Ever wanted to go on an epic road trip across the USA?
It’s been on our bucket list for years now, but cost has always been a worry. Ever wanted to go on an epic road trip across the USA? It’s been on our bucket list for years now, but cost has always been a worry. Monica and Dennis, the couple who Couchsurfed across America with their cat, managed to save thousands of dollars and make countless new connections by Couchsurfing.
Monica and Dennis, along with their cat Tonee have been traveling across America for four months. They are on a quest to find a community they connect with where they can pursue their passions and set down some roots. They’ve managed to travel across the country on a shoestring budget while having some incredible experiences along the way. We are so impressed with their unique travel style! Find out how they are making it happen, and how you (we!) can do it too.
Read on for our interview with Monica and Dennis from Your Victory Drive.
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
I (Monica) am from Fort Worth, Texas originally and Dennis is from upstate NY, Poughkeepsie. We met in Austin, Texas in 2012. In February of 2015 our rent was going up and we weren’t digging the traffic and overpopulation that is happening in Austin so we decided to pack up and hit the road in search of a new community. Dennis worked as a web developer for 10 years. Two years ago he transitioned into the healing field. We are both currently massage therapists and life coaches. I am also a personal trainer. We’d like to open up a healing facility/retreat together.
The mission of our road trip is to search for a new place to call home. This means that our trip is about connection and community and not at all about touristy destinations or sightseeing.
How long have you been on the road and how long do you plan to travel for?
We left Feb 26th, 2015 and have no deadlines. We dream of going to Central America next. The only thing we haven’t quite figured out regarding travel abroad is who would watch our cat while we’re away? Let us know if you have anyone in mind. 😉
How do you decide where to go and what to do for this trip? Did you plan everything out ahead of time?
We talked to A LOT of people for a few months before and during the trip. People love to share ideas. We wrote down the places people recommended that sounded interesting and we work off this list as we travel. Once we visit a place we scratch it off. Some we’ve made it to, some we haven’t. We’re very flexible and it alleviates pressure. We try to go with the flow.
Where have you been so far?
We can show you! Here is a link of our current map.
Did you quit your jobs or take time off from work to do the trip?
We quit our day jobs to take this trip so it can be open-ended. Monica is lucky enough to have a part-time accounting job she can do remotely that brings in a little cash to pay for groceries. I’m (Dennis) looking for something similar, possibly some web work, but haven’t nailed anything yet. Any additional income can only help, either prolong our travel or further enable us to establish ourselves where/when we stop.
What do you do for accommodation?
We use Couchsurfing, and family along the way has been helpful too. We have paid for one night in a hotel, camped a couple of times, and spent one night at an Airbnb.
How would you explain Couchsurfing to someone who has never heard of it? Who can use Couchsurfing?
Anyone can use Couchsurfing! The Couchsurfing community is full of travelers, globally. You search for a host in the city you are traveling to and you contact them to tell them a little about yourself and why you’re visiting. Everyone has a profile. When you Couchsurf you could be literally sleeping on someone’s couch or you could have your own private room.
A lot of people ask us “Why would someone open up their home to a stranger?” The answer: The host is not always just a host. They also like to travel and when they are out of town they turn to Couchsurfing too. It’s their way of giving back. It’s an amazing way to connect to the local community. And between travelers there’s often an unspoken trust and understanding on the mission we all share: To seek and explore.
That said, there are creeps out there. Make sure you read the profile, the references, and go with your gut before you arrive and upon arrival.
Why did you decide to use Couchsurfing on your trip as opposed to hotels or Airbnb?
We choose to Couchsurf for two reasons: #1 To connect with locals and get an authentic feel for the region we are staying in and #2 To save money. We are more likely to enrich our lives with connection when we are dependent on others for something. Staying with someone offers a means for exchange (give and take).
Sometimes pets are an obstacle for people who want to travel, but you guys decided to bring your cat along on the trip. What led to that decision and how is it working out?
Well, our cat is awesome. He’s our baby. He doesn’t jump on counters, he’s gentle and kind. He’s well dressed and well spoken (he’s a tuxedo cat). And yes, it would be easier if he were not traveling with us. None of our family offered to take him for an open-ended period of time. That’s a big sacrifice and commitment to make. He was diagnosed with kidney failure and has chronic constipation so he needs slightly more attention than your average cat. It limits some of our choices like sleeping in the car and complicates camping. A few Couchsurfing hosts that might have taken us otherwise will decline our requests due to cat allergies and we can’t travel internationally with him. Other than that, it’s still an open road.
How do Couchsurfing hosts respond to your requests as a couple with a cat?
We are always upfront about having a cat with us. Actually, Couchsurfing hosts usually don’t say anything about the cat. Once in awhile they say they can’t host a pet because they are allergic or for concern that a future guest might be allergic. But usually our declines are because they are already hosting or they are away, not cat related at all.
Do you have any tips on how to write an effective Couchsurfing request?
I read through the profile and find things that I find inspiring about the host’s life and things that I see that are similar to my life. While I write them telling them about what we are up to, I’ll throw in something that shows I read their profile and truly want to connect to THEM instead of just wanting a free place to stay.
What have your experiences with Couchsurfing hosts been like? Can you share some fun or interesting things you’ve done with your hosts?
We’ve gone on a hike, shared meals together, cooked for them, cooked with them, given them massages when they are in pain, introduced them to a community they didn’t know existed (ex: acro yoga in Durango), introduced them to other people we met in town (in Greenville we introduced a couple with an 8 month old girl to our host couple with a 13 month girl. We are thinking they may meet up without us now!), went to a circus event held at our host’s home.
In Durango we went to our hosts house knowing he had to leave for the Cayman Islands the next day and our stay was going to be only one day. We arrived and really hit it off and the next morning he gave us the key, told us to stay for the week while he was away. Then when he came back after a week we had made so many friends we introduced him to all of them.
What have been some highlights of your trip?
Connection with strangers. The generosity we found in Taos, New Mexico and Durango, Colorado were an inspiring start to our journey. The highlights for me are when I find inspiration in the synchronicity of it all. We figured out how to tap into local community pretty quickly after a couple weeks in both places. In Durango we were connected to people on day 1. Within a week we came up with 20 contacts or so. We ended up doing acro yoga, slacklining, went rock climbing with someone we met doing acro yoga, had a few guests over to our Couchsurfing hosts house for dinner, met an acupuncturist to share space with to do our healing work, went on a hike with another local, tapped into the aerial scene, and on the day we were considering leaving town we were hanging out at the park where we met new people and by the end of the few hours in the park had four offers of places to crash if we wanted to stay in town longer.
It’s refreshing! Every time we’re behind the wheel with Monica at my side and Tonee between us resting on the middle console, surveying the open road laid out in the front view as we cruise along, feeling the drive as we pass through freedom.
We also found that occasionally we don’t get enough personal space away from our Couchsurfing hosts. Enough time to connect one on one – having dinner, lazing around the house, etc. Being at another person’s home means we frequently share a kitchen with someone, eat meals with them, talk about our days out exploring once we get home, sleep on their living room floor which we then need to clean up and stay out of their way. I think that’s where the tension can grow and grow if we don’t get a chance to connect one on one and share the tiny things that have happened in our minds throughout the day when others are around.
We’d love to hear some of your travel tips. Are there any apps, websites or other tools you use to find accommodation, restaurants, cheap gas stations, things to do, etc.?
We use HappyCow to find healthy food establishments. Sometimes it throws us off by mentioning Souper Salad or Dominos Pizza, but it’s geared toward vegetarian friendly and health conscious places.
To help us establish local connections (in addition to Couchsurfing) we frequent coffee restaurants and local, organic grocery stores. These public businesses tend to have bulletins with postings that can offer leads for interesting things to do, places to stay or experiences to explore. Use your personal interests as strengths by doing what you would do if you lived there. If you like dancing, go dancing!
What is your budget for the trip? How do you calculate your spending?
We have a few thousand saved up “extra” and will let it dwindle down to $5,000USD. That should be more than enough to cover the cost of establishing ourselves in any city. We strive to earn income as we travel so as not to use our savings but we manage in whatever way we can. Remaining unattached and knowing that we attract prosperity is important in being successful in anything we do.
I (Monica) do not think the $5,000 is necessary to travel, just an added security bonus. I’d still be on the road had I already dwindled my savings down. I do make enough in a month to support this cheap type of travel. All we are paying for is food and gas essentially!
What’s next for you guys after this trip?
Well, the purpose of this trip is to move to a climate that we feel better in and to settle into a community to grow and prosper. So there’s that! But also, we are thinking about traveling internationally, maybe to visit a friend having a baby on one of the Panamanian Sanblast Islands or visiting Guatemala.
Any advice for people who want to do what you two (+Tonee) are doing?
Open yourself up to possibilities! Never say “That’ll never happen.” It can, and if you let it, it will! Ask for what you want. Let your voices be heard, not necessarily to other people – but to the universe, to your deepest self. There’s something to be said about the power of speaking your truth, out loud, to the Earth. Everyone just wants love, that’s why we are here – the message can get distorted by our personal experience but in the end, it’s all for love.
A big Thank You to Monica and Dennis for sharing their story. We definitely feel inspired!
About the Authors
Monica and Dennis are a down to earth, ambitious couple on a quest to find a place to settle and grow their business. They met in Austin, Texas where they both started careers in alternative healing and lived for three years. They are developing their own holistic approach to physical and emotional trauma, alleviating pains that stem from physical injuries or chronic pain with massage therapy and/or strength training with corrective exercise. They integrate life coaching into their practice to address the emotional and stress components. They are currently on a journey to find a new home, tapping into local communities to get a true feel for each place and what it has to offer. They share inspirational stories and health information they discover along the way on their website. You can follow them at www.YourVictoryDrive.com.
Have you taken a road trip in the USA? Did you use Couchsurfing? Would you? Share in the comments.
Traveling to Cambodia?
Sign up to receive our free guide for ten awesome places to go in the country!