Xavier Magazine

Travel Corner

Helen Todd wasn’t expecting much from the campus speaker, just a few tips on cheap student travel she could use for her study abroad trip during her senior year. What she got instead was a Eurail pass, a primer on CouchSurfing and an addiction to travel that’s taken her through Europe, Thailand, Cambodia and China—and leading her to

    “I walked out with the pass and backpacked six weeks doing 11 cities and surfing in five,” says the 2006 marketing grad who managed to fit graduate school at Emerson College into her agenda before settling in Boston earlier this year where she works for theKbuzz, a word-of-mouth marketing and media firm.

While the full-time job has slowed her travel plans, she’s still maintaining the web site, which includes tips from the “queen of travel disasters” on how to overcome problems and information on topics such as CouchSurfing in which travelers and hosts connect through the Internet, go through a verification system and sleep on each other’s couches. She tested the system that first summer traveling solo—no itinerary, no foreign language, no reservations. At Emerson she went on a self-designed independent study program that included “voluntourism” (doing charitable work while traveling), working at an elephant sanctuary, camping in the jungle and rafting on bamboo floats. Along the way she met some CouchSurfers and drove through Cambodia and Laos with them. “My favorite thing is getting to meet people from all over the world,” she says. “It makes the world seem much smaller. And makes parts of the world so much more relevant. It really puts a face on things.”

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