Pedler, Gary. “Couchsurfing: The Musical: A Travel Memoir”, Adelaide Books , 2019.
Gary Pedler’s “Couchsurfing: the Musical” is about a physical and psychological journey as author. He explores the phenomenon of Couchsurfing. He was then middle-aged and set in his ways and a skeptic. It was strange to thinking about spending the night in the home of a complete stranger yet he slept at the homes of thirty-five of these strangers in nine countries. He began in Tel Aviv and ended in Boston. He realized that he would, not only save money, but find himself changed for the better by the experience. He looks at these experiences through the lens of musicals that have played a part in his life.
The book is both travelogue and journal. Pedler traveled casually around the world without much advance planning or. He just went to wherever that sounded interesting fitting himself into the vibe of each new place and each new host. He never knew what accommodations to expect, and had to give up a lot of privacy.
His observations of all the various apartment setups, and behavioral quirks are related in a casual conversational tone. He found that some people are friendlier and open to real friendship than others, but it is also interesting to read about the awkward, difficult ones. We feel like we’re there with him, participating in what the hosts do; sharing meals, walking dogs, going to theater, or just hanging out.
The journey was one of colorful characters and many places., the hosts and some of the guests of the many localities Gary had visited as frugal, yet generous traveler. As met a new host in a different state or country, he soon realized how much in common we all are and yet each of us is unique. Some of the localities Pedler visited are notorious touristy destinations yet he was able to resist the main sights, preferring quieter corners from where to observe life. Pedler shows us the mindful presence in a particular place at a time that feels suspended. He risks not being able to communicate to his hosts. We learn of the couchsurfing set of rules and etiquette.
Pedler gives glimpses into the places, lives and personalities of his hosts via brief sketches. Each sketch has just enough information so that we get a sense of recognizing the person being described. In choosing the unexpected, the writing becomes strong. The focus is basically on the hosts and their homes. Pedler gives just enough of himself to the reader so that he too becomes a character. He pushes himself into new situations and struggles with parts of himself as he deals with various challenges. The book is filled with episodes that invite the reader to think about the world differently and consider travel as an exploration of people as well as places.