Posted on January 29, 2016
We stayed with two couchsurfers over the five days in Philly: one named Feras, a very cool and down to earth guy from Saudi Arabia who is studying architecture at the University of Philadelphia, and the other was Caleb, who owned a farm outside of Philadelphia in a suburb called Norristown. Where Faras was able to take us downtown to see the sights of the city, we had quite a different, somewhat unusual, and absolutely incredible time with Caleb at the Edible Forrest. First of all, he has two guard ducks (yes, ducks – not dogs) who quack when people enter the urban farm. We were initially hesitant and unsure when we saw our living arrangements of a futon in the middle of a living room with bikes overhead, but when the few days passed and we had to leave, we felt like we were abandoning our home. The Edible Forrest brews their own Kombucha with a wide variety of flavors, and Caleb is an avid dumpster diver with an impressive pantry and great stories to match it (like how he once found dozens and dozens of bottles of wine being thrown away, or when he dove and took home a massive amount of gourmet chocolate!).
So he took us dumpster diving. It was crazy and so much fun.
Caleb explained to us that there are certain places like Target and REI that you can’t dumpster dive at, due to them locking their trash bins, having a trash compactor, etc. Certain places, however, are a different story.
We head out after midnight to the local Trader Joe’s and a few other stores. Apparently we went on a not so great day of the week (and I guess there’s a FB page that coordinates who goes where on what days?), but still made out so well! We even got a free frozen pizza that was tossed just because the box was a little crumpled on the corner. Caleb says that he’s never eaten as well as he does now that he dumpster dives, and that it’s actually made him a bit of a bread snob. If you saw their bread freezer, you would understand why.
Transit in Philadelphia was really a mixed bag. Although SEPTA has a massive system of track and services thousands of people, it seemed that many people we talked to found it ineffective and overpriced but the alternative is to also wait in traffic for even longer. We ended up buying the Independence Passes ($12) most days, which allowed us unlimited travel on all forms of public transit and was very useful. If you didn’t by the pass you need to pay per ticket for a trip to Georgetown or Norristown which is around $6 and local transit is separate prices as well. I really don’t understand how the locals deal with such steep transit costs from day to day!
Overall, we had such an unforgettable time in Philadelphia and met some unforgettable people. The city is huge and has quite a few varying faces that come together to create quite an impressionable mosaic. I think overall, we were expecting somewhere to mostly just transit to and left blown away and dying to return. If not for the great architecture and deep history, at least because we need to attend the apparently mind-blowing couchsurfing parties!