My wife and I came up with the concept for the couchsurfer portrait project a couple of years ago. The first portrait for the project was taken in 2013. The ultimate goal for the project is to capture a couchsurfer in every state and to put together a book to encourage others to become part of the couchsurfing community.

The main reason I continue to shoot portraits for the project is because my best travel memories are because I decided to couchsurf instead of staying in a hotel or hostel. I’m astonished by how many interesting people there are in the world and how many similarities I have in common with all of the people I’ve met through the couchsurfing website.

1

Lauren Roche, Brooklyn, NY

What’s the one thing you intend to accomplish before you die?
"Publish a photo book, volunteer at an orphanage, bike across Nova Scotia and Puerto Rico and give birth to a cowboy."

2

Chris LaPointe, Brooklyn, NY

Have you ever traveled alone? What did you learn about yourself?
"Yes, I learned I am fully capable and adaptable. Traveling alone is difficult, dangerous, lonely, stressful, and totally worth it."

3

Donald, New York, NY

"For me life is worth living only if we are engaged with people.. I think the secret to happiness is always sharing whatever you have in life...the only way we can become complete human is to be connected to each other so relationship is the key....the Scripture seem to teach the same lesson "love one another as you love yourself"... I summarize my religious life in the writing of St. John's first letter "No one has ever seen God...whoever loves is born of God and knows God...whoever does not love does not know God because God is love".....so for me the secret to happiness is to share love."

4

Jocelyn Voo, New York, NY

"In the last few years I've almost exclusively traveled by myself. You're pretty much forced to reach out to strangers, and you'll meet so many kind and fascinating people, you never really feel alone."

5

Matthew Gnat, Cloverdale, CA

"I traveled solo for five weeks in New Zealand. I had planned on using Couchsurfing to only get situated in each area with the hopes of spending most of my time backpack camping alone. I was completely surprised as to how much that I would enjoy spending time with local hosts that repeatedly welcomed me into their homes, and making friends with other Couchsurfers. I changed the focus of my vacation because of these great experiences Couchsurfing."

6

Amy and Steve, Bandon, OR

What we have learned from couchsurfing community?
"We love being part of the couchsurfing community because of the unexpected and unique experiences that can only come from being open and trusting with complete strangers. Each time offers a rare opportunity to share ourselves, food, shelter and ideas with people that we would never have met except through couchsurfing. We love meeting the diverse and interesting people who are willing to share in this human experience, and feel that each encounter is a gift of new ideas, perspective and friendship. Sharing through couchsurfing is way cool and very rewarding."

7

Don and Kathe Miller, Chelan, WA

What’s one of your favorite travel stories?
"We went to Mazatlan in the early eighties. At the end of our trip, we took a cab to the airport. The driver drove way too fast on the freeway, dodging around cars at a scary speed. Suddenly, we heard a thump and the driver slammed on his breaks, then went at nearly the same speed backwards... on the fast lane of the freeway! We thought we were going to die! Finally, the taxi driver slammed again to a stop, jumped out of the car and ran around to the back of the car.... on the fast lane of the freeway! Then he jumped back in the car and tossed a dead bird on the seat beside him and started the car again, resuming his breakneck pace toward the airport. With dead bird feathers floating all over inside the car, he turned around, gave us a wide grin, and said, "Good to eat!" We dissolved into laughter. It was a wonderful end to our time there."

8

Danger Charles, Oakland, CA

What’s one of your favorite travel stories?
"My favorite travel stories are the ones where everyone was miserable but can look back and laugh. Type two fun. One I tell a lot is the time my family and a friend’s family decided to climb Mt. Ritter, and I got to be the guide. Ritter isn’t a mountain to underestimate, so naturally the trip turned into a 24-hour epic disaster that ended with me running some 12 miles of so, completely dehydrated back to camp to let our mothers know that we weren’t dead. It was the only time I vomited from sheer exhaustion. Miserable and absurd, but hilarious looking back on it."

9

Jessica "Superball" Kristine, Sebastopol, California

What have you learned from being part of the couch-surfing community?
"The world isn't as dangerous as "they" let on. Of all the people I've encountered in my extensive travels as a lone young woman, I've felt in real, immediate danger only twice--and those two times were well worth everything else I gained. Those experiences make good stories now! I would say that 99.9% of the people out there are either good or neutral, at worst inclined to rip you off. True maliciousness is very rare."

10

Ilana S., Santa Rosa, CA

What have you learned from being part of the couch surfing community?
"There are so many generous, friendly, loving people from all different walks of life that we don't necessarily get to come across in our every day lives, but the CS community increases the chances of those connections. I also have learned that giving and sharing to yet unmet friends, brings invaluable gifts that I could have never imagined on my own."

11

Jill Turner, Oakland, CA

What’s one of your favorite travel stories?
"My first couchsurfing experience ever. My friend Kelsey and I arrived in Istanbul, and our male host clearly had not had a lot of contact with females in his life. In his efforts to constantly make us comfortable, he failed to realize that his anxious energy was making us UNcomfortable. In addition to normal and appreciated chivalrous gestures such as holding doors open and carrying our heavy luggage and offering us tea and snacks, some of his attempts at making us comfortable included: helping us take our shoes off (to our embarrassment); controlling our schedule so as to give us a very rushed and whirlwind tour of the sights, when we were sweaty and tired in the Istanbul heat; and later, filling a tub of scalding water and setting it at our feet in order to give us a foot bath and massage, which I endured so as not to humiliate him by refusing, and to protect Kelsey from this very unwanted physical contact. We laughed it off and were not deterred from the couchsurfing community, but damn, that guy was a piece of work."

12

Jordan Murphy, San Francisco, CA

"I’ve traveled alone before, more than once, and it was pleasant as there was no one that I had to fight with about where to go or what to do, or how I’m not doing something correctly. Having said that, two heads, when working together, are better than one. I definitely got lost a lot on my own. But getting lost is how one finds themselves."

13

Kimi Levoe, Ukiah, CA

Why do you have a couch surfing profile?
"I have a couchsurfing profile because I want to have faith in people. There is so much good in this world and in its citizens and often times I feel like people have a tendency to get scared and forget that."

14

Martina Steinmann, Oakland, CA

What do you believe is the secret to happiness?
"Compassion, chocolate and mastering the art of appreciation."

15

Bruce Schmidt, Occidental, CA

"I do not know the secret of happiness; that is why it is a secret."

16

Sumit Kohli, San Francisco, CA

Who has inspired you to be who you are?
"Actually a very relevant question. In 2000, I quit a corporate job as I didn't find fulfillment there. Shortly after, I travelled for two and a half months, about half the time on my own. During those two and a half months, I was awakened to other possibilities of lifestyle choices which have helped shaped the decisions I have made since."

17

Trevor Thompson, Santa Rosa, CA

Who has inspired you to be who you are?
"Henry Rollins, my hero. His books and spoken word albums convinced me to set out on my own and choose for myself what my version of success and happiness would be."

18

John Bachir, New York, NY

What do you believe is the secret to happiness?
"Freedom. Being brave enough to choose freedom over almost all other things in each life choice is something I am always working on. But it's easy to compare my life to those of others and be glad that I usually choose freedom. Of course, perhaps one day I will find I have too much freedom and not enough connections. They can't coexist at their extremes."

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