Ok, here is an ambytious title 🙂 I don’t have secrets on the meaning of existence or other serious stuff, but I believe that some small discoveries can really open new horizons. Therefore, here you have how Couchsurfing changed my life, and mostly my way of travelling (even when I stay at my place in Milan!)
What is Couchsurfing?
First of all, what is Couchsurfing? Maybe for you it’s clear, but I still see my colleagues’ faces puzzled, asking how much is the rent or how can I trust unknown people, so an explanation could be useful. Even after the explanation many faces are still puzzled… but that’s another story 🙂
Couchsurfing is a social network born in 2004 from the idea of a US computer student: he was young, penniless and had the dream to go to Iceland, found a cheap flight but didn’t know where to stay. Therefore his idea: he hacked a pc of the University of Iceland and e-mailed 1.500 students, asking for accomodation. He received like 50 / 100 offers of stay, and when he came back to USA, after staying at an R&B singer’s place, he decide to create a website.
Now Couchsurfing has 14 million of users. Its goal is to create a community of travelers, based on the idea of sharing: as the name suggests, you can ask for free accomodation to other Couchsurfers when travelling, host foreign Couchsurfers, just meet new people around. Its originality and richness is the cultural exchange and the possibility of visiting a city with a local’s eye, discovering the hidden and typical places you cannot find on a tourist guide.
Is it risky? (usual question) Of course it could be, as it can be meeting new unknown people. What I can say is that since I have signed up, 6 years ago, I have had only positive experiences, like most of my friends using it, and that people you meet here are more interesting and open-minded than the average. Every surfer has a public profile and can give / receive positive or negative references to / by others, according to the experience: a kind of “self-regulation” implying also the possibility to report inappropriate behaviours to Couchsurfing.
So, since when I signed up in the last days of 2013 – I was in Valencia for New Year’s Eve with my sister and we were looking for friends – CS has brought me a lot of new friends, many of them just during a travel (like my Montenegrin friend Zarko), but some of them are still in my life: I have met one of my best friends in Milan in Copenhagen, got to know a neighbour (and dear friend) through a Russian girl met at the seaside, gained a new funny company in Ravenna after meeting one of them for a trip to the mountains.
Couchsurfing has also had the power to create interesting “melting pots” and coincidences. I still remember the funny happy hour in Granada in 2016, organized by a Bulgarian guy who was living in Wien and decided to organize a CS event during a work business trip: it was a great success and we hanged out in different bars with people from Azerbaijan, Greece, Spain, Italy, even a nice Aussie couple who hosted me in Adelaide last year, during my month in Australia. Some months ago I hosted a Polish guy and an Aussie girl that found out to live both in Berlin, and the Sunday lunch we organized was an incredible mix of German, Hungarian, Russian people.
A great opportunity are the events: in Milan, for instance, the local CS community organizes a funny “tram party”, renting a tram that will move into the city while people from every Country of the world is partying on it.
… new cultures!
It is also a real cultural exchange: you always get to know a different lifestyle and new cultural habits when spending time with foreign people… that’s how just a few weeks ago I learnt to cook Chili chicken from a guest from Brunei! 🙂
This is also a good occasion “to travel from home” for people who don’t have the possibility to go abroad: that is what taught me Salim, a fantastic Franco-Algerian surfer who hosted me and 3 friends in Lyon, during the popular “Fête de Lumière”. He doesn’t have time to travel, so he hosts a lot of people – with incredible kindness, on Saturday morning he even bought croissant for breakfast for us! – and so for him it is like to travel through his guests’ stories…
So, here’s the story of how Couchsurfing changed my life. What about you? Do you use CS or do you want to try? 🙂
Go to Couchsurfing webpage