Surely you remember my contest where the best travel essay won a free month on JetBlue.
Well, Courtney Sampsell nabbed the prize, and though she never sent me a postcard, she did come home with a lovely new essay about the experiences she enjoyed around the country, and that’s good enough for this little contest thrower.
Here’s her report:
“In 28 days, I boarded 14 flights, visited 5 cities, and had 8 homes. To help me cut costs, I skipped on hotels. Instead, I made use of a resource I had only heard stories of in the past — CouchSurfing — and I have not a single regret about my decision.
“The site allowed me to find hosts in each city who would open their homes to me and give me a local perspective. From my first hosts in Seattle — a house full of crazy guys who kept me laughing for the entire duration of my stay — to my last host in Austin, I felt welcome in every home I entered.
“I didn’t just manage to find free, safe accommodation, I found people to regale me with their knowledge and personal travel stories, many of whom became friends I hope to see again in the near future.
“I traveled to cities I had never visited before — Seattle, Portland (Oregon), San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Austin. In each, I found something I loved.
“San Francisco, for example, showed me the Pacific Ocean for the very first time, and I spent several hours walking along the water in amazement. It was easy to do with no particular schedule and no time limits restricting my curiosity.
“I traveled on foot and by bus, except in Salt Lake City, where a ‘trusty’ Ford Club Wagon almost transported my host, three other CouchSurfers, and I up Guardsman Pass and all the way to Park City before suffering brake failure.
“Aside from flight itineraries, no set plans were made for most of my travel, and in most cases, my flights were booked only three days before departure. I managed to have only one canceled flight the entire trip and I was still more satisfied with my JetBlue experience than I ever recall being after a flight on any other airline.
“I both started and ended my trip in Seattle. I felt home there, and in the end, the city called me back. I knew it would be the perfect place to both celebrate and mourn the end of an extraordinary experience.
“I was among friends both new and old, including the hosts I had for my first stay in Seattle and a best friend whom I had not seen in a few years, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I could not have had a greater opportunity given to me and I am grateful for every second of the past month.”