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Sweet and cheap: couchsurfing

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Bringing home a beautiful Danish girl, who will sleep half-naked in our room? No no, this would be too much ;) But Danish couple, or Palestinian family or brothers from Chile – yes yes, we really love the couchsurfing idea.

Probably you know the idea. Or at least you heard the word “couchsurfing”. And if not – you really should! Couchsurfing is the world’s largest social travel network, connecting a global community of travellers. Right now more than 6 million people in 100,000 cities.

The idea is very simple: when you travel – you can stay at somebodies home for free (for one night or for few). In exchange: when you are at home – you can host somebody at your place (for one night or for few). Usually the place you get or you give – is not a luxury separate room with a jacuzzi (but happens!). Usually it is some additional couch in the living room, or a piece of the floor with a mattress.

How to start? You have to register on the couchsurfing website, fill a detailed online profile (info about you, some of your stories, conditions you need, photos). Once you have a profile – you can ask the others (let’s say a girl in New York, where you are going for a weekend) by sending a couch request, if you can stay at her place. She is watching your profile and decides if she has time and will to host you. If you are lucky (and your profile and couch request is friendly and interesting) – you have a place to sleep in the expensive New York – for free.

 

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BUUUUUT. For us the charm of this idea is totally not connected with this “for free“. Staying at somebodies living room means getting immediately into a local community, local habits, family or guests of your host, sharing stories, sharing experiences. During one breakfast together you will get more information about the city and places to visit than from any of the travel guides. If your host has time – he will show you his places, places you cannot get without a local, you might meet his friends.

I love the slogan of couchsurfing: “friends you haven’t met yet”. It is like this, indeed. We met so many amazing people by surfing or being surfed!

Sounds uncomfortable and dangerous? Hmmm, like the whole life! :) Of course couchsurfing is not for everyone. If you need a lot of comfort and privacy – better don’t risk. If you are difficult, complicated person, who usually fights with others – better don’t risk. You might meet somebody, funny, boring, smart or stupid, with very different points of view. You have to be open, for new experiences, for new ways of preparing food. But, from our perspective, the worst what can happen is that somebody will snore in the next room or that you won’t like the dinner and because of being polite you will feel uncomfortable not to say it loud.

We did it many many times. And we know many many people you did it many times. We know four couples who met like this. Two of them are married. One of them has a child. Please do not mix it up with a sexsurfing, even if one-night-stands seems to happen (like everywhere else). If you are afraid of those kind of situations – you can always play safe and send couch requests to whole families or people who look very trustworthy. Come on, you can judge by a cover, you can look into somebodies eyes even on the profile picture.

Yes, it involves quite a high degree of trust. But in nothing else on this planet I trust more than in people. We are laughing that we were doing the couchsurfing still before the website existed. We were hosting friends of friends, we have never met before. The worst experience? That somebody appeared to be super boring. But you can really stand it for one night.

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In our Berlin flat we have hosted, no idea, maybe 100 people in last years. And most of them were AMAZING. There were few music bands, coming for a tour to Berlin. There were some actors, coming to perform in Berlin. There were many lovely couples, there were people, who are travelling since 5 years without break. Thousands of inspirations and talks in our kitchen.

Most of them immediately get in contact with Hanna and Mila. Most of them, knowing before where they will stay, were bringing little gifts for them. Little dolls from other corners of the world. It’s all a bit like having the whole world in your flat, even when you don’t travel.

I remember when I was much younger I read in some book about Mecca. The author was telling the stories from her childhood about the time of the annual pilgrimage: that the whole family was moving to the roof to sleep there and all their house was full of people from very different countries. And how much she, as a little girl, was learning from it. I loved this vision and was waiting for the time when my house could be like this.

Actually we started to host so many people – after our experience of being hosted, mainly during our Central America trip. Everything started with couchsurfing: when we landed in Cancun, we didn’t know anybody. We met a lovely Maria, who – I am sure about it! – was our angel out there. She gave us her living room and was standing us for the first (and worst!) 2 weeks of our Central America trip (when we were all jet-legged, Mila was super sick, we were looking for a car etc). 2 weeks! You can seriously have enough of your sister if you live with her for 2 weeks, not talking about strangers with two little kids!

Then we were hosted few times more, when we stayed in the big cities and didn’t want to sleep in the car. No, we have never had a problem to find a host being a family, let me answer the most typical question we get about it.

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Maybe because of our references (after any experience you should write on the website your recommendation about your host/guest, to help others making a right choice)? Maybe because of personal requests (some people just copy-paste their requests and send it to 50 people in one city to raise their chance for getting a couch), in which I truly believe? Or maybe again we are lucky! :)

Anyway, you are asking me how to travel if you don’t have money, time or courage. Maybe start with couchsurfing? Host few very different people, listen to few stories, make sure you have a bed to use in their flats, get very good friends and Im sure – it will be easier to take a decision about the next trip.

You can also learn a lot about yourself! What is annoying you, if you are super luxury person, liking only his own pillow, if you will get jealous about this pretty Danish girl walking half-naked in front of your husband and stuff like this :) Worth trying.

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Our first book is out!

We have published our first book (for now just in Polish:) about our Central America Trip.
See, read and order here »

3 Comments

  • Posted December 5, 2013 at 13:53 | Permalink

    I truly love couchsurfing. I have had so many great experiences with it. I met lovely people and I will never regret signing up.
    I’m traveling alone right now (I’m currently in Sydney) and am meeting some people from CS for a drink tomorrow. This will definitely make me feel a little less lonely.

    Reply
  • Posted December 6, 2013 at 10:55 | Permalink

    I used the couchsurfing only once but it was really nice experience. I have been in Vienna and stayed at some girl’s home for four nights. You are right, that’s amazing, because thanks to spending time together we can learn much more about the city. I hope I will try couchsurfing again :)

    Reply
  • Posted January 24, 2014 at 16:11 | Permalink

    here is a little guide i wrote together for the couchsurfing community to finance their trips =)

    http://mikula.beutl.com/couchsurfers-guide-to-money/

    if you have questions just contact me on skype, email or social media
    enjoy!

    Reply

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