Advice from the homeless

Take a good look at this picture and then try to imagine a bicycle, minus the people, with an equivalent  amount of crap hanging off of it. One October day , while riding my bike I passed such a thing parked in Evanston. I was on my way to the post office when I saw it and thought “Wow, that’s some crazy looking homeless person’s bike”.  Ten minutes later when leaving I was amazed to see a tall, really sun tanned man who didn’t really look homeless, parking that unbelievable spectacle outside the post office. I blurted out something like “Holy shit, that’s a lot of stuff you’ve got there!” With a big smile he did a Vanna White gesture  towards a license plate that said “I’m biking to Australia!” I said “Do tell!” so we sat down outside on the stairs and he told me his story. Originally from Chicago, living in Las Vegas, in his 40’s, lost his job, re-examining his life, decided to take an epic bike journey, been riding that bike from Nevada for 8 months, tried to get into Canada, didn’t realize he’d need a passport, back in Chicago and at this post office to mail passport application. He had everything he could possibly need to sustain life on that bike including a stove and shower. I guess you could say he was homeless but well equipped.

I thought it was beyond coincidence that I should cross paths with such a person when I had recently lost my job and was trying to figure out how to reinvent my own life. I told him a little bit about me and mentioned my desire to continue traveling but my concern about money. That is when he told me about Couchsurfing.org a travel website that offers the opportunity to host travelers in your home or to be hosted when on the road. Participation can be on many different levels. For instance if  not able to host you can offer to meet a traveler for a drink or meal. The idea, beyond economics, is to connect with people and more genuinely experience a place through a local: Cook a meal together… go to your host’s favorite tavern… maybe meet their friends. To get started, it is most important to create a detailed profile with lots of information and pictures so that others might get the best idea of the stranger they will be meeting. As one surfs and or hosts, there is a review option so you can learn about a member’s behavior and likability. If squeamish, you can only host those that have already been met by others. Limits can be set as to how long one wishes to host etc.

I had heard about CS from another guy who obviously didn’t make the memorable impression of this homeless bicyclist named Ari. At this point in time I was more open and ripe to guidance. I could read his mind as he offered me  phone number and email address. I think he wanted me to invite him to stay at my house as he did not have a host and was camping out somewhere. Sorry, to say, I was not ready to invite this stranger into my home.  On a gut level, I knew he was harmless but there was also something a little crazy about him although probably in a good way. After all, one has to be a bit cuckoo to launch themselves out into the world in such a way. I have had many tell me that I am nuts to take the chances that I do with people. I thanked him for his advice , wished him well, road home and joined Couchsurfing!

I started by hosting to earn myself some credibility followed by some single night surfing on a road trip to Miami. Since then I have hosted many different people as well as surfed in Spain and France. I cannot say enough about the quality of people that have passed through my door and those that have been so kind as to host me. It proves to me over and over that the world is full of good people and that if we’re willing to fine tune our intuition and learn to trust,  infinite friendship awaits.

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1 Response to “Advice from the homeless”


  1. 1 Robert May 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Hi! (I love the title of your blog.) I thought I’d also mention to you a site called warmshowers.org, which is basically couchsurfing for bicycle tourists. I haven’t tried either of them, but have heard good things about them both.

    Best wishes from Prague,
    Rob


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