So I had my first Couchsurfing experience this week!!
Nico is from Belgium and is cycling solo across Canada, North America, and off to the Baja Coast of Mexico after a brief stopover in Hawaii to cycle around Oahu and hike Molokai.
Apparently, this is what Belgians do for fun.
Seriously though we Americans have it all wrong.....we live to work....Europeans work just enough so that they can live it up!
Nico has taken a leave of absence from work for 12 months to travel and recharge his batteries, and his job will still be there when he gets back. Apparently, he must take off at least 4 weeks / year to prevent burnout [he's a nurse], and can take up to 5 years of extended leave throughout his career....
Similarly, I backpacked New Zealand in 2003 with an Austrian nurse who was also on an extended 12 month leave of absence she had decided to spend travelling the world; with the knowledge that her job would be waiting when she returned. Come to think of it, I hung out with some German executives at a bar in San Francisco who were on their way to Tahoe, also on an extended leave....they even invited me to hang out with them on the slopes when I'm back in Europe!!
I wonder what the national health of developed European countries looks like....probably much lower stress-related diseases, which means that national health care costs should run lower....in my travels I've hardly ever met any fat Europeans; they always seem to be fit, healthy, and active. Not like the spongy fat Americans I am used to seeing flopped on Waikiki's beaches.
The recent movie WALL-E was a perfect parody of US society, which was probably lost on the vast majority of US audiences....the human passengers onboard the spaceship are whisked to and from their "cruise ship" activities on mobile entertainment capsules, devoid of any real human connection and interaction even though their fellow human beings are right there next to them. Kind of like the table at the bar where everyone is on their cell phones and no-one is talking to the people right next to them that they came to meet in the first place!!
Meanwhile, the endless array of mind-numbing and frivolous distractions from their true plight - the only survivors of the human race lost in deep space at the mercy of the supercomputer built to sustain their lives. What a potent metaphor for the decline of the American Empire that we are all witnessing this very moment. Caught up in our own indulgent need for more more more more more, we were blindsided by the white elephant in the room; What do you mean we can't spend our way out of trouble??
But I digress! back to the couchsurfing experience...we were to meet just for coffee and a chat, so that I could pick his brains about do's / dont's / insider tips from a real live actual person who has successfully couchsurfed... instead, we wind up sharing a few beers at The Dragon's Den, a local live jazz spot in Chinatown, which I had not yet been to in 12 years of living here!
I love the wandering lifestyle. It is as though simply meeting and hanging out with travellers gives you a new pair of eyes to see the world.....this trip may last longer than 12 months.....