Couch surf­ing is a dream come true for bud­get ad­ven­turer

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Lind­sey Bomnin

Joshua Adair curled up for a nap on a cir­cu­lar chair in the lounge of the Black Swan Yoga stu­dio in down­town Austin.

The 25-year-old yoga in­struc­tor had been mov­ing from couch to couch for a few weeks, wait­ing for the per­fect hous­ing sit­u­a­tion af­ter a three-month trip to In­dia.

For this blond, dread­locked and bearded man, couch surf­ing has be­come a way of life — one that is shared by al­most 2 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide. Adair, a sea­soned surfer and host who grew up in Pflugerville, also is a “CouchSurf­ing City Am­bas­sador” for Austin, where he now has an apart­ment.

He got the ti­tle through the in­ter­na­tional non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 2004 by Casey Fen­ton and three oth­ers that con­nects peo­ple glob­ally through its web­site — CouchSurf­ — for friendly cul­tural ex­changes and a free couch to sleep on. With an on­line pro­file and a $25 do­na­tion to ver­ify their lo­ca­tion, users can of­fer up their couches for trav­el­ers or choose to surf on some them­selves. Austin is ranked ninth among U.S. cities for couch surf­ing with al­most 6,500 surfers, ac­cord­ing to the web­site.

Over the past four years, Adair says he has spent the night on 20 couches in 15 cities. At home, he’s hosted about 70 couch surfers.

Host­ing strangers from other places is Aus­ti­nite has hosted about 70 sofa sleep­ers.

“kind of like vi­car­i­ous trav­el­ing,” Adair said. “You just get that fla­vor of the world on your couch all the time.”

As an am­bas­sador, his job is to unify Austin couch surfers by or­ga­niz­ing events, such as house par­ties, river ex­cur­sions and camp­ing trips.

“I think it brings back the old days of trav­el­ers, be­fore youth hos­tels and back­pack­ers and ho­tels, when you’d show up dirty and dusty and tired from the road at some ran­dom per­son’s house and ask for shel­ter for the night, and they’d give you a spot in the barn or some­thing,” Adair wrote on his on­line pro­file. “Ex­cept now, you can check them out first and of­fer them a couch.”

Through the web­site’s in­ter­face, users can pro­tect their couches and them­selves by screen­ing re­quests and choos­ing care­fully among for­eign couches.

Marcy Etemadi, a 38-yearold for­mer Austin couch surf­ing am­bas­sador, has hosted 54 surfers and surfed on nine couches in seven cities.

“For some rea­son CS-ers just seem to be a dif­fer­ent breed,” she said. “They don’t mind hav­ing strangers in their house.”

She met her hus­band, Ata, an­other couch surfer, at a CouchSurf­ing happy hour in Austin two years ago, and they’ve been mar­ried for more than a year. They have a 9month-old daugh­ter, Sarah.

Adair’s couch surf­ing ca­reer grew out of his de­sire to travel the world as cheaply as pos­si­ble af­ter he dropped out of Tulane Uni­ver­sity. He started in Utah, work­ing for three months as a house framer and then trav­eled to Costa Rica with his moun­tain bike, where he rode for 110 miles along the coast, loung­ing and camp­ing out.

He moved to Austin in Au­gust 2005, did data en­try at his un­cle’s ed­u­ca­tional re­search com­pany and saved money for al­most a year. Then he headed to Aus­tralia, where he got his yoga teach­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

From Aus­tralia he went to New Zealand, where he hap- pened upon the CouchSurf­ing col­lec­tive — a group of about 18 of the San Fran­cisco-based or­ga­ni­za­tion’s core — who choose a dif­fer­ent place ev­ery year to ex­pand the pres­ence of couch surf­ing. In 2006, they chose New Zealand.

Adair said that when he met them, he thought he had “stum­bled into a great se­cret of the uni­verse.”

He stayed with the mem­bers of the col­lec­tive in a house on the coast for three months. In ex­change, he taught them yoga and did a few house­hold chores. There, he learned the ways of couch surf­ing.

“There’s all these dif­fer­ent styles of couch surf­ing,” Adair said. “You ba­si­cally just trust the couch surf­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Some couch surfers freestyle, show­ing up to a city with no plans and no place to stay, and end up find­ing shel­ter us­ing their charisma.

Oth­ers barter with their surfers or hosts, get­ting a place to spend the night in ex­change for shar­ing some knowl­edge, skills or a cul­tural ex­change.

Adair calls him­self a cul­tural surfer — he’s look­ing to un­der­stand the world by con­nect­ing to peo­ple who live in dif­fer­ent parts of it.

“For me, it just came down to hav­ing a lit­tle trust in hu­man­ity and a lit­tle bit of re­search,” Adair said. “You build a con­nec­tion with peo­ple, and when they ask for help, you help them.”

In 2007, Adair moved back to Austin and met his fu­ture room­mate, Trevor Wright, at a CouchSurf­ing party. The two moved into an apart­ment off South Congress Av­enue and be­gan host­ing about nine peo­ple per month on their leather, L-shaped green couch.

Their biggest couch surf­ing party con­sisted of five peo­ple — three girls from Min­nesota with a trav­el­ing mas­sage busi­ness and a brother and sis­ter from Spain.

Adair says he hasn’t had any truly neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences, ex­cept for the time he and Wright hosted a writer from San Fran­cisco who came back drunk from a night out on Sixth Street and cov­ered their couch with vomit.

Af­ter nine months of host­ing trav­el­ers, the couch had to go — the room­mates gave it away on

Now, back from a 10-day trip to a Kun­dalini yoga fes­ti­val in New Mex­ico, Adair is get­ting set­tled into a new apart­ment near Barton Springs with two room­mates.

“Af­ter all my trav­els, (Austin) is still my fa­vorite place in the whole world,” Adair said. “This is where I want to in­vest my en­ergy fully.”

He says he plans to start host­ing couch surfers again soon. As soon as he can se­cure a new couch.

Joshua Adair

Larry Kolvo­ord

Yoga in­struc­tor Joshua Adair, a couch surfer and an Austin city am­bas­sador for CouchSurf­, leads a ses­sion at Black Swan Yoga stu­dio. Adair has hosted overnight vis­i­tors for years and or­ga­nizes events for fel­low hosts in Austin.

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