I have some very fond memories from abroad fuelled by Couchsurfing. The late night stroll through Paris via so many landmarks, even if was less a tour and more of a jumble; playing with Oreo, our Toronto hosts’ adorable little dog who considered our sofabed strictly her ptach; hopping on the back of a roller scooter with a stranger for a jaunt around some local spots in Hue.
Here, though, are the three Couchsurfing experiences that most stand out one way or another.
Our first surfing experience
Our first experience as surfers (not hosts) was with a European expat in Bangkok. Getting there was a total headache; I put our taxi driver on the phone with her (I think he thought she was a hotelier) but that didn’t seem to help.
She kept telling me I had to convince him to stop at a 7/11 or similar, as everyone in the area knew her apartment complex, but outsiders don’t. (If you haven’t been to Bangkok, 7/11s are literally everywhere.) I honestly don’t know how we made it, because our driver was not keen on that idea, but eventually we stumbled upon the right place thanks largely to dumb luck.
Then he refused to accept my 1000 baht note, so he drove me back to a 7/11 so I could buy something to break the note and pay him. Later, I realised I no longer had my change and concluded I must have dropped it in the backseat. Talk about throwing money away.
The other problem was the fact that our host was sick. She’d just come down with a cold and thus had turned her air conditioning off. In Bangkok, that isn’t just uncomfortable – it’s unbearable. We were drenched in sweat within minutes and the second night T opted to sleep outside on the balcony.
Good story now, but kind of a hassle at the time.
Our first Couchsurfing meetup
Lot of cities with an active Couchsurfing community have a regular weekly meetup. Local members host, usually at a bar, and visitors turn up.
Hanoi is one of these cities, and it turned out that the regular meetup was on during first night in town. We turned up expecting to meet a ton of other backpackers; instead we walked into a den of eager Vietnamese youth all clamouring to practise English with foreigners. It was a blast, just not quite what we were prepared for!
The next day I went exploring in Hanoi with some of our new buddies and one French couchsurfer (one of the few non-locals who turned up later that evening). They took us on a walking tour around the sights and are my Facebook friends today.
That time our host’s son gave up his room for us
Iceland is famously expensive (worse than Switzerland, IMO, which wasn’t actually quite as bad as I’d anticipated). And because we knew so little about the country, I was extra keen to find a host for our stay in Reykjavik.
It almost didn’t happen. Our host stopped answering my messages, so I booked a lodge room in town. Then suddenly he replied, confirming we were all on, and I cancelled that reservation. We turned up that evening and found a surprisingly youthful middle-aged couple who were kind of like kindred spirits (Iceland reminded us a LOT of New Zealand), and their young son, who brought to mind the kid in Meet the Robinsons. He solemnly shook our hands, then retreated to his computer. He’d been waiting excitedly for us to turn up – even gelled up his hair for the occasion, his mother told me slyly, mouth upturned in amusement.
We shared a Bailey’s, watched Sons of Anarchy, chatted about all sorts of things and then went to bed. The next day, I got a peek into the computer room and realised that wasn’t a bedroom – there was no bed in there. Our bedroom wasn’t a spare; it was their son’s room. I’m still stunned by that – I would never have done that willingly when I was young.
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