Hosting couchsurfers is practically Heath Ray’s second job. He’s hosted over 120 different people since he purchased his ranch house northeast of Bowling Green less than a year ago. He’s had up to five people at once; one traveler stayed for 56 days. As a guy who stayed one night when Heath had no other guests, I snagged a private room with my own bathroom. But comfortable accommodations are never as important to couchsurfers as engaging interactions. Which is why Heath opens his home to so many. “I was born and raised here, I went to school here (Western Kentucky University), and now I work here. Hosting couchsurfers connects me to the wider world.”
Heath spent some time in the wider world in a major way as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania from 2006-2008 and his time there has influenced his work ever since. Heath manages a refugee resettlement program for East Africans coming to Bowling Green, a job that allows him to use his Swahili every day.
Bowling Green has been accommodating refugees from many parts of the world since 1979. Every year, city and school officials evaluate how many to invite. Health believes they have assimilated rather well, primarily because local employers have come to depend on this regular influx of good workers. Because of Bowling Green’s relatively low cost of living and eager employers, most refugees can arrive here, get established within their government loan/stipend, and be on their feet economically before that runs out.
Heath’s Peace Corps experience is also a major part of his social life: a local group of PC alums meets monthly. That fuels his interest in meeting couchsurfers from all over the world. Heath may live in his hometown, but in every respect, he’s a citizen of the world.
How will we live tomorrow?