Have you ever slept on a complete stranger’s couch? I have. More than I can count on both hands, all over the world. Sounds crazy? Believe me when I tell you that it is one of the most eye-opening, exciting experiences to open your heart and get to know the world.
Challenge Your Comfort Zone
We all love our comfort zones – and we create them mostly in our own homes. But how would you feel about letting someone else into your very personal comfort zone? Sharing your space, your time and your home with a complete stranger – for many people this sounds like a no-go. But this stranger can easily turn into a new friend. Think about it, your best friend was once a complete stranger, too. And for many people, this is a way of bringing the world into their home, without having to travel far away. Because with CS you can host people from all over the world and learn about their country and culture.
What is Couchsurfing (CS)?
CS is a global platform of over 14 million locals and travellers. You can simply register online, create your profile and start surfing around the world. After my first CS experience, I never wanted to stay in hotels or hostels again because only like this can I get to know the place I visit in a real, authentic way. Who makes a place? Right, the people. If you stay with locals, you will discover the city not as a tourist, but as one of them. And it is a great way to save money, too. I also use CS to simply meet up with a local for a drink, or meet other travellers in different cities.
Intrigued? First, I want to share with you my most beautiful experiences.
The Welcoming Family
– Melbourne, Australia –
When you wake up in a king-size bed and someone brings you fresh coffee in the morning – you know you want to stay forever. This family was so kind and welcoming, my sister and I immediately felt at home. They lived in a huge house outside of Melbourne, with 3 dogs and 2 cats. We stayed there for over a week and were soon part of the family. They took us on little trips, we relaxed in front of the fireplace and cooked devious food together – it was incredible. The last days I caught a virus and the mom took care of me like I was one of her own. A truly beautiful experience, so far away from home!
Geishas, Karaoke and Tiny Apartments
– Tokyo & Osaka, Japan –
Have you ever eaten at a restaurant without seeing a single person? Have you ever crossed a street alongside deers? Have you ever had a waitress clean your ears for you? Well, that’s Japan – the country of contrasts for you. I couch-surfed with 3 very different hosts in Tokyo and Osaka.
My first experience was very traditional – sleeping on the floor, eating rice for breakfast and bowing before very sweet elders. I stayed in a beautiful family and they opened their house and shared their food as if I was their own. Their son spoke a tiny bit of English, but really we communicated with hands and feet. For sleeping, they gave me a kimono and slippers and the breakfast was always ready on the tiny table in the morning.
The second host was a very kind guy, living in a shared apartment. But this is not the kind we know, when I entered his room (and literally it was one room including kitchen, bathroom and bedroom) I couldn’t even stretch out my arms, it was that tiny. I could just slowly step one foot in front of the other, trying not to break anything. The bed was hanging above my head, and yes, we shared that one, too. The bathroom was a cube, and it took me ages to find the shower in a very genius hiding place in the wall. I still admire my host for even taking on guests and sharing his oh-so-tiny space with a traveller like me, it was surely an extraordinary experience.
The third experience was a little bit less traditional and surprising, but very fun. I stayed with another family who really really loved karaoke. One afternoon I joined the father and his sons for a session and I can truly say I have never seen anyone sing so passionately – even though they don’t have the perfect voice. After they invited me for fresh sushi – prepared in front of my eyes by a sushi chef. One thinks to know sushi until one has been in Japan.
The last Couchsurfing really didn’t have anything to do with a couch, because I slept in a super comfy bed of a 5-star hotel. Say what? Oh yes that happened, I met a really nice guy through CS who just wanted to hang out, then he invited me to spend some time together on his birthday (no strings attached). So he booked a deluxe hotel room with a view to die for – and I checked in with my backpack (really awkward feeling haha), enjoyed the spa and incredible Sushi served with ice wine at midnight – I would say I am a really lucky girl.
The Generous Sugar Daddy
– Sydney, Australia-
Work and travel in Australia, I bet around 80% of German youngsters did that before. I was travelling with my sister, exploring big Down Under. Because she never tried CS, I suggested trying it in the capital, where hostel prices are horrendous anyhow. And you cannot imagine where we stayed – a loft overlooking the famous Opera House, with a jacuzzi and our very own room (!!!). That was better than a 5-star hotel! Our host was a funny Croatian guy in his 50s, and he was living together with a super cool French chef.
The first night we arrived, we were greeted with a glass of champagne by one of his friends who was visiting – an Indian writer who told us that his book was just being filmed in Hollywood. It was no other than Saroo Brierley who wrote the book “A long way home” and had amazing success with his movie “Lion” in the cinemas. The same night we went out with Saroo and he got us into the most expensive club in all Sydney – VIP of course. And our host had more famous friends, one night an incredible guitar player was giving a private concert for us in the living room.
It was quickly clear that our host really loved the company of young, pretty girls, that wasn’t just obvious because he had a 19-year old model girlfriend, he also took us out for dinner in fancy restaurants and drinks in even more fancy bars many times. More than that, the French chef cooked 3-course meals for us all the time. And, occasionally, we ended the evening with a dip in the hot tub. Sounds too good to be true? That’s CS for you, you never know what you going to get.
CS is a beautiful way of sharing, exploring and feeling home anywhere in the world. But as you can imagine, there are not only generous, welcoming and kind people in this world. But there exists also another side of Couchsurfing – I had some very weird and scary experiences, too – which actually taught me a lot about myself and the world.
➡ Learn more about the weird and scary side of Couchsurfing in Sleeping on a Stranger’s Couch Vol. 2.
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