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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v9n38 (09/23/2010) » Five Questions With...

John Crandall: Couch Surfing Ambassador

Get to know a Buffalonian...

When it comes to representing our fair city’s motto of “City of Good Neighbors”, you’d be hard pressed to find a better representative of that spirit than our very own global ambassador. Crandall, a flight attendant by trade, is the Buffalo ambassador for the traveling and social networking site CouchSurfing ( and has opened his door to visitors from across the globe. Built on a simple premise, the site is a portal to find just what it’s name promises—a couch to crash for the budget conscious traveler. But to users like John, who has both hosted and surfed the world, it is much more than just that.

How often do you host? Do you ever feel like there is a revolving door on the Crandall home?

On average, I recieve requests to host people about 5-8 times a week. With my normal working schedule I am only able to host a 10th of that number. In all I’ve hosted over 100 people from more than 30 countries. I love to host and I don’t necessarily feel like my home is a thoroughfare because the Couch Surfers that stay with me feel like family. Between my passion for traveling and the type of people that CS attracts, I feel an instant connection with surfers that has nothing to do with wealth or employment. The first questions are always based on travel and never based on the mundane of everyday life. While I’m hosting, I get to step away from the norm and live vicariously through my guests.

What would you say to the cautious traveler who might be reticent of the idea of staying with or hosting a total stranger?

Read all about the community on the website, Couch Surfing is filled with safe guards. The most important safe guard is always common sense and good judgment however. Never host anyone you are uncomfortable with, and meet other local couch surfers first to become more comfortable with the locals and what CS has to offer

From what countries do most of your guests originate? What brings the international traveler to Buffalo of all places?

I would say 80% of the surfers I have hosted are from Europe, however I have had people come from every inhabited continent. Buffalo is kind of a stepping stone for the budget traveler, it is perfectly situated for people traveling east-west or north-south to stop and see Niagara Falls. Most people come for the falls, but extend their stay because Buffalo is filled with such amazing people and fun things to do. This is also the ideal crossing into Canada for the east coast.

How seriously do you take your role as ambassador? What does it mean to be able to show off your city to the world and what is it that Buffalo offers to the global trekker?

really enjoy my role as an ambassador for Buffalo. I welcome new members to the Buffalo/Niagara group on Couch Surfing, host pot-luck dinners, help locals and guests in our city with any problem or question they may have, and I spread the word about what an amazing community it is that makes Buffalo the “Good Neighbor City.” I love this city and all it has to offer, and being able to show a traveler a glimpse of Buffalo’s heritage, history and culture makes me appreciate it even more.

Who was your most memorable or interesting guest? What did you learn from them about our cultural differences/similarities?

I’ve had numerous memorable guests, one a woman from Japan spoke very little English wore a wig, which I didn’t find out until she was taking it off in front of me while trying to communicate she wanted a drink of water. Two of my favorite couch surfers are a couple of journalists that live in Copenhagen, Denmark. They have been back to visit me twice and love Buffalo so much that they wrote a travel article for the newspaper they write for in Denmark. They are also recently engaged to be married, and are planning their wedding date based on my availability to attend in Copenhagen. Through all my hosting and traveling, I have learned to take each day as it comes and not to get wrapped up ‘in the little things’ in life. Enjoy the good times and move past the bad, because there is always something new around the corner to learn, taste, see and experience.

BONUS: You’ve traveled around the world and met countless people of different backgrounds and cultures, have you ever experienced a profound “small world” moment?

One of the very first couch surfers I ever hosted was a man from Jerusalem. I had realized from the start that he had been raised in the US, but we had not talked about that. After a while our conversation strayed to family. As it turns out, this man knows my brother very well. As a matter of fact he had attended my brothers wedding in Washington DC about 4 years before hand. He and I had met there, sang, danced and drank the night away. We had no reason to recall each other until that moment, but we have been very close ever since. I really don’t think you could get more ‘small world’ than that.

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