First Couchsurfing Fail. Or Was It?
I am in love with couchsurfing. If you know me, you probably already knew that. And in over four years of using the service, I have nothing but positive experiences using it to both host and surf with people all around the world. That is, until I got to Vegas as part of my epic road trip. For those not familiar, couchsurfing is a web service that connects like minded, i.e. travel-crazy, people by letting them either "host" another traveler if they have a spare bedroom, couch (hence the name), space on the floor, etc, or "surf" (stay) with other people while traveling.
For me, couchsurfing is far more than just a chance for free accommodation. I love meeting locals and doing the local things in places I travel to as well as making lasting friendships, some of which have dramatically influenced my life over the last couple of years. I have written about small world of couchsurfing before and I absolutely love it!
Sure not every experience is bound to be mind blowing. But I wouldn't classify any of them as bad. Until a couple weeks ago.
As I was stuck in Lone Pine waiting for my car to get fixed, I was debating three different routes I could take from there - go south to Los Angeles and San Diego, go east through Las Vegas, or go north through Lake Tahoe and Salt Lake City. Vegas was the least desirable option as I didn't particularly care about Vegas itself and because of the car troubles, the plan to meet my friend Bruce and tour Zion and Bryce together felt apart.
But then I talked to Seth, also a couchsurfer, who encouraged me to come through Vegas and crash with him for a few days. On the bright side, that would be the quickest route to get to southern Utah and he was also willing to show me around some of the other natural wonders around Vegas on his day off so I cave in.
We chatted for a bit and he seemed pretty cool. Sure he only had a couple reference and a pretty skimpy profile, but those references were solid and he seemed like a genuinely interesting guy who has done a bit of traveling himself. So we made the plans and as soon as I got my car back I started making my way to Sin City.
Because of 5+ hour drive, I wouldn't get in until after 9pm, but I wasn't worried. Seth had classes in the evening, but should have been free after 7:30. Even though he didn't answer my text letting him know that I am on my way (after he did text me to ask if I got the car back - the last I have heard from him), I wasn't worried - he already gave me his address so I kept on chugging along.
I got a little worried after I tried to call and text him multiple times as I was getting closer and the calls went straight through to voicemail while messages went through as texts rather than iMessages. I figured his phone died or was turned off while he was in class and he will get back to me afterwards.
It was dark 9:30 by the time I rolled into town and went to the address he gave me. It turned out to be a gated condominium community with one of those entry call boxes that you could scroll through the list of residents to buzz them. But his name was not on the list and the office was long closed.
Mildly worried, I still thought Seth will come through. Maybe he just forgot to turn on his phone. Maybe the condo is registered to his parents' name or he is just renting it from someone. But he sure should be wondering where I am at.
So I sent him a message through couchsurfing, knowing that it will immediately go to his email - the last thing I could think of.
And then I waited. Went to a super market to get some dinner. And waited more. And then I checked couchsurfing again just to find that his profile was no longer showing up in my message history (it was when I sent him that last message) and instead was saying "User Deleted".
Slowly it was starting to settle in. I was being stood up by my host for the first time. But not only stood up, but deliberately misled and then likely blocked through his cell phone carrier (hence why texts and calls were not going through) and blocked me on couchsurfing (hence his profile was no longer showing up on my list, which I didn't know is even possible).
I didn't get it and that sucked!
Luckily, when I was in San Francsico, another couchsurfer from Vegas responded to my post looking for people to join me for the trip through Yosemite and Death Valley to Vegas - he wasn't going to join, but offered to show me around Vegas when I got in town. So even thou it was extremely last minute, I messaged George to see if I could crash with him. He responded right away and soon I was on the way to his place (after swinging by Bellagio to check out their fountain show).
I ended up staying with George for a couple of days. I didn't know this beforehand, but locals (Nevada residents) get a lot of discounts and freebies for Vegas shows and clubs so we took advantage of that and checked out a comedy standup at the "legendary" Bonkerz Comedy Club inside the Plaza on Freemont street (the "old" strip). Later that night, strolling down Freemont street brought back good memories of celebrating Halloween there a few years ago (also with a couchsurfer and a friend of mine). George also showed me around some local watering holes and if it wasn't for smoking everywhere, I would of loved to come back.
So was this a couchsurfing fail? Or a last minute success? A bit of both in my opinion, but it all worked out in the end.