ESSAY: A couchsurfer's guide to Sacramento

Sometimes you just need a good stranger in your life to shake things up.

Mine arrived a couple weeks ago. He wore a hooded sweatshirt, baggy jeans and tennis shoes, with a guitar case and massive backpack strapped around his body. He ate someone’s leftover spaghetti with his fingers—he licked them clean before we hugged.

“Can you believe someone just gave me this spaghetti?” he said, laughing. “And earlier, I was busking in Old Sac, and someone just gave me a hamburger.”

This was my couchsurfer, Devin.

Yes, “couchsurfer” is one word with no hyphen. As in, Devin found me through the website For the uninitiated, it’s a website where travelers can link up with local residents for a place to crash. Hosts find reward in meeting someone from a different world. And even if backgrounds aren’t that different, it takes a certain type to want to meet strangers in such an intimate, immediately trusting way. Lasting friendships are often born.

Devin is from New Hampshire, which is not exactly a foreign cultural landscape. But he had some wild stories to tell. He hitchhiked and bused, but mostly walked, to Sacramento from San Diego. It took about nine weeks, and he said his favorite part was trekking for days on end through sand. He was very tan.

Of course, hosting Devin conjured up the usual reminders that life is not about possessions, jobs can be left and the world ought to be explored. But it also came with the responsibility of showing off Sacramento. I told him about our trees and beer and farm-fresh food and knack for producing metal bands. I brought him to my cooperative home in Midtown with housemates doing acro-yoga in the living room and kale growing in the backyard.

At the same time, Sacramento was Devin’s first inland California destination. This had to be an exposure to new cultures. For both of us. This was about breaking free from the bubbles of Midtown and couchsurfing.

We went line dancing. I refused to ride the mechanical bull, but I still left feeling a little more local. Meanwhile, Devin’s perceptions of Sacramento are probably totally weird, and it’s probably all my fault.

Hippie slop for dinner, cowboy boots for dessert.

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