Would you sleep on a complete stranger’s couch? Sounds crazy, I know, but when traveling, doing just that can become a truly awesome experience!
CouchSurfing is a website that let’s you do just that! I signed up for it in Decemeber, thinking that it would be handy for my 3 month Asian adventure! And boy, was that a good decision, as my experiences surfing the couches of complete strangers turned out to be some of my most memorable!
What better way to experience a city than through the eyes of a local? And what better way to understand a new culture than to befriend a local? This is exacly what CouchSurfing is about…cross-cultural exchange!
CouchSurfers are a travel-minded, fun loving type and I definitely got alog well with all 4 of my hosts. I fully trusted all of them and was thrilled to be able to travel my tastebuds with them, as I was encouraged to sample culinary items I would have never dreamed of! But I also developed lasting friendships with some truly outstanding individuals from my experiences in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Kuala Lumpur.
Let’s take Kuala Lumpur as an example. Sadly, I only spent a mere 36 hours in Malaysia, but through my excellent host Marcus (pictured with me above), I was able to not only get a crash course in Malaysian government and society, but also pick up on more Malay than I did Chinese (by contrast, I spent two months in China…and, to be fair, it helped that Malay bears many similarieites to English!)
So with all these fantastic cultural experience, what was my sleeping surface like? Yes, it’s called CouchSurfing, but that doesn’t mean you’re bound to a couch! I slept on one couch, one sofabed, one Chinese-style day bed and one real mattress. Some hosts advise that they can only provide floor space so it would be good to bring a sleeping bag. Generally speaking, most hosts will notate on their profiles what the sleeping situation will be.
And what about getting in and out? Well that’s totally up to your host. I had one host give me a spare key so I could come and go as I pleased. But other times, you and your host need to coordinate schedules. Sure, this might mean that you spend less time at the bar and can’t sleep as late as you like, but compare the experience to staying in a hostel dorm, a place you certianly don’t want to spend a heck of a lot of time! And isn’t the whole point of traveling to get out and see things?
CouchSurfing has definitely forever changed the way I travel and I longingly look forward to the next time I venture outside New York City to meet some fascinating new individuals!
Have you had any experiences CouchSurfing? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!