Will Work For Food: From One Couch to Another, How To CouchSurf During Travels (And Stay Safe)
Will Work For Food #9 Advice & Stories ...
Even though this story takes place in the desert, it starts in the city. While WWOOFing at a farm in LA, I met a handful of unique people. It was quite magical, actually. There were about 5 of us who, in a short time, had really bonded. We had melted together our strengths, constantly offered support, and enjoyed each other’s company.
One weekend, towards the end of my time on the farm, I was sent of to the other farm location for a couple days in Palmdale, CA. When I came back, there were four new humans on the farm. They were from France.
On the first night that I met them, I went with them and some other WWOOFers for a walk around the lake. When they realized that there wasn’t much of a view, (there was a big fence obstructing most of the beauty) they decided to sit down and pull out their cards, liquor, and smokes.
Our group that had decided to go to the lake was a little diverse: 2 humans from The States, 5 from France, and one from Denmark. I only understood about 37% of the conversation that went on that night, but I did learn a lot about the Frenchies.
Within the next few days, the four Frenchies and I were sent off to Palmdale together. Since I was there before and knew how to run the ship, I was in charge of letting them know what to do, helping them do all the things, and supervising.
Now, I have to stop for a moment to tell you about the patch of earth that we were on in Palmdale. This place, Palmdale, is a very hot place. We were staying in a house that had been abandoned for many years; a place where lots of drugs had been left, along with articles of clothing and evidence of many humans and substance abuse. I wouldn’t call it a bright place– or a place that I would ever really want to stick around by myself. The house had no running water, no air conditioning, and no lights. It did have outlets, though, and a mini fridge. I would sleep in a tent inside of the house, (that was missing doors and locks) or if I felt really brave I would just sleep on my sleeping bag on the floor. The spot on the floor was hard for me for a couple reasons; no, the fact that it was super uncomfortable was not a big deal, but the collection of critters crawling and flying all over made me a little hesitant. Also, I’m a bit afraid of the dark. Enough said!
Ah, maybe I should have filled you in as to why we were in Palmdale, in this abandoned house, on a property that stretched over acres and acres where a huge billboard sat near the back of it. We were there to watch 12 (large) dogs because the mother farm in LA didn’t have enough room for them, and they could make too much noise in the middle of the city.
We had different projects to do– mainly fixing the fence and keeping the dogs alive– but it would be around 109 °F during the day. Taking that into consideration, we would work some in the morning, take a break during the afternoon, and get back to it in the evening.
It was a pretty interesting combo of personalities, interest, and experiences between the five of us. Although the did speak french most the the time, I would really enjoy when I would have 1 on 1 time with one of them, and I got to know them and have personal conversations. They were all studying engineering, and had a good amount of travel experiences before they arrived in the U.S. for this time around. Their substance use was pretty constant– rolling cigarettes and drinking beer. And then playing cards. They would stay up till 3, 4, or 5 in the morning. I wish I could tell you what they were talking about… but who knows! Whatever it was, they seemed to enjoy each other’s company.
If you know me, you know that I am quite the opposite. My brain struggles with numbers, science, and figures. I’m substance free, and can often feel overwhelmed around big amounts of substance use. I like to go to bed and get 8 hours of sleep, and I like to wake up and be active in the morning.
I’m not sure how many times I laughed out loud to myself thinking of this contrast. I would wake up, hours before them, drink some water and go on a run. They would wake up, hours later, drinking coffee (or beer at times!) and start rolling their cigarettes. Ha, hah, ha. I love it.
Over a number of days in the desert with them, I started to get to know them better. I was very surprised at how OK I felt with the constant substance usage and contrast in lifestyles. I enjoyed it, actually. They taught me to play cards and put a real effort into including me. They were super respectful; always mindful of my space and needs. Coming from some small experiences of sexual harassment traveling solo, as a femme, this was such a nice space that they offered.
When we weren’t playing cards or trying to escape from the heat, we would often break up and read separately. It was also our job to pick up ALL of the dog poop (from 12 dogs– in a small space– let me remind you) and gag the whole time. They would tell me in English, “Oh, so-and-so told me that they wanted to help you with that today,” as they would smirk. It was always a lie, surprise surprise. Ah, the benefits of having a language that others around you don’t understand! This always made me chuckle.
We would also have to then let the dogs out to run, and this was my favorite thing to do. Not only because I liked watching them run and play, but because I liked watching the Frenchies run. Every so often they would try to play and run with the dogs– but they were usually just running away from them. The dogs were pretty smelly and dirty, and the Frenchies didn’t want any part of that! They would literally run from the dogs, trying to hide and keep them out of the house, or try to get them to change routes and follow around a different human sacrifice. It was entertaining to say the least– and a smile still finds a way across my face thinking about it!
Although we all weren’t super fond of our desert adventures, I think that we all (my thoughts, not their words!) have some fond memories from our later road trip. After I said goodbye and left Palmdale and LA for good, I headed out to Las Vegas, NV.
And– you guessed it– they met me there. Stay tuned to hear more about our adventures as we road tripped down Route 66 to The Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Zion National Park, and back to Las Vegas.
Stay cool + happy adventuring!