On Couchsurfing and Other Travel Intricacies

This is what Spain is like, right? Gil Elvgren 1953

Hectic week! Moved back home (it’s fine), finished up most of my yoga certification hours and getting down to planning the meat of my trip. And Europe! I need to geek about about this real quick: every time I read an article, do research on places to stay/visit, or even look at pictures of the cities I’m visiting, my heart gets so full it could burst.

I’m so elated for this trip, not only because it’s been such a long time coming, but also because I get to do it by myself. Really, I’ll be bumming around Spain and Turkey for 5 weeks. I can’t wait for writing in cafes drinking good coffee, eating jamon iberco, drinking tinto de verano, listening to live Spanish guitar. And of course, a little self-exploration, if you will. One of the niyamas is svadhyaya, or self-study. I took a chakras workshop with Ashley Turner last weekend at Moksha, and this self-study was a big theme of the weekend. Finding out what you tend to be drawn to, what you need, what your habits are and how you deal with things. I love the various personality tools that go along with this idea, especially of the Jungian variety like archetypes, but also Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram. It takes such a discerning eye to be objective with self-study; so often we have an idea of what we want to be and fiercely align ourselves with that image. For example, for the longest time I viewed myself as having unwavering confidence because that’s the kind of person I wanted to be. However, acknowledging our weaknesses and vulnerabilities allows us to manifest those positive aspects in our lives.

Anyway! Back to travel-talk:

While I’m reading all the cool, hip travel guides like Matador Network, Lonely Planet and Vagabondish, I’m largely figuring out this excursion on my own. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Accomodation

This is what I’m most nervous about. I’m totally a social person, I love meeting new people and making new friends. In stressful situations, though, I need a lot of alone time to gather my thoughts, marinate on situations and decompress. Hence, a Couchsurfing arrangement can easily turn into an awkward roommate situation if I do need alone time. Conversely, I want to meet and hang out with locals. It’s clear that finding a balance is the key. The solution? Arriving in Barcelona will likely be the time I’m most on edge; new place, newly on my own, new time zone. This would be a good time to do some solo exploring, so my first week, I’ll be renting a place via AirBnB, an awesome site that allows you to rent rooms on the cheap. The room I’m renting is a measly 19€ for a private, safe place to stash my crap with free interweb. Not bad for a home base to explore the city from.

The second week in Barcelona, and onward, I’m vowing to Couchsurf and hopefully I find cool people to host me. It’s great to know that AirBnb is there in case I can’t find anyone though.

Now, I’ve never Couchsurfed before, but the community seems really rad. In addition to reaching out to people who I think I have something to offer and would get along with, I posted my travel plans and then people can invite you to stay if they have room for you. Full disclosure: my inbox contains 50 couch invites from Turkish dudes. Some seem completely cool and friendly, some I get the I’m-Hitting-On-You vibe from. I prefer to stay with women or multiple people, but none of the ladies are returning my requests. Must. Be. Friendlier.

Getting Around

I entertained getting a rail pass for a while, until I went on Spain’s train site, Renfe. It’s actually way, way cheaper to just buy your ticket 15 days in advance to get the web price. From Barcelona to Madrid, Madrid to Granada, and Granada to Barcelona, it’s only $150USD, as opposed to almost $300USD for a single country rail pass. Score.

Celly

There is so much information on how to use your phone abroad, mostly involving complex maneuvers like “unlocking your phone,” and “switching SIM cards.” To a gal whose iphone is more a fancy way to check her e-mail, I decided to just leave mine in the States. I did call Telestial, where a very kind lady with an accent helped me pick out a phone and SIM cards. They have a promotion going where a phone and with an international SIM card is about 20€, then she helped me pick out the Jazztel SIM card for Spain. Since I plan not contacting the States much, and using the phone for contacting/coordinating with people once I’m in Spain, I picked out a card that has really cheap rates for calling/texting Spanish numbers. THEN I found a Telestial promo code via Frommer’s. With shipping, it came out to about 50USD. Not bad, right?

Espanol, a language I don’t know

If I had a dollar for every year I studied Spanish, I’d be able to buy myself a moderately priced beer and not leave a tip. Like six or seven years, I guess. I am so rusty on vocab and verb conjugations that I’ll probably be to embarrassed to utter anything but a “mucho gusto” and “hablo un pocito de espanol, pero prefiero hablar ingles…hablamos ingles si posible. Por favor.”

Packing

This section deserves an entire dedicated post, which I have in the works. Mission: compulsive overpacker to live out of carry-on for five weeks. Will prove to be challenge of lifetime. Stay tuned, I have an entire strategy for fellow clothes horses who want to travel lightly.

Things are slowly coming together! Hopefully the rest of planning goes as smoothly.


One thought on “On Couchsurfing and Other Travel Intricacies

  1. I’ve heard that couchsurfing is perfectly fine, and I’ve never heard a horror story. Yet, I am still hesitant to try it. How did your couchsurfing experience turn out?

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