Sorry Mom and Dad, but I’m a CouchSurfer!

Dominical Travel Blog

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Jason and Kendra's house in Dominical!

We all know that parents love to give advice and forewarnings. When I told my parents I would be living and working in Costa Rica for the summer, I expected hours and hours of tips and talks. Instead of inundating me with a plethora of warnings, my parents took an entirely different approach by focusing on one distinct piece of advice: DO NOT TALK TO STRANGERS, STAY SAFE. I cannot tell you how many times I heard those words. The advice does not come out of left field though; my natural tendencies warrant this warning. I am a very outgoing person and I tend to talk to anyone and everyone willing to talk to me. I love to meet new people, to go new places, and to try new things, but in doing so, I can be very naïve. With my love for people comes unstoppable spontaneity and curiosity.

Our dinner
I am overly optimistic and I tend to view all new encounters as adventures. All of these things come together to create the foundation for very nervous parents.

For the first few weeks that I was here, I focused intently on safety. I avoided strangers, averted my eyes from other people on the street, and tried not to go places by myself. As nice as this was for an adjustment period, Sabanilla was going to be my home for the entire summer! I quickly realized that in order to be happy, I needed to meet people, to find places to exercise, and to be comfortable in the area on my own. I used running as an outlet to meet a variety of different people at universities, parks, etc. One of the people that I met recommended using CouchSurfing to meet other young people in Costa Rica.

The River
 Using the internet to meet other people in a foreign country sounds like my parents’ worst night-mare. However, this site is not at all what it seems. In fact, CouchSurfing describes itself as ‘a volunteer-based worldwide network connecting travelers with members of local communities, who offer free accommodation and/or advice.’ In my opinion, what this web-site aims to do is brilliant! A traveler can sign up for the site, create a profile, and search for other members who are traveling or living in the same area at that time. Once located, members can reach out to each other in order to plan a variety of interactions: meeting up for a cup of coffee, a run in the park, a person to go sightseeing with, a couch (hence the name!) to crash on for a night or two, or a place to visit for the weekend.
The Beach
Users who have met or who previously knew each other then post reviews for each person that can be viewed publically on their user-profile. These reviews enable other users to hear a bit of feedback about the person, to ensure a certain level of safety and to provide accountability in the form of personal testimonies.

Despite all of my parents’ forewarnings, I just had to join this site and reach out to people all over Costa Rica! I am glad that I made this decision because this site quickly became a fundamental part of my trip thus far. Here are all of my CouchSurfing interactions in Costa Rica: I met up with another American student from San Diego for a concert; I had lunch with a Costa Rican student at the University; I ran a timed 10 miler with a boy from Mexico at a local park; I went for a motorcycle ride (another thing my parents have warned me against!) with a student from Utah who was passing through Costa Rica on his journey to Argentina; and last but not least, I spent an amazing weekend in Dominical with a couple from California who have a house in Costa Rica for 6 months.

Carla and the hanging dining room table
All of these experiences have not only been safe, but also very fun!

Dominical represents my best CouchSurfing experience thus far! Jason reached out to me early last week on CouchSurfing to let me know that he had a beautiful house right on the beach on the Pacific Coast with two extra bedrooms and he would love to host some CouchSurfers. I immediately asked Carla, my roommate in my homestay, to come along. Although she seemed a bit skeptical at first, she had heard good things about CouchSurfing and agreed to come along. Within 48 hours of receiving Jason’s first message, we had plans, bus tickets, and packed bags ready to go stay with him for the weekend. The entire process was very simple, but upon arrival, I realized that the end result was even better than I expected.

Inside the house
The house was absolutely breathtaking- located high up in the mountains down a long winding driveway. It boasted an iridescent pool, an unobstructed view of the jungle meeting the beach’s glistening grains of sand and wild Pacific waves, and an abundance of flora, fauna, and herbs growing all over. I expected a casual place to stay, but instead I ended up in paradise! My room was gorgeous and decorated with handmade Costa Rican art, nautical themed tapestries, and wide open windows that welcomed the sea breeze, the frogs’ late night croaking, and the birds’ songs in the morning. I experienced a sensory overload the entire time I was there: the sounds of the creatures and critters (and the surprising lack of society’s drone- cars, horns, etc), the bright colors of the delicate petals with sunshine reflecting off of last night’s raindrops perched all along the plant stems, the taste of the fresh hand-picked basil in the garden right outside my bedroom window, and the scent of deep roasted Costa Rican coffee beans wafted in and out of my consciousness all day.

As much as I enjoyed the location, I truly enjoyed the company even more. Jason and his girlfriend, Kendra, were fabulous hosts! They dedicated their weekend to driving us around, showing us all the famous sites, and even bringing us to the beautiful clandestine beaches and gardens that have not yet been invaded by tourists. After a day of perfect weather on the beach with Carla, we headed to the local fish market with Jason to get something for dinner. The four of us ended up cooking a feast- salad, wild rice, mahi-mahi, snapper, and garlic and basil shrimp. As we cooked, we danced around the kitchen to great music and set the table (which hangs from the ceiling!) At dinner we discovered how many things we had in common. We listen to similar music, we enjoy the same movies, and we have traveled to many of the same places. We also learned a lot from each other. Jason and Kendra taught us a lot about health cleanses, plants/herbs, and fruits in Costa Rica while we taught them a variety of Spanish phrases, cooking tips, etc.

From this entire experience, I learned a very valuable lesson: there is a safe way to meet new people and to broaden your horizons. So I suggest that all of you heed your parents’ warnings and advice, but listen to mine as well: go join CouchSurfing (http://www.couchsurfing.com) and start meeting new people and having some adventures of your own!

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Jason and Kendras house in Domini…
Jason and Kendra's house in Domin…
Our dinner
Our dinner
The River
The River
The Beach
The Beach
Carla and the hanging dining room …
Carla and the hanging dining room…
Inside the house
Inside the house
Dominical
photo by: capitals33