I was away last week in Spain visiting a friend, but I also made the most of my time away to do a bit of couchsurfing. It’s not some wacky water sport, but rather a means of experiencing and sharing hospitality and culture. I’ve been doing CouchSurfing for over two years. The first time I tried it was when I was off to Germany for the World Cup, and I used a similar project, Hospitality Club, to stay with some random Germans in the cities I was travelling in. Although my primary selfish aim was simply free accommodation, I was completely taken aback by the rich conversation I was drenched in, and the wonderful people that I was able to meet. I know that had I stayed in a hostel, I would have met all the usual tourists from everywhere except Germany, and gone to all the usual tourist places, so to be able to meet people who knew and loved their city and wanted to show off their side of it was a wonderful experience.
Since then I have hosted 43 people in my home on the North Coast. I had a hitchhiker from Finland, an American couple and their 9 month old baby, a film crew from Canada, two Swedish girls, a French girl travelling with her Grandfather amongst others. I’ve met some wonderful people, and had some great times. I’ve also used it myself some more too. I’ve stayed with a young unicycling family in Liechtenstein, a Tube driver in London, and a Scrabble player in Ballycastle. Last October I took my Dad couchsurfing in Krakow, and last week I stayed with a wonderful man, Ivan, in his home in Cadiz while in Faro I slept in Bruno’s house (right) which is right beside the sea.
There’ll be the usual won’t you get raped/mugged/murdered questions that I’m used to, but the system is based on community trust provided through references and vouches.
I highly recommend it, as a means of meeting varied and fascinating people, and enjoying the richness of culture and diversity.