I’ve had encounters with very kind hosts. The moment my hosts in Stroud, U.K. picked me up, they dove right into a road trip, to places that I said I wanted to go. My host in Lyon picked me up from the train station and brought me around Lyon in between her busy work-study schedule! I had the privilege to try specialty dishes cooked by my host from the South of France in Cannes.
I’ve also had less than pleasant encounters surfing with some hosts. One hosted me but was less than hospitable, seeming that all she wanted was to offer a couch together with 2 other hosts in a small room, as she went about her own business. Another 2 hosts hosted me separately but seemed to have dubious motives. I count my blessings daily that I manage to leave the apartment unscathed.
If you’re a daredevil…
Try surfing with males/ adventure-seekers/ punk-rockers.
I went with Bryce in Nice and he made me hike down a path I never knew existed. The timidity in me would never have ventured up this path. I would gladly have opted for the bus and forgo the magnificent unobstructed view of the French Riveria. I knew I always wanted to go hiking and have a hiking buddy, and by chance, I’m glad I managed to do so at least this once during this exchange. The view, undoubtedly, was rewarding. The sun was shining mercilessly down on us, which was something to be grateful for too. Mind you, it was in end February then, and spring was yet to come.
Be wary of male hosts is the only advise I can give. Of course this is not representative of the entire male population in CS, but there always lie this uncertainty.
If you want to err on the safe side…
Look for females. I also found that surfing with couples/ families made me feel very much at home.
If there’s one thing Couchsurfing has taught me, it is that it has opened my eyes to the bottomless kindness that exists in people. Read about my best experiences in Ghent and Cologne. The kindness from hosts and consideration as guests are more evident than being a guest in an Airbnb apartment.
With Airbnb, there is a level of expectation of how the apartment should look like- the cleanliness and spaciousness that the pictures on Airbnb listings offer. Since you’ll be paying for the room, you wouldn’t mind leaving the apartment a little dirtier, or you might feel shortchanged when the room appears smaller than in the pictures listed, or be uncomfortable when you have to share what little private space you have.
These considerations all cease to exist when you’re couchsurfing. You wouldn’t mind sleeping on a sofa bed, in a living room or in the same room as your host. You don’t expect to be fed breakfast or have a warm, home-cooked local meal at the end of the day. But when you do, you’re heartened by such kind gestures, especially when you’re alone on a foreign land. With Couchsurfing, you spend your otherwise quiet, lonely nights chatting with strangers-turned-friends, learning about their stories and taking the time to marvel at how vast the world is, how different yet similar we human beings are no matter what colour our skin is or which continent we hail from, how your life might have been charted differently had you lived in their shoes. They open your heart to the endless possibilities about your future, like studying/ working/ volunteering abroad, and learn about websites offering free bicycle rides and home-cooked food.
Below shows a list of couchsurfers I’ve met and had the fortune (or misfortune) of crossing my life’s paths with. Though the time spent with each of them may be brief, they’ve entered my life and inspired me to live a life I desire. Each of them holds a special, intimate memory in my heart that can never be replicated.
- Stroud, UK- Rachel & Andy
2. Lyon, France- Soumaya
She brought me to a school play that I’d never have gotten the chance to experience otherwise. I noticed the interactions between the friends there, how they are so passionate with each other and how they wear their feelings on their sleeves. In comparison, Asians are much much milder and duller when it comes to the energy they have and the display of affection.
- Nice, France- Justine
- Nice, France- Bryce
- Nice, France- Rocco
Got driven to meet with his friends for a crepe party, who turns out to be a melting pot of cultures. They are from different parts of Europe- France, Italy and the U.S.!
- Cannes, France- Guillaume
A painter couchsurfer who introduced stuffed peppers to me. Now I replicate them at home on my own. 😉
- Porto, Portugal- Camille
This Brazilian brought me to a student pub to soak in the atmosphere of watching a live soccer match by the home team!
- Brussels, Belgium- Lisa
Lisa brought along friends who are so much more of a daredevil than me. If you think Couchsurfing is daring, you must check this Australian girl out. She’s been travelling out of her suitcase, roaming place to place, hitchhiking when the occasion arises and travelling spontaneously for almost a year. Best part? She’s only 19!
- Ghent, Belgium- Tine
Tine and her friends brought me to a local ruin pub to try out their unique beer. An experience I’ll never forget! And the way she furnishes her apartment together with her boyfriend is such an inspiration that I started to develop ideas for my future home too!
- Hamburg, Germany- Karina
A couchsurfing veteran, if there’s such a classification. She has hosted for many years, been to numerous countries. A traveler at heart, Karina requests all her guests to draw an image that is representative of themselves. What an interesting way to remember her hosts! Also the only host that I stayed with together with a friend, Jov. The rest of the couchsurfing experiences was done when I was travelling solo.
- Cologne, Germany- Silke
She’s treated me like one of her own. One of the homeliest and warmest people I’ve met. Her dog is a wonder! There’s so much love in this house, it was sad to leave them.
- Strasbourg, France- Thibaud
A musician-in-the-making, he offered his bed although he was not the original couchsurfer that I agreed to stay with. He also took the time to have conversations with me and was extremely considerate. Such a fine young man that I feel fortunate to have known. Although he speaks little English, he takes the effort to still converse with me. And it was only because of him that I saw my own flat through Google Maps for the first time when I was showing him what my house looked like. I still keep the note he left for me!
So Couchsurfing, Yay or Nay?
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