Housesitting: Get Free Accommodation While You Travel!

housesitting sites

I had never been so happy to put away dishes. My remains of my breakfast waited patiently to be washed down the drain as I emptied the dishwasher. I thought about the last time I had touched a dishwasher. Two weeks ago, I was praying that I wasn’t going to open the door to a squat toilet. Now I had a bathtub.

My itinerary for the day included opening an Australian bank account, getting an ice cream sandwich, and wandering around the Gallery of Modern Art. If the itinerary was pushed back or completely washed away by the rain outside, I wasn’t going to get upset. The train would be running tomorrow, and banks, museums, and bars would be open for the next five weeks. Plus, I hadn’t had a job yet; the longer I stayed in the dining room listening to King Krule and drinking coffee, the less money I would be spending.  I wanted to knit, but Baymax was sleeping on my yarn – I knew if I was sleeping, I wouldn’t want to be disturbed over a (potential) scarf. I hadn’t been up for more than a few hours, but I was ready for a nap too.

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January 15, 2017.

I apologize if this post reads as frantic or a bit rushed.

I’ve been pressuring myself to share the moment I’m living in with you; there’s no Beat Broke Backpacking without my loved ones, faraway friends, and anyone who stumbles upon this blog for whatever reason. The past few weeks I’ve been challenged to think about why I want to go further with this project. What are my intentions? What am I willing to compromise? Can I sum my mission for Beat Broke Backpacking up in a sentence? How has that changed?

(More on that below.)

I have also felt pressured to share because each moment disappears so quickly. Since the New Year, I’ve hit so many turning points that I need something for nausea.

I’m writing this from yoga teacher training (we’re on lunch break.) I could go on and on in additional posts about my love for yoga (and I will, and I have) but I’ll have to focus.

You know that beautiful feeling when you realize you’re actually taking the action you’ve been dreaming up for months, years, etc.? That was present in every moment and every pose during my first flow of my first class. Since I’ve moved to Austin I’ve been saving for this training by working two jobs (one was always full-time.) In hindsight, I could have flipped my thinking into appreciating every moment heading to and from work as taking action toward my daydreams, but hindsight’s 20/20. Every moment from now until July I’ll be taking action toward the big plan (or lack thereof) my thoughts have drummed up since I got back from backpacking in September 2015.

My best friend and I purchased plane tickets to Bangkok that leave on July 5. His ticket is roundtrip and mine is one-way. After six weeks backpacking around Southeast Asia, he’s going back to work. The pages in my planner are left blank.

I would still be doing teacher training if I planned on putting a down payment on a house in Austin and staying here for my foreseeable future. But I’ve known for a while that this training is going to take me across continents. Yoga is everywhere, and it serves as the one form of universal expression I am comfortable using to connect with and show my love for everyone I meet.

I don’t want to have set plans for after Andrew leaves Asia; maybe I’ll hit up all of the places I will hear about in hostels, maybe I’ll stay in Bangkok, maybe that’s when I’ll head to Australia.

I am almost finished applying for my working holiday visa…where I hear they have quite a decent market for yoga.

Up until now this post is anti-climactic; I’m going to Asia aaaaaand…then what?

That’s why I’m going to revisit this blog. I won’t be posting every week again at first…I’m still working 55 hours a week on top of teacher training. But I want to make myself vulnerable and share my plans for BBB. I write full-time. I would like to use BBB as a project and experiment with making it a full-time job, while still keeping the integrity of what I want to share and promote. I want to explore making a career out of writing, out of traveling, out of being a travel writer. The moment I first picked up travel guides I knew it was possible to pursue my passions and make it a living. So I’m going to give it a try.

Buying my plane ticket to Asia was not as scary as writing this post because in July, it’s pretty set in stone that I’ll be on that plane. (Andrew and I even got seats next to each other after a hot mess of trying to book through different sites.) Trying to manifest my vision for this blog is terrifying because there is so much gray area. What will I consider “successful?” Can a blog that I completely control even “fail?” I know what the end result should look like, but I don’t even know how to begin.

The road ahead is foggy. I’ve been told to expect a lot of rain in July in Southeast Asia. But I’ve made a promise to myself since the beginning of teacher training that I would appreciate each moment and my effort to run (work, stand, fold, plank, downward dog, whatever) toward this new adventure.

So I move forward.

What’s Couchsurfing? (And 4 Reasons Why You Should)

Hey! I’m back from Europe but I haven’t posted in a long time since my phone was stolen in Berlin! (More on that later.) I still want to write about traveling because, let’s be honest, I’ve got the travel bug. I came back to Philadelphia on September 12, and two weeks later I moved to Austin! The weekend before moving, I took a road trip to Boston Calling Music Festival with four friends I met on Couchsurfing. I’ve always been asked a lot of questions about Couchsurfing, so I figured this would be a great topic to start up the blog again!

What is Couchsurfing?

Couchsurfing is a website, an app, and most importantly, a community found throughout the world. It’s a way for people to help each other, learn from each other, and have an enhanced traveling experience.

How does Couchsurfing work?

When I first joined Couchsurfing, I created a profile on the website with information about myself, my travels, whether or not I can host, etc. Before I ever surfed with anyone, a friend and I hosted a fellow student from Manchester last-minute and had an awesome time exchanging stories over pitchers at McGillin’s. I also met up with a lovely girl from Taiwan and brought her to VegFest in Philly. Soon enough, it was time for my backpacking trip.

When I knew I would be needing a place to stay in a new city I would either directly message hosts from that city or put up a public trip telling hosts that I would be around and I would need a place to stay. After getting in touch with hosts and arranging the length of my stay, I would show up at their place! I usually Couchsurfed for 2-3 days at a time, but the length of your stay is up to you and your host. While you’re there, some hosts want to show you around their city. Some prefer not to. Some want to get drinks with you and their friends, some want to have deep political conversations. Every experience is different, but every experience gives you a more authentic view of the city (in my opinion) than say, a hostel or a hotel.

A little snippet of my Couchsurfing profile! via couchsurfing.com
A little snippet of my Couchsurfing profile!
via couchsurfing.com

IS IT SAFE??

Would I do it if it wasn’t?

Being a young woman alone, I knew I would have to exercise more caution than most people on their travels. Although the Couchsurfing community (like the rest of the world) is for the most part full of lovely people with good intentions, I still used a few different methods to “screen” potential hosts.

  1. I checked out their “references”. Couchsurfing allows you to leave notes about each host/guest/traveler you come across. You can say your experience was positive, negative, or neutral, with details about your accommodations and time with your host. I made sure to read a few of the references and only stayed with people who only had positive references.

    Sam and I left references for each other after hanging out at a music festival, crashing at his place, and meeting up in Vienna. via couchsurfing.com
    Sam and I left references for each other after we hung out at a music festival, I crashed at his place, and we met up in Vienna.
    via couchsurfing.com
  2. I added them on Facebook (and did a little creeping). This isn’t necessary or required, but it was just another way to make sure I was in good hands during my trip.
  3. I checked to see if they were verified. Basically, if you pay 20 dollars to Couchsurfing you get a green check mark and you can have your phone number/address/existence verified. I think references are more telling/important than verification, but again, always nice to see that little check mark.

Four Reasons Why You Should Couchsurf on Your Next Adventure:

  1. You learn from locals. As I mentioned earlier, Couchsurfing gives you more than a touristy experience. As much as I enjoy staying in a hostel with Americans, Brits, and Australians and using hostel maps to guide my wanderings, I also enjoyed talking to people who know what’s going on in Vienna, or who are pros at navigating Danish public transportation. I learned more about European politics from my Couchsurfing hosts than anyone or anything else – and that includes my formal education.
  2. Ok, let’s just say it….it’s cheap. Besides the $20 verification fee (which in my opinion isn’t 100% necessary), Couchsurfing is free! You get free accommodations while you travel. You get tips on where cheap beer/food is and any free events going on in the city. I try and buy my hosts a drink, gift, or make them food while I’m staying with them, but besides that, Couchsurfing is a great way to save money while traveling.
  3. Meetups! Even if you have accommodation throughout your travels, Couchsurfing meetups are another way to talk to people from all over the world. If I remember correctly, I went to a Couchsurfing meetup every day that I was in Berlin. Language exchanges at bars, free yoga classes at parks, picnics, happy hours….you name it, you can find an event for it on Couchsurfing. They’re not so common in America, but in Europe there are tons!  Sometimes you can even find hosts at meetups.

    Friends in Edinburgh…we met at a Couchsurfing event in Dublin!
  4. You can also use it as a resource for pretty much anything. Couchsurfing has discussion boards for each city where you can find local advice, rides to and from the city, events and more. It also has larger groups where you can post just about anything. As I mentioned before, when I made my way up to Boston for Boston Calling, I didn’t want to drive alone (or pay for gas alone). I posted on the Philadelphia & New York discussion boards that I would be driving up to Boston and could offer a ride, and by the time I left for Boston my car was full! I also have an Australian pen pal thanks to the “Alternative Ways of Living & Consuming” group.

Couchsurfing is a blast…I really enjoyed using it throughout my backpacking trip. This is just a brief overview of how you can use it, so if you have questions, leave them in the comments! Also, if you have suggestions for what I should write about next, let me know!! Thanks for reading!