Wise Bread Author Launches Cheapest Book Tour - No Cars, No Hotels, No Problem
Editor's note: Wise Bread blogger Jeff Yeager is promoting his new book on frugal living with the cheapest book tour ever! He'll bike instead of drive, and couchsurf instead of staying in hotels. This is his story.
I wasn't just crossing a state line - but the entire country - to rendezvous with total strangers I'd met over the internet. And, yeah, our email banter had been plenty explicit. Eventually, inevitably it ended with an exchange of real-time address info for the big night we planned to meet for the first time and spend together.
I buzzed the security gate at LD's condo in a leafy San Diego neighborhood and heard a voice hidden by the court yard foliage say "Jeff, is that you? I'll be there in a minute. Just wait by the gate."
A wave of deja vu wafted over me. Was that Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC on the other side of the gate, or was I really about to lose my CouchSurfing virginity?
Don't get me wrong: I've crashed my share of couches during my fifty years.
In fact, in the late '70's following a night I'll never forget (because I don't really remember it to begin with), I slept half the night on a friend’s sofa that was lumpier than a camel’s back. Turns out it was indeed lumpy, but not as lumpy as I thought: Half way through the night I heard a muffled call – “Get off! You’re squishing me!” – and realized that a fellow late night reveler was directly beneath me, sandwiched between the sofa cushions and frame.
And over the years on my marathon bicycle trips and other travels, I’ve slept in some strange places. Youth hostels and fleabag hotels were considered luxury accommodations. I’ve slept in city parks and under bridges; I’ve voluntarily checked myself into local jails for the night, and spent more nights stretched out on church pews than I’ve spent time sitting upright on them for Sunday services.
But as I got ready to take off on the first leg of the Tour de Cheapskate – a series of book tours by bicycle – I was having a tough time lining up accommodations (free, of course) in the places along the way where I’d need to lay my head for the night. In addition to promoting my new book, the Tour de Cheapskate is designed to be a fund raiser for local libraries along my route. I’m donating the money I save on transportation and lodging from the per diem provided to me by the publisher.
Fellow cheapskates who have learned of my journey through my website and other sources have been extremely generous in inviting me to spend the night with them (you know, we of the Cheaphood like to hang together). But few of those invitations are from folks along my route. How could I score free overnights in the places that matter?
Enter CouchSurfing, as in www.CouchSurfing.com. Hundreds of thousands of folks around the world have registered with this nonprofit organization to make their empty couches someone weary traveler’s bed for the night. Their robust website allows you to target available couches worldwide, right down to specific neighborhoods in major cities and out of the ways places that you’d never imagine finding accommodations of any kind.
CouchSurfing hosts are under no obligation to accommodate a guest, and some people register just for the social networking aspects of the organization. You need to register (for free, of course) in order to use the network, although there’s no requirement that you need to reciprocate by making your couch available to others.
After two nights spent on LD’s futon, I’d easily saved $250 on hotels which I could instead donate to the San Diego Count Public Libraries. But as I said goodbye to LD before heading off into the coastal mountains, I realized that savings was a modest sum compared to the value of new friend I now have in San Diego.
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Wise Bread blogger Jeff Yeager is the author of the book “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches”. Fresh off an appearance on the NBC Today Show, Yeager hits the road on the Tour de Cheapskate. Traveling by bicycle, Yeager will be staying with fellow cheapskates along the way and donating his expense savings to local libraries. If you’d like to host him, you can email Yeager at UltCheapskate@aol.com and your can follow his journeys exclusively on Wise Bread!