“You never went home with strangers, did you?”
Couchsurfing.org is like online dating, but for a place to stay. You fill out an online profile and look for couches that you can crash on based on availability, language, common interests, location, etc. Usually it’s free but it’s always in good form to provide your host with SOMETHING. (Dinner, wine, whatever).
A lot of people have asked me if I’ve ever had any bad experiences from couch surfing and the short answer is “no. None.”
The longer answer is that people are people- and you may not like/agree with every person.
But have I ever been drugged/mugged/robbed? No.
Have I met awesome people? Absolutely.
Have I gotten along with everyone I’ve ever couch-surfed with? No.
Have I always had an educational experience? Absolutely!
Back in Feb 2013, I started couch surfing in Colombia with a girl named Isa. She can speak 5 languages, is highly educated, and one of the sweetest girls I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. You know the people that you meet and you feel like you’ve known them for decades? That was Isa for me. I was only supposed to stay for Thursday and Friday but ended up staying through the weekend to celebrate Carnival with Isa and her friends. Carnival is “Mardi Gras”… but in Latin America it’s a month long instead of just a weekend. It starts off with parades every day for a week, lots of drinking and dancing and carrying on- followed by Ash Wednesday where then you have to start the boring tradition of Lent and give up everything that is fun. I understand why the Latinos do it this way. What is more fun than Carnival? Nothing! So let’s make it as long as possible so the 40 days of Lent is, essentially, a giant hangover period from Carnival. (Which is exactly what ends up happening).
I met Isa and she said that I would probably not like Baranquilla for more than 2 days. She was right- except it was Carnival! (And, the added bonus that she and I got along like a house on fire, so we just ended up hanging out, going to Zumba, talking all night like old friends, etc.)
I don’t remember much of that weekend’s Carnival. I did write a note to myself that read: “it’s 5am and I’m too drunk/hungover to write about Carnival. I’m going to hate myself, later.”
And I did.
I do have some amazing pictures of me carrying a bigger guy on my shoulders (I think that was a dare) and dancing with an old (90 yr old?) man. Good times had by all, especially the gringa who doesn’t really understand Spanish.
The most amazing thing about Isa was that she shared her whole life with me! Her house, her food, the lovely bowl I accidentally broke (I’M SO SORRY, ISA!). Everything was “eh, it’s ok. Are you having fun? Are you ok?”
I’m writing about Isa because I AM WITH HER RIGHT NOW! IN CHICAGO! With her whole family. And my family! All this, years later, because both Isa and I put ourselves on the crazy internet and met and stayed friends.
Moral: Couchsurfers are real people, they are all awesome, and you are discounting your travels/life if you don’t at least give it a go.