October 30, 2017
Maybe it’s just me, but why subject yourself to the costs of a hotel when vacationing? Unless your hotel is paid for or you’re forced on a family affair, or forced to spend your spring break at a cliche resort, skip the hotels and check out more budget-friendly and culturally immersive options such as couchsurfing, Airbnb, or hostels. I’m talking to you young vacationers. Save those blackout drunk nights for your own city — there is way more to glean from spring break than society’s standards tell you. Not only will my stories (hopefully) inspire you to travel unconventionally, but save you money, and earn you some grit along the way.
Like you, I was used to the regular family vacations, renting a hotel and doing the generic family activities. Gatlinburg, Tennessee is the only place that left an impression on me. Beyond its smoky mountain beauty, I’ll always remember the psychedelic pizza shop called “The Mellow Mushroom,” where my mother berated me at the table because she realized I drank an entire bottle of cough syrup — I was just disappointed the amazing looking pizza was practically inedible to me. I’m proud to say my recent travels, still filled with debauchery, leave greater impressions on me as I choose to travel through non-traditional means.
The options I mentioned earlier are great ways to refresh your travel style. Hostels allow you to stay among other travelers on the cheap, while Airbnb gives you the opportunity to rent out someone’s very own home or apartment. Personally, I’ve found couchsurfing to be the most enticing. Staying with random people I just met on the internet? Sign me up. Most would be weirded out by this — particularly if you’re a lone female — but couchsurfing.com makes this skill much more attainable and safe.
Three years ago today I was in the city of angels, Los Angeles. It’s also close to the time where my couchsurfing-host had to kick me out. He had an emergency and I needed to leave. It was hell to me — I was on the other side of the U.S., lucky I had yet to have my car broken into. I scrambled to send out couchsurfing requests, terrified by the idea of finding a hostel in downtown LA. I might have been living out of my car and out of random strangers’ homes, but I was quite high-maintenance.
Fortunately for me, a man in Santa Monica took me in for the night. I’ll never forget the look on his face after I pounded a shot of fancy whiskey he poured me — I had yet to learn the etiquette of sipping. The next night I stayed with a yogi from Baltimore I met randomly at Santa Monica beach. I’ll never forget that terrible first-ever commercial I filmed for her previously-upcoming yogi-clothing line. I spent that day filming at Santa Monica beach surrounded by people whose talents crushed my hula-hooping skills.
There you have it, a glimpse at my travel stories achieved through alternative vacationing. These in particular came from when I was 20 and packed up my car to travel the U.S.. Other snippets include operating a motor scooter down skinny and unorganized traffic lanes in the Philippines, witnessing the 2016 Seine River flooding in Paris, and a 24-hour layover in Iceland where I couchsurfed with a Greek man, drank Tsipouro (τσίπουρο), a greek brandy, and learned to say giamas ( για μας!), which is our like our cheers, but directly translates to “to our health!”I don’t understand why more people don’t embrace travel in this way. Every memory here, and the ones that went unsaid, bring me back to those times — the most fun and fulfilling moments of my life. I can only continue to make them as I learn to travel as a citizen of the world rather than as a tourist or “breaker.” I’ll admit it takes practice, you have to make connections, try, and sometimes take a leap of faith. My next trip will be to Austin, Texas next summer, and although I know one person there, I would still go if I knew nobody.
Putting ourselves in the world to vacation means our vacations will always return home with us. Fuck the vacation oasis business. Instead of spending all your money on a hotel, what about a hostel? It’s a fantastic way to meet people from around the world and even find travel companions along the way. I know the idea of hanging out with random people you’ve just met may sound uncomfortable, but that’s the point. The fact is, you’re going to make memories through stupid and crazy actions while traveling even with the comfort of a hotel available. By vacationing through unconventional means, you’ll learn about navigating within new cultures, create moments you’ll always cherish, and build worldwide relationships.