Couch Surfing

On Saturday*, I couched surfed for the first time. For those of you who don’t know, is a social networking site for travelers who offer and ask for housing. It’s an old-fashioned idea, really. My grandmother used to ride the rails for fun with a friend and they would knock on doors wherever they ended up and receive food (and perhaps shelter, but I’m not sure about this). just makes it easier for willing participants to find each other. (Learn more from this NYTimes article).

I originally joined the network because I panicked I wouldn’t find an apartment to return to before the big Sicily trip (it is really hard to find a place to live in Italy, but that is another story) and that I’d need a place to crash when I returned to Reggio. In the end, I found an apartment, and didn’t need to “surf” (my mother was super happy about this), but I did make several friends through the site. The creepy/good thing about is that when you log into the site, your current location is made public. Wherever I log in, people write to me offering to show me around or proposing a language exchange. Pretty awesome. 

Oh, but anyway, Saturday. My new couch surfing friend, Alice, had invited me to visit her in a town near Rimini. She had lived in Ireland for three years and is always seeking opportunities to practice her English, so I went. We had a great language exchange and I found the whole experience fascinating, like I was part of a reality show or something. It is a strange thing to join a stranger’s family for a weekend.

Alice and her 5-year-old daughter picked me up from the train station around 5:30 p.m. and we drove to the beach. As we were parking, I thought to myself, “Holy shit, we just hit that person’s car.” We rammed right into the bumper and several people saw us. “It’s ruined!” came the little voice (in Italian) from the backseat. I thought for sure we’d do one of two things: run or find the owner and exchange information. But we just parked right next to the damaged car and got ice cream. Bene. I’m just along for the ride. (do you hear that officers? just along for the ride.)

* Over the last few weeks, so much has happened that I haven’t had time to write about, which is why my stories might not appear in chronological order.