I've been a member of CouchSurfing for over 5 years now and it has literally changed my life. I have made so many close friends through CouchSurfing, whether from hosting in my hometown or being hosted abroad, or from simply meeting people around the world for a cup of coffee, an animated conversation over a shared meal or a day out exploring new places.
The most important aspect of CouchSurfing that I identify with is the community aspect. It's NOT about finding a free place to sleep and saving money. CouchSurfing is so much more than that! It's about making connections, sharing life experiences and having another perspective on life.
Here are stories from people who have made the global connection through CouchSurfing.
On a motorcycle trip I took a few years ago, I stayed in New York City for a while and hung out with Couchsurfers every day and night. One of the city bookstores was hosting a free book-release party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Since many of the friends I had met in New York were going, I went along, despite my general lack of interest in Harry Potter. The street had been closed off and was full of people dressed as wizards, monsters, and fantastic creatures (and of course, some normally-dressed "muggles" such as myself). The street was set up to be "Diagone Alley" with a giant tree and some other things from this magical place. We got our faces painted, enjoyed magic-potion drinks, and talked with other fans. The anticipation in the air and the heat from the crowd made it feel like a rock concert in summer. Midnight struck and books were passed out. One-by-one, people headed home, most having started to read before they left Diagone Alley. My friends and I took some pictures and ate some cupcakes, then went our separate ways. The next day as I walked about the city, I saw these bright-yellow books everywhere and wondered who had been at Diagone Alley the night before. Submitted by Parker Whiteway.
One of my best memories from Couchsurfing was when I traveled around Iceland. I was hosted by two best friends (nicknamed Marco and Polo) in the town of Akureyri who wanted to make sure I loved my time in Iceland. They took me on a hike through the mountains behind their house to show me the stunning views, drove me to Lake Mývatn and then Dimmuborgir for a moonlit walk through snow and caves, followed by swimming in a natural geothermal pool in the crack of the ground! It was surely a local spot as there was nothing for miles around. We had to climb down through the crack until we reached the hot pool. It was amazing to be sitting in that pool, surrounded by snow, looking at the stars above us. While I was having these amazing experiences, I had such a great time chatting and laughing with these two guys! Submitted by Connie Hum.
For my first solo trip, which I took to Buenos Aires, I knew that I wanted to meet up with locals. Couchsurfing seemed like a natural way to do that, since the organization gives you the option of meeting people for "coffee or a drink." I contacted a few individuals who seemed cool, then posted a message on the board -- and suddenly I was swept up into the Couchsurfing community!
I joined the Couchsurfers for a Southern Hemisphere Thanksgiving dinner, attended by Argentines, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Swedes, French and Americans. After bonding at dinner, I was soon running all over the city with them: devouring steaks in San Telmo, dancing in the Centro, and toasting our bonhomie in Palermo Viejo. I was shocked at not only how many Couchsurfing activities were constantly taking place, but also how close all the Couchsurfers were. Now, I can't imagine traveling to another city without joining the Couchsurfers! Submitted by Adventurous Kate.
I knew Brunei would be expensive, so I thought I'd give couch surfing a try to cut down on accommodation fees. I got in touch with a host after making a few requests after arriving in Brunei's capital – Bander Seri Bangawan. The woman's name was Sue, she was an Australian expat teaching English. Sue took us to her local leisure club, where we swam a bit, ate the cheapest but nicest food in Brunei and she mentioned going to a party this evening. “By the way, the party is illegal and there will be Filipino dancers there for you guys!”
We went to the party, there was around 10 people in the house, it was not a rave, not loud, just a friendly group of people catching up with each others life's. What was illegal? Well in Brunei to prevent terrorism people are not allowed to gather in a house with more than 6 people in without the correct authority. It is allowed but a special permit must be required first! As for the Filipino dancers? They were 2 men who refused to dance out of embarrassment of the attention they got from being dancers! Submitted by Adventure Rob.
It is 4:00am and I just arrived by train to Berlin's central station. I have coordinated with my hosts to meet them today, though for some reason, we missed to inform each-other of the arrival time and address. So, I have a place to crash, but I don't know where it is.
I decide to wait till 8:00am to call my hosts to get the address. I take out my phone and as I start dialing I notice it's not working. I quickly look for the first wifi spot so I can message them through Facebook and CouchSurfing. Now I wait patiently for a response. Hour after hour I check the inbox. No response, so I continue my day. At 5:00pm, after some frustration and the fear of having no place to stay, I start looking for a hostel. But before, one last look. Alas! They responded. Turns out they were trying to contact me all day through text messages and calls. They almost thought I was MIA.
Phew... A facebook response never felt so good. In the end, the wait was worth it. My Berlin hosts had the most insane place I have ever couchsurfed, plus they made my visit the most memorable experience of Berlin. Submitted by GloboTreks.
As you can see, CouchSurfing is so much more than just a free place to stay! It's about the experiences and new perspectives you gain from meeting new people. Give it a try, see how the world can open up for you!
Do you have any exceptional CouchSurfing memories you'd like to share?
© Connie Hum 2010