To All the Couchsurfing Hosts Who Have Housed Us Safely

Thank You

by Caitlin

Sleeping on strangers couches is as normal to me as putting on socks in winter.

And while I can never be quite sure about these things and I know that once I hit publish on this post I’ll remember it differently, but right now, as I type this, sitting on a tan carpeted floor in Vermont, I remember my very first couch surf to have taken place in Ireland. Cork to be exact. And the crazy thing is, it wasn’t even a couch. It was an entire damn room with a queen sized bed. It was luxurious.

I was with a friend and we’d made ourselves a new Couchsurfing profile, added fresh photos and bios, those things are important to get hosts to say yes, especially the first time when you’ve not got any review just yet.  I’m pretty sure our host with the spare bedroom in Ireland was in fact Russian. He was there doing an internship and had gotten a housing stipend which more than covered the cost of a one-bedroom, so he got a two-bedroom with the sole purpose of hosting strangers. It was lush.

The craziest part though, that isn’t even my best story. Far from it in fact.

 

Here are the couchsurfing experiences of me and six others, the stories of the strangers who have housed us (more than) safely.

 

Kristine

Bergen, Norway

2013

three people standing in front of water in Norway next to motorcycles

 

As soon as she and I met by the bus stop in Bergen, we headed to the grocery store. We’d need to pick up alcohol before it was too late, strict laws in Norway. I liked her already. That weekend unfolded in ways I’d never expected. It was my birthday the next day, I was turning 23 and I was in a foreign country for it (not for the first time) amongst not a single familiar face (for the first time). Kristine fixed all that.

That first night, after cooking dinner and drinking that pre-bought booze (Norway is hella’ expensive) we went out and landed up at an Irish pub. At the table next to us were two men about our age. Long story short, they ended up at my birthday party the next day. That was night one.

On the morning of my birthday day Kristine took me out to the barn where she rode, and by afternoon we were on the back of the boys from the night before’s motorcycles. By evening we were back in Kristine’s apartment, there was a cake and a huge gathering or Norwegians I’d never met before, plus the boys from the bar. They sang happy birthday and we went out, again. I was treated to drinks and shots and so much happiness and friendship from a group of complete and utter strangers. All thanks to a stranger on the Internet.

Kristine is no longer a stranger on the internet, though I still communicate with her via the internet. But I promise I will go back to visit her so I can thank her one more time for that once upon a time on her couch, and for so much more.

-Caitlin

 

Maria

Madrid, Spain

2017

birds eye view of busy intersection next to tall buildings

Madrid

 

One of my favorite Couchsurfing hosts was Maria, in Madrid, Spain in October 2017. She was a single Mom whose daughter had gone off to college, but Maria kept her bedroom in absolutely pristine condition for Couchsurfers in need. 

She was the perfect host in so many ways, if such a thing exists. I love to travel independently, and Maria loved to live independently. She would give me suggestions of things to do every day and pretty much just set me loose on the city (kind of like how my own mom set me loose on the world, I’d tell her). Every evening when I returned, breathless with experiences and stories, she loved hearing about them. 

Maria was like a mother to me during my short few nights with her. She proudly showed me a scrapbook of pictures and messages from every Couchsurfer she’d ever hosted. She eagerly looked up my home town on Google Maps and made me show her around, explaining the area just like she’d explained hers to me. 

I think Maria missed her daughter, and sometimes surfers miss our parents, so it was a truly beautiful experience to share the joy of travel with someone so special.

-Kaisa, Glam Granola Travel

 

Joy

Andong, Korea

2017

three people smiling at the camera

Joy, Carine, and Derek

 

Staying with Joy (or Daekawong) was such a pleasure for us in Korea’s small town of Andong in September of 2017. Joy was the perfect hostess. She welcomed us like we were her family, took care of us like a mom and made sure we had the best experience possible!

We had made our way to Andong, a small town in South Korea, just in time for their mask dance festival. Joy picked us up from the festival and took us to her home. Over the next 5 days, we met her daughter and son and even stayed with her mother in a traditional home in a small village.

Getting around Andong is not always easy as most things are outside the city center, but Joy would take us around and show us the coolest places that only locals know about. We spent countless nights with her, drinking beers, enjoying home-cooked meals and talking for hours on end about everything and anything.

Joy was actually one of our first Couchsurfing experiences. She taught us so much about her country and culture and made us want to be Couchsurfing hosts as gracious as she was!

-Carine & Derek, We Did it Our Way

 

Sorif

Dakar, Senegal

2007

path leading between two red buildings

Dakar

 

My soon-to-be-husband Nick and I used Dakar as the jumping off point for our three-month trip across West Africa. We stayed with Sorif, a local couchsurfing host there.

Three other surfers were staying with him too — a young American backpacker and a Canadian couple who had started off traveling the world on foot and were now building recumbent bicycles to continue their journey.

In all my years of couchsurfing, Sorif was the most hospitable and welcoming host I’ve ever met. He seemed to devote all his spare time and energy to hosting.

I’ll be honest, overall I hated Dakar, and yet I still have very fond memories of the time I spent there at Sorif’s place. One such memory is of us all cooking an African meal together and eating it on the floor from a shared bowl.

It was cow’s tongue and rice, a local specialty. Even though as a vegan traveler I wouldn’t eat this now, I loved bonding with my host and fellow travelers over a communal meal.

-Wendy, The Nomadic Vegan

 

Claudio

Valparaiso, Chile

2016

colorful homes on a hill

Valparaiso

 

We’ve used couch surfing multiple times while traveling, but our stay in Valparaiso, Chile was one of the most remarkable couch surfing experiences.

We arrived in the city two days before New Year’s Eve and everything was fully booked. We found out that Valparaiso is the most popular place in Chile to spend New Year’s Eve because of the incredible firework show that takes place every year here.

We decided to try couch surfing, we didn’t have big hopes as it was almost New Year, who would like to host two strangers in their house at that time of the year. We made a public request and Claudio a local doctor immediately sent a confirmation that he would be able to host us for 2 or 3 days.

We met up with him in the afternoon and moved to his apartment where we met his girlfriend. Needless to say, they accommodated us in the best possible way. The next day was December 31st., our hosts had some family celebration arranged and we were invited. We went to Claudio’s parents first where we met all his family, then to the house of their friends (perfectly located on the hill so we could see fireworks) to join the party, we spent all night dancing and meeting new people.

The next day they invited us to go with them and their family to their country house where we stayed for one night. There we met Claudio’s cousin and her husband who invited us to go and stay with them in Santiago, where we moved the next day.

In just three days we had many friends in Valparaiso and Santiago who were happy to host us and to show us the cities. It was a great experience, because of all the great people we met there, Chile is still one of our favorite countries in the world, we even named our dog Chile.

-Campbell & Alya, Stingy Nomads

 

Ricardo

Sucre, Bolivia

2019

aerial view of town with many homes

Sucre
PC: Micah MacAllen from Travel Bums, Latin America

 

During my time in Sucre, Bolivia, at the beginning of 2019, I tried couchsurfing for the first time. Boy am I glad I did! My host Ricardo and his wife were some of the kindest people I have ever met whilst travelling. They adopted street animals and gave them loving homes (not to mention all of the waifs and stays that turn up on their doorstep). Originally it was agreed that my partner and I would stay for just two nights but day after day, they continued to open their home and hearts to us. In total, we stayed with Ricardo and his animal clan for nearly a week and it was honestly one of our travel highlights. Couchsurfing gets a bad rap but if done right, it can be not only a culturally enriching experience but also the opportunity to make friends for life.

-Sheree, Winging the World

 

Lindsay

Pittsburgh, USA

2013

overlooking water and tall buildings with a bridge

Pittsburgh

 

One of my best couch surfing experiences had to be my first one.  I only stay with women and I had a short evening in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania prior to taking a flight in the morning.  I figured that I’d try out couch surfing.  I ended up meeting my host and her roommates who lived in a beautiful Victorian-style house in a cool neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

We went out for a great meal, chatted about our hobbies in similar, and then met various friends of my host at a bar of another friend (who treated me like like a VIP).  They refused to let me pay for anything although I tried to pay for dinner! After closing, we were invited to a private bar that is only for restaurant/bar staff before talking until I had to leave for the airport.  I got on the plane exhausted, but absolutely just renewed that people still have such faith in humanity to take in people and be kind to them.

Although Couchsurfing often does have a bad reputation, many of the people that I’ve met through CS are so open-hearted and kind without any judgement for others. At this day and age, it’s nice to connect with someone fully offline and simply enjoy the city.  Since this time, I’ve met up with hosts in Serbia, Czech Republic, and Italy while traveling.  It’s always been a great experience seeing a culture through a local’s eyes!

-Karen, Wanderlustingk

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