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Overview

  • 16 references 10 Confirmed & Positive
  • Fluent in English; learning Chinese, French
  • 55, Female
  • Member since 2011
  • Nonprofit Founder
  • Dartmouth (Gov't), NC State (Geol. & Civil Eng.), UNC...
  • From Montclair, NJ, USA
  • Profile 100% complete

About Me

My background is in Water Planning and Policy. In 2012, I founded an online water media and education nonprofit (WaterCitizen), which includes a Media outlet. We are expanding into programs for Women of Water and other underrepresented Water Professionals; Water Startup Matching events (with a commitment to diverse founders and programs that support them); and Water Workforce. I work from home or wherever I can get work done on my laptop or phone. If I am traveling to your city, chances are it is for a water conference of some sort.

Why I’m on Couchsurfing

PLEASE READ: BEFORE CHECKING REFERENCES: Why am I on Couchsurfing? Two reasons mainly:

* First, because I used to love to travel and experience new cultures, and found that my most memorable experiences where those where I had the opportunity to connect with people who lived in the placed I was visiting and to see their cities through their eyes;

* Second, because I spent 15 years playing rugby, as well as many years volunteering to support production of personal development events. In both cases, it part of the culture for local hosts to provide "billeting" (free housing) for out-of-town guests - often not fancy guest accomodations, sometimes just a couch or an air mattress, but it was part of the "home team" responsibility to offer accomodations to those who were traveling from afar.

Coming from this background, I was very excited to join the Couchsurfing.Com Community in 2011, to get to know local hosts while traveling, happy to travel on a budget while starting a new nonprofit. I LOVED THE COUCHSURFING CULTURE. Since I was living in a large house on Capitol Hill with subletters, I could rarely host other than at Christmas when the fall renters had already left and the Winter renters had not yet arrived, but I had some wonderful experiences with hosts all over the continent, several of whom were kind enough to leave references (which wasn't as big of a thing at the time).

Having been both a host and a guest in such arrangements so often prior to joining Couchsurfing, I always made it a point of communicating with my hosts (or guests) to ensure we were both clear on whether they wanted time to hang out and get to know each other (which some hosts wanted to do, benefitting from the cultural exchange aspects of Couchsurfing), or whether they were too busy to hang out but just wanted to support travelers with a place to stay. I did my best to check ahead of time whether the space was likely to work out (e.g. if it was accessible by public transportation, what the bedding was like, whether wifi was available), and then to communicate when I arrived about expectations for neatness, use of common spaces (use of kitchen and bathroom), etc. - just generally being open and mature in communications.

Since the last several years have been spent developing my nonprofit, and most of my travels have been for related meetings and conferences (which I can attend free as media), I also communciated my schedule - often offering to arrive early or stay late before or after the conference if I'm staying with a host who wanted to hang out.

Since I recognize that this is a cultural exchange and an opportunity to be a guest in someone's home, if things are a little off - if we don't quite click, or if the place was messy or the host was a little late or if things aren't quite as described (e.g. the time I came to a home where they guy assued me he had a comfortable air mattress but when I got there he said he couldn't find the air mattress and only had a love seat - not even a full couch to sleep on), I typically didn't want to damage other people's profiles by leaving a negative review. People are different and that's part of the travel experience.

In those first few years (2011-2015) I had many positive experiences, as reflected in my references. IN 2016, HOWEVER, I BEGAN TO NOTICE A MAJOR CHANGE IN THE HOSTS, THEIR APPROACH TO HOSTING AND TO LEAVING REVIEWS. Suddenly, there were all these younger hosts who fell into the following categories:
1) they seemed to be looking for guests who would drop everything to party with them and get mad if you didn't entertain them
2) they seemed to be fine during the stay, not communicating if there was something they were unhappy about, and then seemed to feel some moral obligation to WARN people about some transgression or otherwise felt the need to leave negative reviews (often containing inaccuracies or just flat out lies).

New hosts now won't accept guests with ANY negative reviews (despite all the positive ones), and Couchsurfing only allows 260 characters to "clarify" reviews left by others . So, since it appears that my chances of ever getting a Couchsurfing host again (unless you're still reading and also miss the old Couchsurfing culture, as I do), I thought it was about time I addressed these negative reviews on my profile, in chronological order:

1) MELISSA G., Milwaukee, WI, July 2016 - after 5 years on Couchsurfing, I received my FIRST EVER negative review, and I was shocked. This was actually a challenging situation in that the woman was staying in a house that had been owned by her mother, who had died, and she and her boyfriend were just staying there while setting up an estate sale. I had come a day early to prepare for an important meeting and had asked her before I came whether she had internet, which she assured me she had, but when I got there, she had already cancelled the internet. Not only that, but the city was doing some work on the water lines so the water was out part of the time. So I ended up having to find other places to work - resulting in her complaint in my review that I didn't communicate with her about when I was coming back. There was also a "miscommunication" in which her boyfriend mamde coffee, offered me a cup, which I accepted - and Melissa then also accused me of making myself her coffee "without asking" and treating her place like an AirBnB - NOT TRUE.). I posted a short response to clarify but assumed she was stressed about losing her Mom - again, this was my FIRST EVER negative review.

2) CALEB COX, Royal Oaks, CA, Aug 2016. I arrived and was told that Caleb - who was just about to leave the Navy and had an impeccably clean home - was hosting for the very first time. This trip was complicated by the fact that I had moved to California to begin working with a client who was going to have me live in her home, but who then backed out on me, then changed her mind again - so I ended up extending my stay an extra night until that was sorted out, which was very kind. I had checked with him about where to put my stuff - I was on the living room couch in the middle of where he watches TV and did my best to keep things out of the way. He seemed find and very pleasant, so I was surprised that he chose to give me a negative review for being "midly annoyed" - but this was his first time hosting, right?

3) GRACE STETSON: Chicago, USA (her profile now says NY although she apparently has moved to CA since the pandemic). Oct. 2017. This one was AWFUL and her "review" is a TOTAL FABRICATION. I had looked into the possibility of staying with a Couchsurfing Host during a trip to Chicago for media coverage of a major conference at the Convention Center. Grace and I had started chatting because she was a Journalism student and I lead an educational media nonprofit that has been doing some cutting edge things online. I had already decided to stay at an AirBnB closer to the Convention Center, but Grace was interested in meeting with me AFTER the conference, and in our phone conversations, we had even talked about my creating a presentation for her and her fellow Journalism students at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, and to let them know what internships we had available. So I booked my flight SOLELY TO MEET WITH HER AND HER STUDENTS AFTER HAVING BOOKED AN AIRBNB DURING THE CONFERENCE.

At the end of the conference, I checked out of my AirBnB to meet Grace at her school. At the Water Conference, one of the Water Utilities had produced beer with potable reuse water. I brought a 4-pack of this collectors item beer and offered Grace A BEER. She snatched the entire 4-pack out of my hands and she and her classmate chugged all four beers. She then raced off to the train while I struggled to keep up while dragging my roller bag behind me. I don't know where she got the idea that I "expected her to pay for my train" but by the time we got off the train, she was practically running ahead - I could barely find her place while she raced a half block ahead of me!

Grace drank more when we got to the house while I tried to sleep on the air mattress on the floor. I woke up early the next day and worked on my presentation for the students while waiting for Grace to wake up. She ended up waking up late and was upset that she was going to be late for class - SO I OFFERED TO GET US AN UBER SO SHE WOULDN'T BE LATE FOR CLASS. The Uber driver couldn't find her address, so we had to walk a block to find the Uber. Grace was angry and surley as I tried to work with the Uber Driver to open the trunk to get my roller bag in the back.

We got to campus, and I continued working on my presentation for the Medill students while Grace was in class. Finally, she and a few of her classmates showed up for my presentation, where I shared with them some of the cutting edge approaches we were using on our Media sites, and discussed some of the realities of working in Journalism - which they apparently didn't want to hear (she complained in her review that I had "belittled" her and her classmates). When we finished, she began yelling at me to leave. I went to the airport, and came home to find this horrible, slanderous review - for a one-night stay with a couchsurfing host I only stayed with because she and her classmates wanted me to make a special presentation for them!

I STAYED OFF COUCHSURFING FOR THE NEXT 5 YEARS - THE NEXT 2 HOST REVIEWS FLOORED ME!

4) Cristina & Ghosty, San Antonio, TX, USA June 2022 - This one was just weird. I had checked with a few Couchsurfing hosts to see if there were any viable options. Cristina accepted my request, but then it turned out that her place was way out in the country and there was no public transportation. I told her that, since it was going to cost me more to pay for Uber to the conference and back to her place, and since I found an affordable AirBnB within walking distance of the Conference Center, that I would stay at the AirBnB BUT THAT I WOULD BE HAPPY TO TRY TO MEET WITH HER. YET DESPITE THE FACT THAT SHE NEVER MET ME, SHE CHOSE TO LEAVE ME A NEGATIVE HOST REVIEW! I don't understand that at all.

5) And this last one takes the cake ...

I had a last-minute opportunity to go to a water conference in Louisville and had arranged to stay with a couchsurfer, Jacki Banas, and her boyfriend Zach, who lived near the conference hotel. I was really busy with my conference, and they were busy with work and school, although we had some very nice conversations the few times we saw each other and, as far as I know, they were happy with my stay (I left them a good review).

Since I had never really had a chance to visit Louisville, I wanted to try to do see the city on my final night. My original hosts had family coming so I couldn't stay there, and I was going to find an AirBnB near the airport (since I had an early flight the next mornign) but thought I'd check if there was another couchsurfer willing to take last-minute guests who wanted to hang out and go to Louisville's famous Shakespeare in the Park.

I heard from a woman named Melanie (who goes by Adventures2012), who was eager to host me. She showed up at the conference hotel early, while I was still working, and was eager to drive around and show me different neighborhoods, and historical sites, which I appreciated. We got to the Shakespeare in the Park and I think I bought her a drink or dinner or something, and we started watching the show.

Partway through the show, she suddenly announced we had to leave. As we went to her house, she told me her boyfriend was there, that he didn't want her having Couchsurfing guests, and that I couldn't make any noise, would have to leave early (which I was going to do anyway), and could not leave any sign that I had been there - which was a little strange but I understand that relationships can be complicated. When we got in, I slept on the couch, folded everything in the morning and made sure there was no sign in the kitchen or living room that I had been there when I left in an uber for the airport.

As I was traveling home, I hear from Melanie, who left me a positive review:

"Glad to have the opportunity to host, Cat. She was a great Couchsurfer. I hosted her for one evening. We also went to the Scottish Shakespeare play at Central Park - which was fun. Cat communicated her plans; was clean; was adaptable and was friendly. I loved to learn about her passion for all things water including learning about her water related non profit. Glad our paths connected and I hope we will meet again somewhere - in Kentucky- in the USA or somewhere in the World,"

She contacted me to let me know she had left me a positive review and wanted to know when I was going to leave her a positive review. I was still traveling home and then had to catch up with work, and kept getting messages on Couchsurfing and as texts on my phone DEMANDING to know why I had not yet left her a positive review. When she sent me a friend request, I accepted and didn't think anything of it (more on that later).

As soon as I could within a few days of my return, I left her a positive review (of which she has more than 100 - many from people who didn't stay with her, possibly because she asked them to leave her reviews). The review I left her read as follows:

"SO glad I was able to connect with Melanie for a last-minute request to be able to stay an extra day at the end of my conference. Instead of racing out to the airport, I was able to complete my conference call and wrap up other work before Melanie picked me up. I had mentioned an interest in Shakespeare in the Park, so she took me over there for dinner and the play before we headed back to her place. it was my only chance to do any "sightseeing" and get to know Louisville all week! She also was kind enough to get up early to drop me off at the airport (her house is very close!). A really nice way to end the week! Couchsurfing is lucky to have someone like Melanie!"

I have just recently discovered that the reason she sent me a Friend Request is SOLELY to be able to post ANOTHER REVIEW:

"Wouldn’t Host Again = I should’ve rescinded my Couch acceptance when I agreed to host Dr. Cat. I only noticed after I accepted her that 3 of her references were “ Wouldn’t Host Again “ of the 14 references she had. Though, I hosted her and overall it was good/ok. She was very communicative during her stay. Though there’s something that doesn’t resonate and I feel that she lacks the overall CS spirit. It does seem that all she just wants is just a free couch and that is all. Don’t communicate with her at all after she stayed on your “ free couch “ as she’s “ busy” and lacks the heart of CS as mentioned in her other CS references. Better for her to get a couch on another apps. I do wish her the best."

WTF??? Seriously, what is wrong with these people who seem to feel that they can trash someone's Couchsurfing Profile based on what they read of other people's negative reviews?

I'm now in a new living situation where I could begin offering a space for Couchsurfing guests again - although, after dealing with people like Melissa (liar), Caleb, Grace (psycho liar), Christina (with whom I didn't even stay!), and Melanie (who left me a second review AFTER leaving me a positive review and then DEMANDING I leave her one as well, which I did), I'm not sure how I feel about allowing someone into my home if they are just going to turn around and trash me in a review.

I do still want to believe that there are good people in the world - and if I send you a couchsurfing request, it means I think you'd be an interesting person to get to know, someone who understands what CS is - or was.

Interests

I used to play and coach rugby and other sports (soccer, hockey) but mostly do yoga now (LOVE virtual yoga - will practice at your house if I can!). I used to sing with bands, choirs, and a cappella groups but my voice is very out of shape. I love movies and live music.

  • photography
  • education
  • coach
  • traveling
  • music
  • live music
  • sports
  • business
  • communications
  • teaching
  • journalism
  • tourism

Music, Movies, and Books

OMG so many!

One Amazing Thing I’ve Done

The Galapagos, China, Eastern Europe. Launching a nonprofit from scratch!

Teach, Learn, Share

I teach about water for a living so would rather not stay up all night to talk about water BUT am happy to talk for a while about cool stuff going on in water and ESPECIALLY how to capture stories about water and the amazing people who work in water - if you're in entertainment, journalism, photography or film, water recreation, sports, online education, I'm fascinated!

What I Can Share with Hosts

If you want to get better at virtual engagement, or start an online business based on your expertise, I can help!

Countries I’ve Visited

Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Scotland, Switzerland, Taiwan

Countries I’ve Lived In

Canada, England, United States

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