Hawaii and Small World [of Couchsurfing]
It is no secret that I love couchsurfing. I have met so many great people by hosting, surfing, or just meeting up with the locals everywhere. But it goes beyond a quick meetup or a few days-long stay. It is a great networking opportunity for those of us crazy about travel for it is not just the people you meet - it is also about people you end up meeting through the people you have met.
This weekend is a perfect example of how couchsurfing makes the world seem so small to me. Again.
Trip to Hawaii
American Airlines is running a cool promotion for travel to Hawaii until March 13 - one way from anywhere in the US for 15,000 AAdvantage miles. Normally, it costs 22,500 miles, so this is pretty good - 30,000 miles for a round trip or 33% discount.
I just got my brand spanking new batch of 50,000 miles from my recent round of credit card applications and I have never been to Hawaii - one of the six states I have yet to visit. And I am also itching to go somewhere - anywhere after staying in Tulsa for three months now!
So I started looking at my options and quickly conceived a plan to visit Kaua'i - the least developed island with stunning beaches, jungles, and mountains:
To save money, I decided I would rent a car and bring my camping gear with me. It seemed the best way to experience the nature of Kaua'i in the first place - staying at campsites and be free to go anywhere on the island to check out all those amazing places.
My next instinct was to get on couchsurfing website and post a message in Kaua'i group to see if there are any other travelers that would want to join me and split the car costs. I liked the idea since I did just that (less the camping part) in New Zealand a year ago - I had a car for two weeks and was free to roam around the South Island while picking up fellow backpackers hitchhiking on the way.
A few minutes after I posted the message, I got a response from Chris. He is a Kaua'i native that has travelled around quite a bit himself. Chris could not offer me a place to stay (I did not need one anyways) but he mentioned he would be happy to show me around the island on the days he is off. Then he also mentioned that we seem to have a few friends in common:
I couchsurfed with Ren when I spent a few days in Singapore and Chris stayed with him earlier while visiting the Philippines.
I met Gianmarco while couchsurfing with Dave in San Jose back in 2010. I was in town to run my first half marathon and after that Dave had a few people over for dinner. Being Italian, Gianmarco made half a dozen pizzas from scratch and they were all delicious!
I have later helped out Gianmarco when his trusty Garmin handheld gave in after years of service. Chris, on the other hand, couchsurfed with Gianmarco while visiting San Jose.
As I already mentioned, I met Gianmarco through another couchsurfer. Same goes for Ren. I actually met Ren when my friend Toni moved to Singapore from Germany. I was hoping to stay with him, but he was couchsurfing himself while looking for an apartment so he introduced me to Ren.
Now, can you guess how I know Toni?
That's right - couchsurfing!
I did not stay with him, but I met him in Frankfurt at the beginning of my round-the-world trip. I couchsurfed with Christopher and one of the nights we met his girlfriend and couple of his friends for dinner. Toni was one of those friends.
Sidenote: During that dinner, I also found out that Christoph was going to New Zealand around the same time I was going to be there so we were planning on traveling together until I changed my plans to stay in South East Asia longer. We still ended up meeting up in Bangkok later.
So how did Christopher meet Toni and Christoph? Through Frankfurt couchsurfing group!
And how did I meet Christopher?
He was returning from a trip through Baltic states and had a late overnight layover in Kiev. He posted to Kiev couchsurfing group wondering if he would have time to go in town and check it out. I was in Kiev back then and saw the message. Unfortunately, he was getting in very late and would not be able to do much. I could not even offer a place to stay as I was leaving to go to Lvov that day.
So a simple message I sent out on a whim a year and a half ago "snowballed" into meeting up with many new people literally all over the world!
Christopher has now moved to England and is calling me to join him on crazy trips to Scotland and South America later this year. Christoph had a great time in New Zealand and went to Africa with Christopher last summer. Toni (and Paul) are both working for Emirates now, flying all around the world. Ren is still in Singapore, learning German and visiting Germany every year and Gianmarco is starting a new company in San Jose.
And I... well. I am not sure if Hawaii is going to work out this time around - my main concern is being stuck in the middle seat in economy class for six hours on a red-eye flight back. But if not next week, I will visit soon!
You betcha I will get a hold of Chris and take him up on the offer to show me around Kaua'i whenever that happens. I am sure I will meet a few people there as well!