Photo by meigooni
WHEN I TOOK THAT FIRST STEP out of Australia almost four months ago I was a girl on a mission: to travel, entirely supported by couchsurfing, for as long as possible.
I wanted to see places and meet people, but most of all I wanted to immerse myself in the community and experience the life of someone who lived and breathed that city, even if for a few short days.
To date, I have been couchsurfing for approximately 105 days and counting. I have been to over 30 cities and couchsurfed with more than 20 people. There have been many occasions where I found myself invited to lunches and dinners with friends and families, or to celebrate a birthday, an event, or a holiday.
Sleeping and living
Every experience has been unique and magnificent in its own way, so much so that my heart now beats childishly upon arriving in a new city, meeting a new host. Couches are always different, and almost always, a pleasant surprise.
Mine have ranged from sleeping on the floor cuddled up with a cat or a dog, to having my very own bedroom complete with king-sized bed, silk sheets, and marble en suite.
All the places I’ve been to have the smell of home. I love surveying the half-burnt candles resting quietly on the coffee table, the dog-eared books left on the sofa, the mix of pots and pans in the kitchen.
Expect the unexpected
There have been so many instances where my trip would not have been as enjoyable without the community of couchsurfing hosts.
In Cairo, I stayed with a generous soul who shared the services of her private chauffeur and personal maid. It made all the difference, as Cairo is not exactly a female nor pedestrian-friendly city. I was flabbergasted at being driven wherever I wanted, with a kind Egyptian driver who made sure I was not heckled or ripped off at popular tourist spots.
At the end of the day, I went back to a comfortable flat to find clean clothes, a made bed, and a friend to have a drink with.
When I was in Bilbao, I tagged along to one of many fiestas, held in a small building only locals frequented.
I was taken crab-hunting in the far reaches of the Arabian Gulf, an experience that’s not in Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 Dubai experiences! But off I went, and had a fantastic time attempting to catch crabs and dodge crawling sea creatures. At the end of the night, we had a gigantic feast of our catch and treated ourselves to American beer.
I spent Christmas in the Basque region of France with a local family. I experienced first-hand how they celebrated, was treated like part of the family, and got to explore surroundings that I’m sure the average tourist has never set foot upon. I got to eat Basque food, drink Basque wine, and learn Basque history.
Take a chance
Go on, do it. Couchsurfing has brought me more advantages and joy than I could possibly have ever imagined. I have seen and done so much through the kindness of strangers, who I now call my friends. I’m afraid my addiction cannot be cured. It’s an affliction that has changed my life, and I never want it to end. Are any others out there?
Even if you’re not traveling, you can still experience the pleasures of couchsurfing. Consider being a host after reading “Would You Let a Stranger Sleep on Your Couch?”