In the seven years that I’ve been on Couchsurfing, I’ve hosted and couchsurfed with over 30 amazing people from all over the world. From braving Hurricane Irene in New York City with intrepid hosts to commiserating with fellow grad students in Riga, Couchsurfing has radically transformed the way that I travel. A city full of strangers is quickly transformed into one with new friends and a home base.
How to survive a hurricane in New York City with your Couchsurfing hosts.
However, as a solo female traveller, I’m frequently asked whether Couchsurfing is safe, and whether I’ve ever had any bad experiences. As the site has become more popular, people — mostly men — have started using the site to solicit sex from female guests. Sordid stories of Couchsurfing gone awry haven’t helped its reputation as something which is questionable and unsafe. However, I’m here to reassure you that I have never had a single negative experience — and with common sense and due diligence, you too can have an amazing time travelling while meeting locals and getting to know the country on a deeper level beyond the usual tourist traps.
There’s more to Bellingham than the Costco where Canadians do some cross-border shopping when the dollar’s doing well. (In fact, this became such an issue that residents were calling for Americans-only hours at the Costco.)
However, there are many other great reasons to visit Bellingham. For a city of over 80,000, it punches way above its weight when it comes to craft beer, with 16 breweries and tap houses. A mere two hours away from Vancouver on the Amtrak Cascades, it makes for the perfect day trip.
Watching the sunrise on the train — Amtrak Cascades from Vancouver to Bellingham
A disclaimer, before we get started: I’ve only included breweries in this round. You can find the full list of breweries and tap houses here. I’m partial to rich, punchy flavours, and tend to favour porters/stouts, and like a good PNW girl, a can’t say no to a well-rounded IPA, so this will colour my judgement.
For a Third Culture Kid (teen?) craving and searching for the meaning of home, packing a bag and traversing the length of the second largest country on this planet Earth is a perfectly sensible course of action.
Red sand beaches along Prince Edward Island.
This was back in 2009, when Greyhound still offered its Discovery Pass for $400, for a month of unlimited bus travel. It wasn’t enough for me to just accept that Canada was home just because my folks had decided it was the next stop in their globetrotting journey (the travel gene is a real thing). I wanted it to be a conscious decision. It’s a pretty damn big place. If it was going to be home (at least for now), I’d better see the other side of the country, and even the middle bits where everyone else tries to skip over.
The other day, I found myself longing — for the umpteenth time — to be on the road again, to be off wandering somewhere completely brand new. Really, to be doing anything but sitting at my desk (that startup life is gonna get you someday).
So instead of moping, I decided to start planning my trip to Mexico City and Peru. I’ve always loved the planning process — researching offbeat hikes and treks, best cheap eats, free things to see and do, and mapping them all out onto Google Maps. Sifting through potential Couchsurfing hosts and scoping out quirky hostels (especially ones with resident cats). Putting that planning mind to work and somehow convincing my friends to let me plan their trips as well — yes, of course you want to do that weird hike that may or may not be an actual trail. Of course, I also take that always-travelling attitude to neighbourhoods and cities in my own backyard…often in the form of exploring new restaurants! There’s no quicker way to my heart than through my stomach… (that analogy may not have worked, or be anatomically correct.)
Check out how these six other travel bloggers temper their restlessness in between travels.
Part 5 of the Baltics series (May 2015).
When I first shared some photos of Trakai Island Castle, a friend exclaimed that it looked like something right out of a Disney movie, and I can’t disagree.
Tell me that doesn’t look like something out of a fairy tale.
Trakai Island Castle was built on an island in Lake Galvė in the 14th century, and is the only island castle in Eastern Europe. Upon arriving in Trakai, the castle is a leisurely 2 km walk from the bus station, though public buses are also available.