Name: Becky Sorensen
Birth City: Chicago, IL
Current City: Houston, TX
How did you first hear about couch surfing?
I actually got into couch surfing from my high school social studies teacher. He has traveled all over the world cheaply and inspired me a great deal to do traveling of my own. During high school, I took his geography class, and then his AP geography class and was also a really active member of his geography club, which took trips to interesting surrounding areas (usually a neighborhood in downtown Chicago) so we could learn about them (he is an encyclopedia of Chicago knowledge) and then…would set us loose. Luckily for us (and him) our parents never found out that he set us loose in Chicago to develop our own street smarts and discover things for ourselves, but without these experiences, I am SURE I never would have had the guts to travel alone.
And what made you decide to join?
I had just signed up to go to a summer opera training program in Belgium and wanted to take the opportunity to travel afterwards, it being my first time abroad, and I was broke. Honestly, it was originally purely a financial decision.
What was your first couch surfing experience like?
After my program in Belgium ended, I went to Amsterdam with a friend. I had found hosts through CS weeks before, but much to my dismay, several of them canceled at the last-minute due to travels of their own and I found myself stranded. Although I’m always careful to really check out potential hosts and make sure they look legit, at this point I was desperate. I sent a multitude of requests to people in all different European countries, hoping somebody would agree to host me. Sure enough, this guy from Paris said he had room for me for one night, before he had agreed to host other surfers. Without thinking about it, I got on a train to Paris. Laurent met me at the train station and led me back to his place to drop my stuff. We then grabbed food and walked around Paris for a few hours. It was a dream come true for me to be there, and he made a great tour guide. The next day he took me to a CS event so I could find a new host, but Laurent and I hung out pretty much every night I was in Paris, even weeks later after I had traveled a bit and came back. AND although this was 2 1/2 years ago, him and I are still great friends and have been e-mailing back and forth ever since. He is surely the most interesting and inspiring person I have ever met and…to think it was all a happy accident!
What do you do for a living and how do you balance work and hosting?
I moved to Houston in August to pursue my master’s degree in Vocal Performance at Rice University. So yeah…basically I’m an opera singer. I had never hosted before moving to Houston actually…I had wanted to, but my roommates in Chicago weren’t comfortable with it. I participated in other ways, meeting travelers for coffee, a meal, drinks, a tour around town. I found my roommates in Houston through the Houston couchsurfing community and am so thrilled to have CS-friendly roommates! Unfortunately however, grad school is the busiest environment I’ve ever been in, and my roommate both work full time and go to school also so…we don’t have time to host as much as we’d like, and when we do, I’m afraid we’re not extremely entertaining. BUT, hosting is a good escape for me. I was SUPER overwhelmed with Brandon came to stay, but he was so awesome that I had to find ways to be more efficient in my work so that I could hang out with him! It’s not easy at the moment, but it’s still a really important part of my life, so I’m going to host as much as possible!
What’s your best couch surfing memory?
Wow…so hard to narrow this down! I would have to say that Paris is the most CS-active city I’ve visited, and I had some truly amazing experiences there. I think it was my second or third night in Paris, after I had found another host, that Laurent, his 2 Brazilian surfers, and my host went to a free concert where a huge group of CS-ers met up. Later that evening, and several beverages later, we ended up down by the Seine and stumbled upon a large circle of people, playing Brazillian music and doing Capoeira. Obviously, the Brazilian girls we were with went crazy and after watching on the sidelines for a bit, they pulled me into the intimate main circle and tried to quickly teach me the songs they were singing (so far…my Portuguese is non-existent). I’m not sure exactly what it was about the experience, but it is truly one of my most cherished memories from the trip. I remember feeling so vibrantly alive and happy and free.
Tell me one of your craziest couch surfing moments?
I am tempted to say something light, like the Polish lady who literally wouldn’t let me out of the house in the morning before eating an enormous breakfast but…
I have a scary CS story, and while I love CS with all of my heart and get so angry when people say things like, “you’re crazy” or “you’re going to get killed”, bad things happen and this one really could have been avoided. So…again in Paris, it was my second to last night in Europe and I had no plans and nobody to hang out with. So, I sent out a message on the Paris CS group and since I didn’t want to sit in a internet cafe all night, left my European cell number and told people to text me if they wanted to hang out. A guy from Brazil texted me and asked if I wanted to come hang out with him and his Russian couch surfer. That sounded interesting, so I went. He was pretty eccentric, but nothing seemed off. His Russian surfer was awesome and we hit it off. We went out that night, drank a lot, and since it was getting late and I was staying outside the city (the trains stop running early), this guy said I could crash on his couch. I got sleepy before everyone else and took a cab back to his place and fell asleep. In the middle of the night, I woke up to find him on top of me and trying to kiss me. I punched him as hard as I could, and he crawled off and went to his room. I snuck out at sunrise. A few days later, his Russian surfer sent me a CS message, saying that he sexually assaulted her. She escaped unharmed, left him negative feedback, and he deleted his CS profile.
So, what I learned was…CHECK EVERYONE OUT! I actually never looked at his profile before he deleted it. That was stupid. So, hopefully others can learn from my mistake!
Anything else you’d like to add:
I’m just so glad to have met Brandon! My first semester of grad school has been rough. I’ve never doubted my chosen career so much, or my ability to succeed at it. Meeting someone who had the courage to quit his job, sell his house, and get out in the world to figure it all out was so inspiring to me. I don’t know if I talked to Brandon about this, but I’ve been debating what to do with myself this summer, since normally singers at my stage go to these big summer festivals, but I don’t really feel like it. So, I’m excited to announce that I’m planning to spend my entire summer in Europe taking lessons with my Belgian voice teacher, working on my languages, couchsurfing, collecting stories, and smiling a lot. I have no idea how I’m going to pay for it, but I’m just going to book the flight and trust that I’ll figure it out.