I’m a part of a travel social media network called Couchsurfing, where travelers can stay with locals as well as, meet locals and travelers alike in there new city or hometown. I love this community and the ability to meet locals, stay with locals and gain an insiders’ perspective where I’m visiting. My time in South Africa, Portugal, France, and now living and traveling in Spain, would not have been the same without Couchsurfing. Some of my highlights have been: attending a 4 day music festival in South Africa with my host Catherine, staying in the Las Alpujarras mountains with 20 couch surfers for a weekend, hiking with the Almeria Couchsurfing group, finding out about an intercambio (language exchange), and I’ve even been given the key by a few of my hosts upon meeting them and many more. These experiences wouldn’t’ have been possible without this incredible community of travelers. Couchsurfing is about opening up your world to others, sharing and trusting and believing in the good of people.
Couchsurfing is based on a pay it forward” idea. The people who host you likely aren’t going to be the same who end up surfing your couch. Anything is possible, of course but it’s not a “I only host you, if you host me” community. The idea is you’ll surf a couch and at some time you’ll be able to host and vice versa and it’s not only about hosting and surfing, there are endless groups to be apart of, meet-ups all around the world to simply connect like-minded folks with other like-minded folks.
For the overly cautious, Is it safe?
Yes. First off, you still need to have common sense but there are many safety measures in place. Each member has profile with photos and info about them ( the more complete the better).
- There are references. Both hosts and surfer can leave a reference about there experience with the person and you also get to label it as Positive, Negative and Neutral.
- Then you can friend people to add another level of security. When you have a certain number of friends and references, you can vouch for the person. Vouching is considered one of the highest levels of Safety
I’ve had the pleasure of surfing (being hosted) but had yet to give back to the community until this weekend. Now, I have the space and a place (surfers get there own bedroom). I had the pleasure of hosting my very first couch surfer, Wijnand whose from the Netherlands. His story is quite intriguing, unique and interesting because he is walking, yes, walking from the Netherlands to Cairo, Egypt. Wijnand bagan walking as a form of protest from the Dutch Queen’s Christmas speech about how social media is causing people to be more disconnected. He came up with the idea to prove her wrong about how, when used the right way, social media can bring us closer together! His journey was going to be a few months but between unexpected press coverage and the people he met along the way, including founder of the organization MasterPeace, his walk has turned into a 3 year journey. He’s walked for a year already and expects to walk for 2 more years till he reaches Cairo, Egypt for a big peace concert in 2014! Curious about his journey? Read more at Twalkwithme
The great thing about couchsurfing is when you’re not traveling, you can bring travelers into your home! He stayed for 3 days relaxing yet was also busy “working” on his blog, networking, emailing potential hosts for the next few nights to rest his eyes, corresponding with Masterpeace on new project ideas, etc (walking provides a person with a lot of time to think!). Although walking or taking a pilgrimage is not on my bucket list, I admire his journey, his motivation and his attitude to keep on walking. He inspired me in more ways than one, and he left me thinking how powerful intentions are. He’s not doing this to be famous or to be on TV. He did this for himself to prove the speech wrong through a peaceful protest, his walk, blossoming into something unexpected. People who have met him have contacted newspapers and radio stations (here I’m even writing about him), the Queen even sent him a message, people have translated his website into several languages, and more. His walk has taken a life of its own.
While staying with me, he started a new project, called PeaceVille for people everywhere to upload a photo of “Peace Streets” in all languages from all around the world. It was cool to see him start this new project on Thursday and see the response he had by Saturday, as he updated me every time he got a response. a powerful reminder of we can make anything we want happen- we just have to trust in our idea and put our energy into our projects!
We enjoyed great conversation, delicious tapas, and on my last night he cooked a Greek dish, Musaka. It was really cool hearing his story, and having a “new friend” for a few days. It was so great to give back and host him, as I’ve been hosted before and how I love to be hosted- Feeling comfortable in someone else’s home as if it’s my own. I have the attitude that I have when I host my friends, “my home is your home.” I even gave him the key to my place. With Couchsurfing, I have (potential new) friends around the world.
Are you a part of Couchsurfing? If so, how has it changed your travel experiences? What do you think about a 3 year pilgrimage? Could you do it?
Please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.