Tag Archives: couchsurfing

#WEverb12: HOPE

Bartending 80s night at Loki!

Bartending 80s night at Loki!

5. fellowship [HOPE]: What community has engaged you most this year and what did it you get out of your participation?

In the first part of the year, it was the backpacker community in Latin America.  The staff crew at Loki Hostel in Cuzco and all of our ridiculous shenanigans.  Oh, what good times we had there!  We recently reconnected with Ben, our best friend from the hostel, and it was so great to see him!!!  While we certainly partied too much and were so sick of it by the end, we now look back at our experiences there super fondly.  The hilarious moments in the staff dorm and all the characters we bonded with will forever be in my memory.

In the second part of the year, it was most definitely our beloved Couchsurfing community!  Words cannot express how much I love meeting like-minded, adventurous, fun people everywhere we go!  The San Diego Couchsurfing community has really embraced us and we are so lucky to have such good friends after being here only a short time!

The next epic road trip


Zach and I have road-tripped across the country multiple times, usually with the end goal being either getting to Arizona from Ohio or getting to Ohio from Arizona.  But we don’t like to waste the chance to see things on our way!  Why make it a two-day looooong drive when you can make it a two-week long Couchsurfing trip and see some new places?  That’s our philosophy.

So of course, when planning our upcoming move to San Diego, we decided to make another big road trip out of it.  (Assuming we save enough $$$, of course).  Right now, this is the tentative route.  We can’t take as long as we did last cross-country trip (six weeks!) but we think we could take three weeks and at least have a couple days each in a bunch of new places.  I’m excited because this route will have me checking four new states off of my list (North Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Oregon).

Here’s what we’re thinking as far as destinations along the journey:

1. Marquette, Michican (supposedly the UP is really nice!)

2. Fargo, North Dakota (because who’s ever hung out there?)

3. Bozeman, Montana

4. Kalispell, Montana (Glacier National Park!)

5. Coeur D’Alene, Idaho

6. Vancouver, British Columbia

7. Seattle, Washington

8. Portland, Oregon (and a stop at Crater Lake)

9. Eureka, California

10. Santa Cruz, California

Woo, that’s a lot of driving!  But I am so pumped to Couchsurf my way across the country again, meet some amazing new people, and see new sights!  At the end of the trip, we will settle in a brand new city, sunny San Diego!  Unless, of course, one of these places we visit captivates us enough to make us stay.

You tell me, is there anywhere else along this route that we can’t miss?

So long, Arizona


Do me a favor.  Start here.  Meg’s post about doing things we’re afraid of is so well written and TRUE.

There was a short but bright rainbow in the sky tonight.  A sign of good luck for the start of our journey tomorrow!  It’s been a weekend of goodbyes and wrap-ups.  Packing sucked.  As usual, I found myself with a way-too-big pile of “essential” clothes and a way-too-small suitcase.  Trying to convince myself that I don’t need these, I really don’t need these, I don’t!  Who cares about variety?  The car is packed to the gills with camping supplies, clothes, food, and camera equipment.  But I’m sure we’re still forgetting something.  The rest is in boxes in a closet here.  So of course I’ll come back, because after a year of only what I stuffed in one suitcase, I’m gonna want to see the rest of my clothes again!

It’s been a year.  A seemingly quiet one compared to last year, but I still can’t believe all that’s happened.  I’ve learned how to live with someone in a real, day-to-day, “in this for the long haul” relationship, survived our first real fights, and found myself more in love than ever.  I’ve worked two new jobs and started my own business.  I’ve learned to snowboard, tried rock climbing, hiked long distances, cliff jumped from 50 feet, and climbed my first two mountains.  I’ve been to Mexico for the first time.  Biked many miles, saved many dollars, made new friends, started to integrate into a whole other family.  Tasted western microbrews and Spanish wines.  Shared so many homemade pizzas with couchsurfers from around the world.  What a year.

The next one is going to be even better.  A circular journey that will take us through two continents and back.  The western US, Ohio again, all of South America, and back to Ohio by August 2012.  After that, who knows?  These next six weeks we’ll be living out of the car, couchsurfing, exploring new national parks, and going to Burning Man.  I do have several goals for our time on the road:

1. Study Spanish every day.

2. Hike or run every day.  Work my way up to running a 10k.

3. Dumpster dive.

4. Keep the car clean and organized.

5. Take amazing photographs.

6. Keep up this blog.

7. Eat healthy.

8. Enjoy myself!!!!!

So tomorrow we begin.  First a quick stop in Las Vegas, for Zach to sell some of the scrap copper wire he’s collected at work.  Yes, we really are that poor.  And as Zach said “What great story doesn’t start with driving to Vegas to sell something?”  Lol.  Then to Death Valley NP in California, where apparently the highs can be over 120 degrees this time of  year.  Yikes.  Now it’s time to share a bottle of wine in hopes of being able to sleep tonight.  I’ll catch up with you again from somewhere in California!

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”-Christopher McCandless

Two Maps


On our walls right now are two different world maps:This one is our Couchsurfing map.  Every time we host someone, we have them put a pin in the place they consider “home.”  In the last year, we’ve hosted over 50 people from over 20 countries!  I don’t know where everyone who wants to see the Grand Canyon will stay once we’re gone!  As you can see, the majority of our surfers have been from Europe, many from North America, and some notable outliers from Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Nepal, Taiwan, and China!  Many of these pins also represent awesome new friends who we hope to see again on our travels!  We already have couches almost everywhere we’ll want to go in Europe someday!

This is our map.  The 3 different colors of pins mean something here.  Pink is for places I’ve been, brown is for places Zach’s been, and green is for places we’ve both been.  We intend to add a lot more green!  The past year has been spent building up good karma by hosting so many travelers.  One week from today we are getting in the car.  Our year of travel-as-a-lifestyle begins in California.  It’s time to work on our map, baby!!!

Support Letter for La Aventura Project


Hi all! This is an easy post, but important. We finally got our fundraising underway for La Aventura Project.  I figured the easiest way to share this is just to copy and paste the same letter I sent out to family and friends detailing what we’re doing and what we need.  Of course you should also click over to the La Aventura Project website (link in the right sidebar) to see the trailer and more.  And please, please ask questions if you have them!  I’m feeling the vibe of a lot of doubts expressed by non-supportive silence by certain people who are close to me.  And it really hurts.  I’ll probably write more about that later, but for now, here’s the letter:

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings!  I hope you all are well!  What is going on in your lives???   Since I’m fairly bad at keeping in touch, I wanted to write to you about what is going on in my life at the moment.  I’ve been living in Williams, Arizona (near the Grand Canyon) for almost one year now with my amazing boyfriend Zachary Minnich.  This is the first time for both of us to live out west and we’re loving it!  The many mountains, creeks, and canyons to hike and explore keep us endlessly entertained and active.  Most of our time is spent working, however.  We both work in Flagstaff, Zach as an electrician and me as a server at a nice restaurant.  We are saving as much money as possible for travel.  We both have the same desire to see the world.

That brings me to our other main activity right now, which is planning a year-long backpacking/filmmaking/volunteering adventure in South America.  On October 27, Zach, our good friend Melissa, and I will be departing from Chicago and flying into Colombia (which I assure you has become very safe and pleasant for tourists recently).  We plan to work our way around the continent in a counterclockwise direction through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Venezuela.  We have budgeted $17 per person per day for an entire year of travel.  In order to live cheaply and really learn the language and culture of these countries, we will be doing lots of volunteering, mostly through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwooof.org).  We so look forward to building relationships with locals this way, and to learning about and contributing to sustainable agriculture on our planet.  We also will be finding other volunteer opportunities at orphanages and schools along the way, couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.org), and camping.  To finally put my film degree to use, we will be filming our experience every step of the way, telling our personal stories and searching for everything else worth documenting.  Because it’s hard to predict what will happen on a journey like this, it’s hard to say exactly what our film will be about.  Right now the working title is La Aventura Project and we are focused on telling the personal narrative of our journey and showing how travel and exposure to different cultures affects three 20-something Americans.  I am hoping to tell our story and eventually edit a feature-length documentary to show in film festivals.

And now the part you probably knew was coming and that I hate to write…the request for money.  Although Zach, Melissa, and I have all been working hard and saving, leaving on a year-long trip is quite expensive.  We are each trying to raise $7000  for travel and living expenses, plus cover our loans and US obligations for the year, plus purchase some filmmaking equipment.  Our film equipment alone will be about $6000 once we have everything we need.  We are so, so close to having the money ourselves, but we need just a little bit of help.  We are trying to raise just $5000 to split between the three of us to assist with equipment and travel costs.  We really feel that this project will make the world a better place by enabling cross-cultural learning, challenging and growing ourselves, and telling what is sure to be an awesome story through film.  We believe that world travel is the best education you can get, and that explorers and artists have and continue to change the world for the better.  If you believe this too, and can spare even $1 to help La Aventura Project, we would greatly appreciate it.  We are accepting secure, tax-deductible online donations via indiegogo.com.  Our project link is www.indiegogo.com/LaAventuraProject.  You can get some awesome perks for donating!  Please also visit our website, www.laaventuraproject.com, where you can find our film trailer and blog updates throughout our preparation and travel.  If you know anyone who would be interested in our project, please pass along those links!  And if you have any questions, please reply and ask away!

Thank you all so much!  And for those of you in Ohio, Zach and I will be back in early October and would love to see you before we leave!


Carrie Hoffman

“What’s the difference between exploring and being lost?  The journey is the destination.”  –Dan Eldon

Nomadic Tendencies


How does one become a nomad?  Especially after being raised in the USA?  Sure, we have mobility between cities and states but we are definitely not a nomadic culture.  In fact, I think very few cultures are nomadic in the sense I feel nomadic.  I want to constantly be on the move, exploring new cities, countries, continents.  I know there were small signs as I was growing up, like when I declared at age 11 (half-joking, half-serious) that I wanted to be “a hobo” when I grew up.  The fact is, I’ve got the itch and I’ve got it bad.  It’s now been over a year that I’ve been back in the US, 10 months that I’ve been living here in Arizona.  The mountains, deserts, rocks, and beauty of the southwest is great, and we’ve had amazing day and weekend trips out here.  But I’m getting to that inevitable point I always reach, where I just feel done with it.  I’m done working, done coming home to the same house, I’m ready to GO!  Unfortunately this point usually hits a good few months before my actual departure date, and this time is no exception.  Zach and I have a little over two months before we’re bookin’ it out of this town.  This is necessitated purely by finances; if they were not an issue we’d be long gone by now.

We have such insatiable wanderlust. Our happiest times have been on the road, on the trail, approaching a new city or mountain or anything NEW.  There is nothing like the thrill of constant movement.  We can’t stay in one place for long without feeling stuck and beginning to desperately plan a new adventure.  And now, we are so, so close to get-up-and-go time.  On August 22 we will pack the car and drive to California–camping in Death Valley, Yosemite, then Lake Tahoe before swooping down upon Black Rock City to experience another world at Burning Man.  From there we’ll head back west to spend a week in San Francisco and NorCal wine country.  Then Salt Lake City to see all the Mormons, and a good two weeks in Colorado for lots of hiking and brewery tours.  Iowa City and Chicago will be our final stops in the midwest before arriving back in Columbus.  This will be our longest road trip yet and it is only the prequel to our big adventure, the escape to South America.  We’ll be back in Columbus for a few weeks, just long enough to pack it up and say goodbye to friends and family before our flight to Medellin, Colombia, on October 27.

It takes a certain kind of person to really understand wanderlust.  We’re lucky that although our families and many of our friends don’t get it, we’ve found a vast network of other wanderers through Couchsurfing and are sure to meet more at Burning Man and in South America.  Honestly, I would be fully open to the idea of NOT coming back to the US after a year down there.  Who knows what opportunities may present themselves?  The ultimate dream is to find a way to travel indefinitely.  Maybe that dream will change someday, but for now we are embracing it and chasing it at full speed.  We’re young.  What better time than now to live out of a car, a backpack, a tent, to watch the man burn, to hike the Andes, sail the Amazon, and create countless other stories?

Mexico trip pics!


TentSurf 2011 was  A BLAST.  I’m still recovering.  We camped on Sandy Beach in Rocky Point, Mexico for 4 days with about 50 other couchsurfers from around the southwest and Mexico.  I might write more about it later, but for now here’s a photo recap.

The beach! This is how far away our tent was from the ocean.

Zach does an Axel Rose impersonation with seaweed. (Credit: Mike Huang)

Jumping off the booze cruise boat. Look at that turquoise water! (Credit: Mike Huang)

Whole group of crazy Couchsurfers. (Credit: Mike Huang)

Flying a tent at the end of the event.

Zach and me with our good friend Jeremy. (Credit: Jez Seidner)

And with that, it’s back to naptime for me.  Mexico took it out of me and I’ve now got a nasty bug.  I’m just dreaming of the even bigger adventures we’ll be having a few short months from now!

Viva Las Vegas


A few weeks ago Zach and I had the privilege of attending an authentic Vegas wedding-chappel wedding.  It was the wedding of a Peace Corps friend of mine and her girlfriend.  They went all out with the Vegas “theme-wedding” idea and had a “Pimps and Hos” wedding.  So this was not only our first Vegas wedding but also our first gay wedding and first wedding where we got to dress in costume.  It was basically just one of those ridiculous situations where we had no choice but to throw caution to the wind and go all out, because when would we have this chance again????

The whole weekend was crazy, as Vegas is supposed to be.  Highlights included: a night-before cocktail party in the “bridal suite” at Hooters Hotel and Casino, walking down the strip and into casinos with our own bottle of wine (cause it’s perfectly legal to BYOB everywhere!), our couchsurfing host bailing on us at the last minute and having to find a seedy motel, stuffing our faces until we literally couldn’t stand up straight at the Circus Circus buffet, wandering the strip watching all the insanity, Zach telling all the Mexicans handing out hooker cards “Quisiera hombre!” then of course, THE WEDDING!!!!

Post face-stuffing. When you pay $13 for lunch you must get your moneys worth. We didnt eat again for 24 hours.


The wedding took place at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel.  Half the wedding party dressed as pimps and the other half as hoes, with my friend, the bride, in an awesome white tutu wedding dress and white boots.  The officiant was dressed and acted as Shaft.  It was super funky and fun.  They wrote their own vows and despite it not being your typical, traditional wedding in any way, it was still super heartfelt and very them.  It made me wonder whether the fact that they’re a lesbian couple whose marriage is already not accepted by many people or by their own state government helped them feel enabled to throw out convention for the wedding and just do exactly what they wanted to do.  It was refreshing to watch and was probably the most unique wedding I’ll ever attend.

Of course the best part was that we guests also had to dress up.  In the spirit of embracing the opportunity, Zach and I did some thrifting and went all-out.  I pretty much couldn’t sit down in my dress or walk in my shoes.  I would NEVER EVER EVER have been comfortable wearing this outfit anywhere other than Vegas.  The fact that I had some alcohol in my system and another bottle of wine in my hand also helped.  Zach was gifted his pimp cane and chain by the wedding party since they thankfully had extras.  As for his robe…well that was definitely from the bathrobe section at Savers and is definitely part of a Santa costume.

The shoes stayed off more than on my feet. I thought I was gonna break an ankle when I walked in them.


We had a ton of fun, although we both still agree that Vegas is a no-more-than-once-a-year place to us.  It’s waaaaay too tacky and materialistic for more often than that.  We definitely had a memorable weekend being there for this wedding though!

Dumpster Diving


A few nights ago we made some delicious and spicy veggie curry with rice with our 2 Canadian couchsurfers.  They arrived at the same time we got home from work and immediately asked if we had ever heard of “dumpster diving.”  I said “Yeah, of course,” and they replied that they had just raided a grocery store dumpster, so did we “want to make a feast?”


They had TONS of stuff, all in totally fine condition and safe, clean packaging, that they had picked up from the dumpster behind one of Flagstaff’s smaller grocery stores.  Broccoli, potatoes, squash, onions, celery, canteloupe, strawberries, and even bagels and and unopened package of DONUT HOLES (demonstrating their Canadian taste buds, hahaha). 

We had a great time cooking and getting to know each other, and we picked their brains about dumpster diving since they were clearly experienced and I have always kind of wanted to try it but never felt gutsy enough.

Apparently they never pay for groceries while on the road and two of their best finds were several bottles of wine and a whole crate of unopened boxes of chocolates!!  (WHAAAA????  Who would throw those out!!!)  Here are their tips for successful dumpster diving:

1. Smaller grocery stores are better because they are less secure and care less.

2. Don’t worry about getting caught- most security guards are on your side andwill just “go inspect the other side of the building” while you’re doing your thing.

3. You do have to get in the dumpster and dig around but it’s not that dirty because everything’s still usually in packaging.

I think they convinced me to try it.  I know many people will probably be grossed out to hear me say that, but I think what’s gross is that we live in a country where SO MUCH EDIBLE FOOD is thrown out to rot every single day.  There are starving Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa, people!!!! (Hahaha, we PCVs always said this in Tanzania, but I hope you know I’m just being clever and not making light of world hunger.)

I’ll let you know how it goes.  Would you ever try dumpster diving?  And here’s the kicker:  Considering both health and ethics, which is better: buying organic or dumpster diving for not-necessarily-organic food?