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Some travelers choose strangers' houses over hotels

(Nate Williams for The Washington Post)
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To join Casa Casa, I had to fill out a detailed online profile and provide a picture of my home -- and one of me. The personal photo bothered me a little. Was I joining a dating Web site?

But I uploaded a picture, plus snapshots of my one-bedroom apartment. "The apartment has charming features such as chandeliers and tall ceilings," I wrote. I pushed my neighborhood, Adams Morgan, equally hard.

Two weeks later, New York Girl e-mailed me. "I am clean, conscientious, independent, curious, and laid back," she wrote. "I try to be as little trouble as possible and like making new friends through my travels."

On her Casa Casa page, she listed her occupation as "slacker." She was actually a paralegal, but I took it as a sign that she had a good sense of humor. Despite my earlier huffiness at having to upload a photo, I found myself carefully studying hers. She looked sweet.

I agreed to let her stay for three nights in early April. Braden asks that members have a guest room or at least a den with a pullout couch or futon. I had neither, but my friend Daphne offered to house me upstairs in her spare room while my Casa Casa guest took over my place. In preparation for the visit, I cleaned my apartment, bought breakfast items including cereal and eggs, and laid out a clean towel and toiletries.

The day of New York Girl's scheduled arrival rolled around. I waited all day to hear from her, but no word. Was she standing me up? She finally called before getting on a bus at 6:30 p.m.

She arrived close to 1 a.m. and immediately asked to use my laptop. I waited around till she finished, even though it delayed my getting to bed. To my dismay, she texted to let me know she was up around 7 the next morning -- a Saturday, no less. She declined my elaborate breakfast and opted for a banana instead.

As we sat in my living room, she peppered me with questions. Did I have siblings? Did I want to have kids someday? Did I want to buy a house? It was too early in the morning for me to think about those things.

I didn't think we were clicking, but as she headed out the door to sightsee, she asked what I was doing that evening.

I told her I had dinner plans with Daphne. "Let me know where you're going," she said, to my surprise.

Daphne agreed to let her crash our girls' night out. It was a warm evening, and the outdoor patios beckoned. A table was available outside a Latin restaurant, and Daphne and I were eager to grab it, but my houseguest balked. "I get cold easily," she said. Our plans to dine alfresco scuttled, we ate indoors, struggling to make conversation.

The next morning, I needed a change of clothes but realized that I'd left my keys in my apartment. New York Girl didn't open the door when I knocked, so I asked a neighbor who kept my spare key to let me in. She asked how things were going.

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