Today I want to talk to you about other people’s couches. Ok maybe more about the people and their couches. Ok actually just about the people. Almost. People who allow me to stay on their couch. Which technically makes me a Couchsurfer. Yes, that is a thing – Couchsurfing. There are people out there who call themselves Couchsurfers. A community with 12 million members in 200 plus cities. Ok let’s start from the beginning.
My first experience with Couchsurfing goes years back. When I went to university I lived in a flat share with 3 other students. One of them was a member of the Couchsurfing community. At that point I didn’t understand the whole concept yet though. I remember that sometimes strangers were sleeping on our couch but that was pretty much it
It wasn’t until I started travelling by myself that I dove into the community myself. But first things first. What is that Couchsurfing thing? Couchsurfers are a bunch of people from all over the world which all have one thing in common: Travelling.
Some space to feel free and to be spontaneous
But lets even go back a bit further. There are 2 different types of travellers. The one group loves to travel in an all inclusive set up. They book their flights and the transfer from the airport to their all inclusive hotel. Everything is taken care of before they even leave their home. A nice and relaxed getaway without surprises. Then you have the other group of travellers which I belong to. Before I leave my home I check the map and decide where I want to go. Then I book my flight and take care of the first couple of nights at my destination. After that I keep things casual. Some space to feel free and to be spontaneous. I will figure it out when I am there. With the goal to dive into the culture and to learn as much as I can about the place. For me the best way to do so is by hanging out with locals. That’s where CS comes in. This community is offering so much more than just a place to stay though. Imagine you arrive at a foreign place and you get a warm welcome from people you have never met before in your life. It’s about getting to know new cultures and making new friends. No money is involved – just kind strangers
Now you are probably questioning the “it’s all for free” part am I right? But don’t worry most people do. I think that’s the nature of our society these days. I once travelled with a friends who never heard of CS. We were staying with a guy named Jean-Marc in London (England). He has a very impressive CS history. He had hosted over 200 people so far and visited 100 countries by himself. Wow! However, when I told my friend that we stay with Jean-Marc he was asking me: What’s the catch? I said there is none.
Strangers staying with strangers
Jean-Marc was a wonderful host. He welcomed us with a delicious dinner and some wine before we went to his favourite bar. About my friend, he didn’t trust the guy. He thought all the time our host wants to steal our stuff or is planning something else. That was his only logical explanation for why Jean-Marc would have strangers staying with him without charging them money. I am not saying that there are no rotten apples hidden in the bowl. But let me tell you about my experience.
I spend the first 3 nights in Australia with a guy in Brisbane. We cooked together and hang out which was lovely. I could not have had a better place to stay if you consider my jetlag and overall situation. I mean I just flew to the other side of the planet by myself with nothing more than a backpack. That was pretty scary. My husband and his flats hosted me in New Zealand. One of his flat mates lent me his car to travel around the South Island. Yes, that’s right. There wasn’t a contract or anything else. Just kindness. They welcomed me back to stay with them 10 days later.
With Couchsurfing invite the world into your home
To grow my social life whilst I was living in Christchurch I contacted some CS’ers to hang out with. Same in Scotland. My circle of friends were mostly members of the CS community. One of my hosts in Belgium, Astrid, showed me around the city for a whole day before we had a lovely dinner together. All surfers I ever hosted where very kind. They cooked me a yummy dinner or brought me cool souvenirs from their home country. If you don’t have the option to travel you can always host Couchsurfers. Just invite the world into your own home. Many cities have weekly Couchsurfing meetings where you can meet like minded people to hang out with.
I have learned a lot from the CS community and today I can call some of these people my best friends. And not to forget the man I married. Every single one of them made my life so much richer. It’s about being kind and getting to know the world we are living in. Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.
Be spontaneous. Be kind. Be you.