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Couch Surfing

The man with no name


20170606-IMG_6161-2When it comes to couchsurfing, I usually don’t ask many questions about the person who is staying with me. That may sound a little unsafe, but I am a firm believer in people’s privacy. My guests will tell me what they want me to know. At the end of the day, I could ask 10 questions and be told 10 lies. On June 6, a man by the name of “JG” came to Des Moines via hitchhiking. He was short, thin and smelled like he had been in the sun all day. Not once did he tell me his real name, and I figured if I pressured him he would just make one up. Some people simply don’t want to be discovered. He told me that he was hitchhiking across the United States without any money — just through the kindness of others. The only thing he could offer in return was the chance to find a hidden treasure. I can’t make this stuff up.

What was the catalyst of this whole hitchhiking mystery treasure hunt?

“I was living in Beijing for work, and my body was having a reaction to the air pollution of the city. It was one of those things that I couldn’t control. I was breathing air that was polluted. There is nothing I can do about that. I was also dating a girl who loved to spend money in a very wasteful manner. I was consulting for three different companies in China. Basically I was helping rich men become even more rich, and I was getting paid handsomely. We could spend anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a day without a problem. But it was wasteful. We could spend $5,000 at a golf course. There is no reason for that. I flew from China to Los Angeles to look at a yacht that I was going to buy, live in and sail around the world in. I was going to live that Jordan Belfort (author of ‘The Wolf of Wallstreet’) lifestyle, but it all fell through. With all honesty, I needed a bigger change than that, so I decided to fly to Hawaii and live in a tent on a beach.”

Let’s talk about the buried treasure, as I can say with an honest tongue, you are the first person to tell me that you have hidden gold and that you are basically playing a big adventure game with the people you interact with.

“Before I left China, I needed to withdraw all my money from a bank, but they only allowed me to pull out $500 USD per day. I would have been there for weeks trying to get money. When I researched currency exchanges, I would have had to give up almost 30 percent of my retirement just to convert my money back to USD. So, I found a group on the WeChat app that was dealing with gold. So, I thought, why not just trade all of my money for gold? The guy I traded with had all these really bulky gold pieces, so I took it all to a refinery in China and had it all turned into gold coins. But it’s a little hard to travel with all that gold. Once I got to California, I was traveling around with a large bag full of gold coins, and, unfortunately, a few pieces were stolen. When I moved over to Hawaii, I realized I really couldn’t live this Bohemian lifestyle that I was going for with all this gold — banks exist for a reason. One day I was out for a hike, and I saw a rainbow, so I headed towards that end of the of the rainbow and found an area full of boulders, and I hid a good amount of the gold coins underneath the boulders. I actually only carry around one coin on me at any given time, but it’s not for any type of cash value. It’s more of an energy source. The treasure hunt idea came about after I had met these guys that had one of those ‘choose your own adventure’ companies in Hawaii. I thought that it would be interesting to take that gold and hide it around Hawaii, and then as I hitchhike/travel around the world, I could offer people the opportunity to find the gold by offering them clues or pieces of the map that I had made.”

Prep Iowa

At this point, you have given away/hidden most of your money. How did you get from the Hawaii to the mainland?

I was camping with this girl in Maui for the last couple weeks I was there. I was joking with her when I said she could send me anywhere in the United States if she covered the cost of the flight, so she sent me to Kodiak Island, Alaska, and I had to work my way down from there with no money, my backpack with camping gear, and my Hawaiian sports gear, which does not work that well in Alaska. She sent me to the most remote place in this country. It is 2,500 miles from the continental United States. I learned that the places where the TV show ‘Ice Road Truckers’ film were real. I hitchhiked all the way down to… well, Des Moines, Iowa, where I am now. Without money, I could only progress by interacting with people. As payment, I would offer them pieces of the treasure map, and, if they so desired, they could seek it out. I have put a ton of clues on my social media accounts, so if you look closely, you can start to figure things out.”

Hitchhiking, it’s not the safest way of travel by any means, but it works and I have met many people who do. Do you have any safety rules when it comes to hitchhiking?

“If I am not picked up by 7 p.m., most likely I won’t be getting a ride that night. Basically an hour before dark is the cut off. No one is going to pick you up after dark. I had to camp out by a tree once in Arizona when it got too late. It was early spring, so the weather was nice and I could sleep outside on the ground next to a highway near a construction site — less of chance of getting a visit by a rattlesnake or scorpion. It was Easter, and chances of getting picked up were pretty slim. I don’t sleep under bridges. I am not a troll. At the end of the day, the key word in all of this is “kindness.” The only way for me to progress is through the kindness of the others.”

To see JG’s Instagram post that features his stay at my house, head to and scroll down to June 8. You can also check out his websites at and ♦


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