Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Boston, MA

Looks like I might be finding a hotel or camping, as none of my prospects for couchsurfing in Boston have worked out. One even changed their couch availability to "Not available" after I requested - but didn't send me back a response telling me they weren't able to host.

Nine days ago, I was only 440 miles away from where I am now - at most, two days of riding at my normal pace. It feels weird to have traveled so little, yet done so much. Two days in D.C. turned into three, two days in Philadelphia, two days in NYC turned into three, a day in Connecticut, and now two days in Boston before I get back to a semi-normal traveling pace.

I've noticed that it's very difficult to couchsurf in big cities, especially ones that are tourist destinations. I have not been able to do a "normal" couchsurfing request/response/stay in pretty much all of the major cities that I've tried to do it in, but I only realized it was a problem once I got over to this side of the country. There aren't that many really big cities on the way out to Seattle, and the ones I did stay in, I stayed with friends. All the way down the west coast I stayed with friends or people I met in Seattle, so I didn't have to request at all over there.

My first poor response was in New Orleans - more than 20 requests and a post on the last-minute board, and all I got back were a few "no" responses from less than a quarter of the people I requested with. Fortunately, I was traveling with Mark at the time, so a hotel wasn't as expensive as otherwise.

When I got up to D.C., I was planning on staying with a friend one night, and couchsurfing the other. I only ended up finding someone for the second night by posting on the last-minute forum for D.C., though I ended up not staying with him as I met up with a friend after the earthquake. Once again I got less than half of my ten requests responded to, all with "no."

In Philadelphia, I was again planning on staying with a friend for one night, and surfing the other. Fortunately, the friend was able to let me stay for two nights, because my 10 requests again ended up with "no" or no response, mostly the latter.

In NYC, I only found a place to stay after noticing that someone else had posted a last minute request and gotten a response from someone saying they were having a "slumber party" of couchsurfers, and then sending her a message asking if I could join in as well. It's not really the way things are supposed to go on couchsurfing, but I was fortunate that it worked out as well as it did.

And now here I am in Boston, having sent out 10 requests, less than half of which were responded to, and the only two responses I got to my post on the last-minute forum were both from people that I honestly would not feel comfortable staying with based on their profiles and references.

I understand where it comes from too. I mean, I was a part of the NYC last-minute forum for a few days, and I was getting an email or two per hour with someone asking for a place to stay. The person I ended up with said she was getting 20 requests a week when she had her couch set to "available," and she hardly had time to look at them all, let alone have them all stay. I know the big cities are busier, hosts are (and have to be) more discerning in who they let stay, and there are more international travelers who, apparently, tend to get preference from a lot of hosts.

So here I am, sitting at a Starbucks that closes in 45 minutes, searching for hostels, hotels, and campsites, and hoping that maybe someone knows someone who can find me a place to stay.

As fun as the big cities are, I'm almost ready to get back out to the middle of nowhere, where camping's easier, and couchsurfers so rarely get travelers that they pretty much always host them if they can.

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