our long-lost cousin. I lived in Germany for 3 years as a child so I thought this would be fun. I was determined to ask if Gummies were really pronounced “gooomie” like I remembered. Turns out I was right! Couldn’t wait to have a “I told you so” moment with the husband.
Free Truly is The Great Equalizer!
Having her stay for free put less pressure on me to be a host.
Turns out, she didn’t have any expectations about me being a host. My husband wanted to offer our place on AirBNB, but Free is the great equalizer and I really believe “Less is More” and you “get what you give”. I ended up taking her surfing, but the other days she was busy meeting other people and exploring Santa Cruz herself.
I was amazed at how the power of the internet helped her meet up, and get rides around and from city to city. Talk about trust! To top it off, she was the epitome of ingenuity using resources I never knew were available as a traveler. It was her first time and mine. We quickly confessed we wouldn’t be telling our mothers.
The Kids Reaction
The kids absolutely loved her! I was quickly fired from bedtime book reading during her stay. She had great stories to tell. She especially had great stories about meeting, trusting and following her gut to get out of sticky situations. Having someone with an accent and from another country really sparked the travel bug in the kids. They were sad to see her go and wondered if we’d ever meet again.
Again another lesson in life: Some people we may meet only once in our lives but they can still have a great and every long-lasting impact. You never know what connections you’ll make or if you’ll ever see people again in your life time.
Will we do it again?
Since her stay we’ve had many other requests but we’ve just gotten so busy it never seemed like the right time to do it again. I turned my hosting to “off” status for now, but I do hope we can try to do this on the road.
When we get back I hope to offer our place on occasions so we can wet our appetite for new and interesting like minded travelers. It might buffer the withdrawal a little when we aren’t able to travel.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll meet some people on our travels and be able to we’ll meet them again by opening up our home and hosting for a few nights.