I’m struck by 3 things CouchSurfers have said: things Artem and Mike said to me, and something Martin wrote on the CS website about me:
What’s in it for the host?
— Artem, Russia
I hope he will manage to have couchsurfers from 100 countries and still like it.
— Martin Hytha, Czech Republic
It’s sort of strange to make friends with someone you’re probably never going to see again.
— Mike Liggett, Montana
Mike just said that 5 minutes ago as he and Bianca were walking down my driveway toward a bus to San Francisco and later Seattle and later home.
I’ve thought about that question a fair bit. When James Carville talks about his famous “War Room” days of electing a president, he talks about “Military Buddies” and how you develop a different connection with people you work so round-the-clock with. He thought he found that rare experience in the Presidential Campaign. I think you find a little bit of it in CouchSurfing.
You can have friends that you’ve known for years. You can be close. With a very few you might even vacation together. But sleeping under the same roof with others is fairly rare. CouchSurfing gives you that intense kind of connection. For a few days. And then as Mike said, realistically, you’ll never see 99% of them again. You’ll stay in touch with some online. Perhaps that’s good.
After Mike & Bianca got to the end of the driveway I left the cool, crisp morning air outside and went back into the heated home. Crossing to the kitchen I saw Mia & Maya sleeping on the living room floor. Other than your nuclear family you don’t generally see other people sleeping. So innocent. So vulnerable. So present.
I’ve been hosting CouchSurfers for about 4 months now. So far, 91 people from 37 countries.
I have no idea how long I’ll keep hosting.
Actually, I do have some idea: long enough to welcome visitors from 100 Countries into my home. That might be 2 years. Or less. Or more.
The diversity, wonder, beauty, and humanity these past 91 visitors from 37 countries have brought is nothing less than extraordinary.
The small frustrations like CSers who ask to stay and then cancel at the last minute (about 10% in the “Regular Season” and about 50% in the “Holiday Season”) or visitors who leave dirty dishes around the kitchen and house (almost never in the Regular Season, almost always in the Holiday Season) or the shy CouchSurfer who comes and goes without saying a word to you, these small frustrations are quickly forgotten. The palpable humanity lives a lot longer.
Still, it is memory, in all its complex ways, that defines us. To have so many “short term memories” that don’t exactly become “long term” is curious.
Is there some gestalt of the surfing? Do many different memorylets add up some whole? Or is that asking too much? Perhaps you should think of CS as only a cherry-on-top of an otherwise full life?
Do you find a few people who you do develop even deeper and longer connections with?
I don’t know.
Time will tell.