How Not To Do Couchsurfing

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The article in Sunday’s Styles section about an entrepreneur’s “midlife crisis” could have been given a much more Sherlock Holmes-ian title, like, “The Case Of The Peripatetic Multi-Millionaire.”

as he approached 40, Fabrice Grinda, a French technology entrepreneur with an estimated net worth of $100 million, couldn’t shake the feeling that something was terribly wrong. Somehow the trappings of his success were weighing him down.

He was having a midlife crisis — in reverse.

“People turn 40 and usually buy a shiny sports car,” Mr. Grinda said during an interview in a penthouse suite at Sixty LES, a downtown boutique hotel. “They don’t say, ‘I’m downsizing my life and giving up all my possessions to focus on experiences and friendships.’ ”

But that is exactly what Mr. Grinda did. He moved out of the Bedford house in December 2012, ditched the city apartment and got rid of the McLaren. He donated clothes, sports equipment and kitchen utensils to the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Lower Manhattan. He gave his furniture to Housing Works and he packed a Tumi carry-on suitcase with 50 items, including two pairs of jeans, a bathing suit and 10 pairs of socks.

He dubbed it “the very big downgrade”: He was going to travel the world, working on the fly while staying with friends and family.

What follows is a series of misadventures in couchsurfing, during which he alienates everyone he’s ever loved. 

The enthusiastic but oblivious Grinda makes lots of amateur mistakes: he talks too loudly, stays up too late, expects the women of the house to do his laundry, and slays his friends with two-hour-long tennis matches. He borrows clothes, breaks lamps, eats entire bowls of lemons (!). Once his Rolodex is exhausted, he moves on, before finally ending up more or less back where he started.

This guy’s life would make a great movie. Someone is probably optioning it right now; he’ll be played by Sacha Baron Cohen. In the Hollywood version, though, he’ll probably find love, instead of getting dumped by a former model who prefers a touch more stability.

“My home is where I am,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter if it is a friend’s place or a couch or the middle of the jungle or a hotel room on the Lower East Side. But I realize that most of humanity, especially women, don’t see it that way.”

The rules of couchsurfing without pissing off everyone of your acquaintance are pretty straightforward:

+ take care of your stuff, especially your mess and your laundry;

+ accommodate yourself to the rules of the house rather than expecting them to shift for you;

+ offer to do things for the house to keep your hosts in a good mood. Can you make killer pancakes, or a big-city-quality Manhattan? Are you able to take the kids to the zoo for an afternoon? Do it;

+ bring a gift;

+ say Thank You early and often;

+ leave before your hosts are tired of you.

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