With 8 dogs and 37 cats, Jeff’s house is not your typical couch surfing pad.
We’d been couchsurfing in Australia and New Zealand, but this was only my second time trying it in Asia. I was a bit nervous because of the cultural differences, but wanted to try it anyway. It would be an adventure, right?
We arrived on the island of Langkawi by a nauseating 3-hour boat ride from Penang. Jeff met us at a pizza shop and showed us to his house, a quaint two bedroom nestled in a little patch of forest. Wild monkeys greeted us from the trees.
Resting on the hammocks on his porch, one of his cats clambered onto my lap, and Jeff told us his story.
Jeff studied to be an accountant and was employed in the USA for 14 years, but spent most of that time traveling – he would work for 1 month and travel for 3. He visited 40 of the 50 states while he was there.
An adventure junkie, he learned how to base jump, skydive, and even tried flying with a wingsuit. He told us about a trip to Peru where he base jumped into a cave and spent 9 days crawling through to get to the other end. He has kayaked down Niagra Falls, swam with sharks in Australia, and base jumped from the KL Tower.
After he grew bored of accounting, he trained in animal behavior. Now he has settled in Langkawi, where he volunteers at the local animal shelter and adopts needy dogs and cats. He makes a income from pet-sitting and takes care of stray dogs who live at temples around the island.
Jeff is one of those inspiring people who decided to make his own path in life. Instead of succumbing to the rat race, he followed his passions, and now lives a life he created for himself. Every time he sees a stray dog, he tries to help in some way. He hosts weary travelers, and even tried to pay for our meals!
Unlike other cochsurfing hosts, who are often too busy to spend much time with surfers, Jeff showed us all around the island. For three days he was our guide, taking us hiking, kayaking and caving. He is a generous and kind person, I’m lucky to have met him.
Couchsurfing.net is a website that connects adventurous travelers with generous locals offering a place to stay at their home. The hosts tend to be adventurers who have traveled themselves and want to feel connected to the traveling community. There is no typical experience since all people are different! Sometimes you literally sleep on couches, but often hosts will have a spare room.
Couchsurfing continues to inspire me and shows me the generosity of the world. There are horror stories out there, and some use it as a hook-up website, but if you are careful and read over people’s profiles and references it is easy to avoid this. I’ve couchsurfed with students in Wollongong, Australia, and one of the hosts slept in her friends bed so I would have my own room. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the anarchists I was living with cooked me breakfast.
While hostels are a great place to meet other travelers, it is not easy to meet locals there. Couchsurfing has expanded my view of what is possible through travel. It gives me faith in the world and the generosity of people. Even if I got a few dog hairs on me, it’s always worth it.