Oct. 17, 2012: Florida

I’m here in a fancy little city next to Miami called Coral Gables. I’m waiting until 10 am when my CS host is free. It’s 9.
Breakfast at Airport: Cafe con leche and a Jamaican vegetable patty. $4.60

Breakfast at Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Oct. 17, 2012

Then, I took one train and three buses. This sign was at the very front of one of the buses:

“Seat dedicated in honor of Rosa Parks 1913-2005”

 Saw a big “Stop Obama” billboard once I got to Miami.At Starbucks/Einstein Bros Bagels now, coughing, sucking on cough-suppressant drops, and drinking OJ.I have about $130 to last me two weeks til the end of the month. Food and buses. Spent over$10 today on breakfast and buses.___________________________________________________

Now, it’s after 10 am Wednesday, Oct. 17, and I’m with my first Miami-area host. Jim inherited the house his grandparents lived in. He spent time here as a child. It’s a rather fancy, old, treasure of a house.I’m at the end of a cold and still coughing. (I felt like I coughed almost continuously at Barbara’s.) I have almost no money left, and I arrived without food or wine (which is unusual for me); in addition, I am nomadic and don’t even want a home. Lots of people can’t accept such very different values. Jim seems cool with it — he said that he thinks most people are brainwashed and don’t ever consider alternatives to what our culture says is the “right” way to live. Jim’s very conventional, so what he’s saying is not very clear to me.I told Jim my whole sad story (no money, etc.), and I don’t know what he thinks of me.

I just felt so tired this morning and so guilty about showing up empty-handed. But Jim’s very well off, and, while making a contribution is a nice thing to do, it’s very bourgeois. Jim doesn’t NEED food from me, and I actually do NEED the money I have left to just squeak through the month.It has come to be expected within the CS community that  guests will bring a gift (often food or wine). The vast majority of CS surfers seem to have money, so there’s no question of whether or not they can afford to bring something for their host.It’s wonderful when we can bring a contribution, but if a broke surfer came to my house for two or three days, I hope I would be generous with them and understand the difficult spot they are in by trying to live and travel on such limited funds.

Serious travelers like me (I guess I mean nomadic people rather than tourists or vacationers) often can’t afford it. Like now, I occasionally end up with only enough money to get myself through the month.

Some guests take their hosts out to eat! That’s so crazy because then someone like me shows up, someone who really needs to couchsurf and can’t afford a hotel, and the hosts probably feel slighted by my (relative) poverty and my inability to take them out to eat. (See note on this below, talking about CS host, Bob Lee.)

The bar has been raised a bit too high, and CS may now be populated by more middle class (economically well-off) people than in the past. Maybe CS is becoming like the rest of the U.S.: wealthy people hang with people who are economically like themselves, and poor people hang with poor people. I think this is because rich people hate that we poor people can’t afford all the stuff they do/have, but they don’t hate it enough to share some cash with us (so we can party together!).

Some of these wealthier folks are happy to host travelers like me. I share all of my self with them: my life, my time, my stories. They usually like hosting people like me, and they don’t  want any economic or material returns for giving me a couch and shower for a few days.

I have had many incredible Couchsurfing hosts. Bob Lee in Hilo, Hawaii is one. He has a jar on his kitchen counter for any financial contribution people can make for groceries (but it is definitely NOT REQUIRED). He doesn’t watch what individuals put in it. He just enjoys his Couchsurfers! He cooks simple meals for us, popcorn and a movie at night, and, he likes taking Couchsurfers around the Big Island and showing them the sights. He loves it, and his surfers love it.  *When I had money, I  took Bob out for dinner a few times–yeah, I forgot that I did that! Good.

When CS hosts are like that, it’s just wonderful. They make me feel very relaxed and welcome.

Here in Coral Gables, Jim’s standard of living is so much higher than mine that I feel awkward. I can’t eat the way he does (and I don’t need or want to). Is it me or has CS become so trendy and cool that poor travelers, at least in the US, often feel unwelcome now unless they can bring expensive gifts to their hosts?

At Barbara’s in Inglewood, I spent about $25 on food and wine. I was very glad to do be able to do that. We ate all the food I brought and drank all the wine (plus I left an unopened $2 Chuck bottle there). Barbara offered me a lot of her food with love. That was very nice.  I definitely can’t afford to spend that much money with every host I visit when I’m doing some heavy traveling, like now. I am confused and torn about this.

The U.S. has such a high standard of living compared to the rest of the world; I can’t compete or fit into the U.S. standard. In fact, over the past 35+ years I have consciously chosen to have a lower, more universal standard of living. As a result, I am in a conflicted position when traveling in my own country.

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The 5 hour flight here on Spirit Airlines (the “ultra low-cost airline”) was very uncomfortable. I put my sleeping bag over my head and did sleep a little; I felt like I was wearing a burka. Our seats didn’t recline, and there was exceedingly little space between me and the seat in front of me. Well, that’s what I paid for. The terminal waiting area, pilots, flight attendants, the plane itself, and my fellow-passengers were all fine; the take-off and landing were smooth, and we arrived safely and on-time. What’s to complain about? Nothing.

We got in at 2:30 am Los Angeles time (lost 3 hours en route). Today I feel so uninspired and empty because I didn’t go to that place I go to in my dreams. I feel like an empty shell. I haven’t touched base enough with my soul in the last 24 hours.

It’s super humid and warm here in Florida; feels like rain.

__________________________________________________

Romany People By Country (Wikipedia)Distribution of the Romani people in Europe (2007 Council of Europe “average estimates”, totalling 9.8 million) * The size of the wheel symbols reflects absolute population size * The gradient reflects the percent in the country’s population: 0%                              10%.
 (“The gradient” refers to gray [0%] to green [10%] colors on chart.)
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_____________________________________________Miami Jim.Had a nice dinner with Jim. He made lentil soup and bread! And he made me thyme tea with honey and also cider vinegar with honey for my cough. Very nice and generous man!All is well despite all my worrying and bitching. As usual
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