Roni Jackson has a futon in her home specifically to host traveling CouchSurfers.
Spend some time with Roni Jackson and you will more than likely meet a person from another country.
As part of the CouchSurfing, or CS, community, Jackson regularly hosts domestic and international visitors in her Tulsa apartment. CouchSurfing.org connects travelers with hosts in cities around the world who can show them around or give them recommendations or a couch to sleep on — hence the name.
Jackson, who works at a local car rental agency and teaches in the Department of Communications at Rogers State University, has become the unofficial leader of Tulsa’s CS community, organizing events for other local CouchSurfers and getting the word out about this international nonprofit network of travelers and hosts.
Here, Jackson, 32, shares what it’s like to open up her home to visitors from around the world:
I stumbled upon the CS site when I was researching how to travel inexpensively in March 2009. I ran across a travel blog that mentioned CouchSurfing. It piqued my curiosity, so I visited the site and was instantly hooked.
I just loved the idea and the positive feeling I got from the project. I could tell immediately it was about much more than free room and board. Everyone seemed so interesting, so open, so adventurous and giving.
I filled out my profile immediately and, about two months later, got my first request to surf. It just snowballed after that. I began hosting more often, planning local events, and the whole experience has been amazing.
I have hosted close to 50 surfers from the U.S., England, France, Russia, Trinidad, Lebanon, Germany and Brazil.
Last summer I surfed across Western Europe and the United Kingdom, staying with hosts in France, Spain, Belgium, England and Scotland. My first surfing experience was in Lawrence, Kan. I’ve also surfed in the Pacific Northwest.
I try to show them (CouchSurfers) Tulsa’s music scene and also go out to dinner with them or cook in my apartment. There have been times when I’ve driven them around to show them sites and to places like Catoosa to see the Blue Whale.
Tulsa is not really a “destination city,” but most of the people who have visited are just exploring the U.S., and Tulsa is right in the middle of everything! So we get a lot of cross-country travelers. Interestingly, every person I’ve hosted from Europe is absolutely fascinated with Route 66, and many of them travel all or part of their journey across 66. I find them to be much more intrigued by this part of our history than any Americans I’ve hosted.
The site (CouchSurfing.org) has a lot of safety features embedded, but the best advice I can give anyone is to be smart and trust your instincts and look at the person’s profile. I know some women will only host other women. Really, for me personally, the biggest thing is to trust my instincts.
Occasionally there are personality conflicts. Not everyone is going to be a “10.” One time one CouchSurfer stayed longer than expected and another CouchSurfer came, and you could tell they had differing opinions on things. It was a little awkward, but it wasn’t anything terrible, just a little awkward.