I set the world record for "most couches slept on," spending nearly every night for more than a year on 150 different couches. This feat has been compared to Hillary's ascent of Everest and DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, but only by me. A book on my achievement is forthcoming. My writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Powder magazine, and Craigslist postings selling off my old Dave Matthews CDs, who, I now realize, stinks.
Mostly, I find these people on CouchSurfing.com. I love these people. And my back hurts.
Article from the Telluride Daily Planet, from July 24:
Sofa, so good
Former Planet reporter sets out to surf the couches of the world
By Katie Klingsporn
They always say that if you want to be successful, do what you are good at.
Reilly Capps, a former Daily Planet reporter, happens to be really, really good at hanging out on the couch.
And now, he’s parlaying his, err, talent into a book project.
Capps, who was in Telluride last week, is midway through a project that has taken him from New York City to the rural belly of Mississippi and even to Mexico in a quest to surf couches around the world.
He is penning a book about a new kind of travel and hospitality that is quickly gaining popularity both in the United States and abroad. It’s couchsurfing, and not in the traditional sense.
Usually, couchsurfing involves a friend or family member who, without a bed of his or her own, crashes temporarily on the couch of an acquaintance. But in recent years, couchsurfing has begun to redefine itself with a number of websites on which people sign up and offer to let travelers sleep on their couches for free.
Capps first heard about this new phenomenon in Telluride from town council member Brian Werner, who was hosting couchsurfers. The idea of someone allowing complete strangers into their home, for free, gobsmacked him.
“It just blew my mind,” Capps said.
At the time, Capps had gotten a fellowship to write a piece about the Nanny State and how it was changing the West, and was traveling a lot for it. He decided to give couchsurfing a shot. He logged into one of the sites, signed up and soon had a couch lined up. But he was reluctant.
“I figured it would be weirdos and derelicts. Flop houses,” he said.
It turned out to be a wonderful pair of hosts who let him sleep on their couch on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. They were friendly, good people, who smoked Navajo cigarettes with him out under a big sky.
“It was just wonderful,” he said.
He did it three more times during the fellowship.
“I thought, this is different and weird and new and amazing,” he said.
After the fellowship ended, Capps had a hard time finding a job at a newspaper. He thought that perhaps it was time to get into the family business, which he describes as: doing stupid things and writing about them. (His uncle is the well-read sports columnist and author Rick Reilly).
Capps got a job writing about couchsurfing for an iPad newspaper and picked up a book agent. He set a goal for himself: break the current world record for couchsurfing by sleeping on 151 couches in one year. (“I want to be the most accomplished bum in the world.”) And last fall, he set out in his beat-up Celica in search of couches and the stories hidden in their cushions.
Capps traveled from the Northwest to the South, up to Canada and even Mexico, meeting couches both luxurious and ratty, having his fair share of awkward exchanges with strangers and gaining an insight into what drives human generosity.
As he traveled, he made an effort to seek out hosts who were interesting or different, people with different backgrounds than him.
He slept on a couch in a small town in central Mississippi and learned that segregation is still rampant there. He stayed with two Google employees in San Francisco, “where it’s like the future every day, people are inventing tomorrow.” He crashed with a hedge fund manager in New York City who worked so hard he didn’t have time for a social life, save with his couchsurfers. He shared a room with a chicken on a farm in the Northeast. In New Orleans, he stayed with a drag queen who told him about having to hide in the closet for years before his alter ego, Stasha, finally burst out. And in Appalachia, he slept in a shack that had neither running water nor electricity. They fed him raccoon for supper.
“It was a little gamey,” he said.
The experience allowed him to meet people of every stripe. But it also offered a new form of traveling, an alternative, he said, to “staying at La Quinta and eating at Applebee’s.” When you stay with locals, they show you the best restaurants, take you to the cool spots, they let you see what the place is really all about.
He also discovered what he calls “an epidemic of loneliness.” He didn’t realize it in Telluride, where friends are always a block or two away, but a lot of people today are alone. And a lot of the hosts do the couchsurfing thing to have some company.
Often, though, they do it out of the goodness of their heart, or to build good karma for when they hit the road.
“On balance, you can trust strangers more than you think,” Capps said.
He has, of couteh rse, become a great connoisseur of couches, having slept on nearly every variety in existence. Long, leather couches with short armrests are the cream of the crop, he maintains.
Next up for the project: Capps is hitting the couches of Europe, where couchsurfing is extremely popular. Capps flies to Poland next week, from where he will embark on a tour de sofa of Europe. He plans to hit up France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey before finishing in Iraq. After it’s over, he’ll return to Telluride to finish the book.
“Great new things are just a sleeper sofa away,” he said. “Each couch holds tremendous hope.”
An article from The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 13, 2011:
Sofas part of the thrill for traveler
by JAY GRELEN
Reilly Capps traveled to Little Rock for the express purpose of sleeping on a stranger's couch. So on the 63rd day of his adventure, Reilly notched his 27th sofa.
The conceptualizers of this loosely organized social organization call it couch surfing, and as with everything these days, there is a website - couchsurfing.org - where adventurers like Reilly can register, pick a place to visit, search the website for a host, request a stay and then spend a night on the host's sofa.
The site includes a safety rating system of hosts and travelers with an eye toward minimizing any Norman Bates experiences. For those fearless among us who don't mind staying with strangers, this beats a hotel stay in several ways. It's free, and usually, Reilly says, the host wants to show off the town, so he sees sites through the eyes of a local. (About 250 people within 50 miles of Little Rock are couch surfers.) Reilly, 32, is young enough, unattached enough and fearless enough to pull this off, although his mother and grandmother, back in Colorado, envision the Psycho thing. His grandmother, in fact, refuses to look at his blog for fear she'll see the crime scene where he meets his demise.
Reilly's in the newspaper racket, but for this, he has quit his job at the paper in Telluride, Colorado, and is on his own.
At the end of his year, which he says will include sofa stops in New Zealand, Australia, Spain and Iraq, he plans to turn the experience into a book.
In the meantime, you can keep up with the life of Reilly at sofasogood.org.
Reilly's host Tuesday night and Wednesday was Kyle Pounders, a long-haired rock-climbing Jesus-loving sofa-surfing Arkadelphian who lives in Little Rock. Reilly and I worked together at the Daily Oklahoman a decade ago, which is how I came to meet up with them at the Clinton library cafe for a quick tour that included Central High, where they visited with Spirit Trickey, a park ranger at the historic site and daughter of Little Rock Nine icon Minnijean Brown Trickey;
and a sighting of the restaurant formerly known as Casa Bonita. And for barbecue, we went to HB's, where they posed for a photograph with owner Bruce Slaughter; Ginny Wright, for 19 years the waitress on wheels; her daughter Vanessa; Odell Townsend, barbecue-er;
and Gordon O'Bryan, consumer of barbecue.
Reilly headed east out of Little Rock about 4 p.m.
Wednesday, his engines stoked on Ginny's really sweet tea. He was bound for Indianola, Mississippi, heart of catfish-farming country, and then to Jackson, where his host, determined to out-do Little Rock, has promised to take Reilly fishing.