It took all the stars aligning to make it happen, but my Couchsurfing request to stay at a host home for travelers was approved! Ansley had not hosted any Couchsurfers in quite a while, but she accepted my travel partner and me to stay with her for four days. I had no idea what was in store for me as I waited on a street corner in Paris, that chilly spring day with the smell of fresh baked bread wafting out of the boulangerie we were set to meet at. Honestly, I was a bit nervous. Everyone I mentioned Couchsurfing to thought it would be dangerous to stay with an almost complete stranger, and some of those comments had stuck in my head. (I would personally like to thank Liam Neeson for that, as I heard “Don’t get taken!” probably a hundred times before leaving on my trip.)
Just as the delicious aromas made me start seriously considering which pastry to buy, I saw a bright, smiling face come around the corner across the street. The face belonged to a beautiful American girl living in Paris named Ansley. We instantly clicked, bonding over the hustle up the seven flights of spiral staircase with my oversized luggage. (*Don’t judge, this was before I learned how to pack light!*) Upon arriving at her small but cozy apartment, I knew this was the best decision of my trip. There wasn’t an ounce of awkwardness as we broke the ice talking about her hitchhiking signs and dozens of different currencies on her wall. Ansley was the traveler that I dreamed of being.
It was quite possibly the best four days out of all 18 days I spent in Paris that trip. We did everything from just walking the streets and visiting Shakespeare and Company, to sitting on the rooftop outside her window and talking late into the night. I was welcomed into her home and I got to see the world through her eyes and her experience. Ansley was magical, captivating, and a seasoned traveler using the world as her playground. She quickly felt like a sister that I never knew I had; while at the same time, I felt like I was looking at a human example of what was possible for me. Ansley traveled freely, did work and creative projects that she loved, and saw the magic in everything around her. This was my first time seeing an alternative lifestyle and a person just living out their dreams, whatever they may be, without struggle. Suddenly I had the entire world at my fingertips and I could do anything!
It was a truly amazing experience that opened me up to travel, adventure, and sharing love and space with people. It broke down the barriers between me and strangers on the street. My mind was expanded to a new world of possibilities that my smaller mind didn’t know existed outside of my wildest dreams. My first experience Couchsurfing is the reason I am a full-time traveler today. I know that’s a pretty big statement to make—pinning my lifestyle choice to one very specific thing as the cause—but I believe it’s true. This is why I share my stories and experiences on this blog. Because one person sharing their life and their stories with me is all it took for me to realize that I could be, do, and have more than I ever thought possible. I am forever grateful for how Ansley inspired me. She didn't try to. She was just being herself and sharing love with people, as she had many times before with other Couchsurfers. I don't think it was even her intention to inspire me to change my life. But, she did.
I Couchsurfed two more times on that trip and eventually became a host as well while living in LA. If it is something you haven’t heard of yet, visit Couchsurfing.com to learn more or comment any questions below. If you have heard of it but weren’t sure about trying it, I highly recommend it, especially for solo travelers. Couchsurfing connects you to a community of people that you may not have found otherwise. It brings a new level of magic to your journeys, and you just might find a member of your soul family who you didn’t know existed.