Ellen and I have heard a lot about couchsurfing, and many broke long-term travellers recommend it highly. Until I got to Quito, though, neither of us had couchsurfed before. We’ve glanced a few times through potential hosts’ profiles, but so many of them read suspiciously like personals ads that we never bothered trying to find accommodation through the site. This week my feelings on the matter have changed after staying with a friend of Ingo’s who lives near the airport. Staying at someone’s house has some huge advantages over hostels!

Steve's garden is absolutely amazing!

Steve’s garden is absolutely amazing!

The most obvious benefit of staying with a local is the financial savings. The cheapest hostel room I found was $8 a night (although I didn’t look far). Spending a week at Steve’s house saved me at least $50. Not only that, but I have the use of Steve’s kitchen, which is much better outfitted than a hostel’s shared kitchen, as well as a bathroom that I never have to line up for, and unlimited access to a washing machine that I don’t have to pay for. When you add up those benefits, I’ve probably saved at least another $20, especially on meals that I didn’t eat out.

Another huge advantage is having a local insider to give you directions and suggestions on places to go. Here I lucked out as well – Steve first came to Ecuador 40 years ago, and has plenty of information to help me get all my errands done. He doesn’t know as much about tourist sites, but his sister-in-law Dora who lives nearby has plenty of advice to offer me. My running around town has been much more pleasant than I expected, mostly because I can pick Steve and Dora’s brains on where to go.

One of the prettier streets in Quito - nice to have someone tell you where the nice views are!

One of the prettier streets in Quito – nice to have someone tell you where the nice views are!

Another sweet building that reminds me of Cartagena (fewer flowers, though - Cartagena still wins nicest city award!)

Another sweet building that reminds me of Cartagena (fewer flowers, though – Cartagena still wins nicest city award!)

The best part of this couchsurfing experience, though, has to be feeling welcomed at somebody’s home, rather than like a tourist in a hostel. Steve has been an amazing host – when I mentioned that I was hoping to read more about natural building techniques, he brought out half a dozen books on the subject that I could browse through. His library on customizing WordPress has inspired me to play around with my blog more over the next few months, and we’ve been having animated conversations on all sorts of topics.

Steve's brother-in-law built this gorgeous natural house.

Steve’s brother-in-law built this gorgeous natural house.

The absolute highlight, though, is that Steve is a distributor for the artisan brewery in Canoa whose beer Ellen and I tasted on our trip to the beach. The brews are only available by the keg, but Steve has a fridge full of bottled samples, of which he said I could help myself to two or three of each kind. That’s exactly what I’m planning on doing this afternoon, in a hammock in Steve’s beautiful garden, with my sketchbook on my lap and a steady supply of nice cold microbrew next to me. I can’t even remember – why was I unenthusiastic about couchsurfing again?

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