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Sugar House Journal

Sugar House Woman on a Couch Surfing Adventure

Jan 28, 2016 11h17 ● By Bryan Scott

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]

Sugarhouse - Ever wanted to have the thrill of buying a one-way ticket to a place where you technically don’t have a bed only to work your way back? One born-and-raised Sugar House woman has taken that chance and set off on her “Clara the exploradora” adventures around world. 

Since Clara Toronto was a child, she wanted to live an adventurous lifestyle, playing games in the backyard as Indiana Jones and traveling to imaginary places with her friend, but her life of living out a day planner kept her from stepping out of her comfort zone. 

“I was told by my aunt that I have a ‘wanderlust’ gene. I have always wanted to live this adventure life, but wanted to get an education first,” she said.

Clara graduated from the University of Utah in parks and recreational tourism in 2014 and used that degree to spend a year in Alaska as a canopy and Zipline tour guide. Not only did she drive up to Alaska alone, she did it all by using an atlas, something she is very proud of.

After Clara’s Alaskan adventure, she made her way down the coast living out of her car most of the time and meeting strangers who let her sleep on their couch. She traveled with friends down through Alaska until she hit Seattle where she dropped off friends from Alaska. 

“Going on without those two was… well lonely,” Clara said in her blog. “After they left I could see out my back window, because the car wasn’t packed to the brim anymore.” 

She said couch surfing was a big leap of faith. Couch surfing means finding places to sleep as your traveling when you don’t have a lot of money to spend on hotel rooms. 

“In this world of ours, doing anything as a single female is unarguably dangerous. But YOLO right?” she said.

While she was “couch surfing,” Clara found herself in a
million-dollar beach home, touched her first anemone and almost adopted a dog. 

In Oregon she met a German man who hitchhiked in her car for three days until she hit California, slept in a tough shed while she was in California and, of course, was able to visit Disneyland.

Clara finally made her way back to snowy Utah where she was already planning her next big adventure – Peru.

Just a day after leaving for Peru, Clara got an email from the U.S. government telling her not to travel to Peru because it was a red zone. 

“It makes me antsy before I leave anywhere. Going to a country where the U.S. government told you not to go makes it even more stressful,” she said. 

Clara went to Peru anyway, and still received emails from the U.S. telling her to stay safe around taxi drivers. Even though she wasn’t couch surfing in Peru, she still relied on the few people she knew to keep her safe. She hiked to Machu Picchu, explored as much Incan history as she could and got to experience the culture firsthand. Clara initially planned to buy a one-way ticket to Peru and travel her way up back to Salt Lake again, but family at Christmas left her buying a ticket back. 

Only being in Utah for a week, Clara already had bought a one way ticket to Hawaii where, yet again, she only knew one person, didn’t have a job lined up and is working to make enough money to make her way back to Utah to see her nephew be born and then fly down to New Zealand where she only knows one person. 

To this day Clara will send a postcard to every family she has stayed with on her adventure, and says she may end her traveling adventures next year and start “adulting.”

“It was nice to have stepped out of my little Utah-based world and see the potential this planet holds for me and my personal growth. I feel I can finally start giving back to the world what the world has selflessly given to me. My goal isn’t necessarily to just travel and see neat things, but to travel and meet neat people,” she said.