When I first heard of the “couchsurfing” concept, I instantly dismissed it. To me, it sounded like no more than one poor backpacker saying to another poor backpacker “you can sleep on my sofa/floor – if you’ll do the same for me one day”.
And I’m a bit long in the tooth to be kipping on floors.
I was so wrong though.
Making dinner with Matthew in Javea
First, about the backpacker part.
It’s not even just for “travellers” (including those, and let’s be honest here, rather boring types who insist that their way of seeing the world, is the “best”, and only, way).
Instead, it’s just a load of really interesting people who love meeting other people, and who love to see a town/city from a different perspective.
And “hidden gems”?
They don’t exist. Well, not if you read about them. Every other visitor to that town/city wants the same as you. A unique experience. An experience that only they will have. So when you get to that “hidden gem”, don’t be surprised to have a load of selfie-stick-waving visitors for company.
The only people who truly know what’s currently happening somewhere, what bars & restaurants are currently popular – are the people who actually live there.
Yes, this is “couchsurfing” too
My biggest misconception though was the accommodation.
Yes, I have indeed slept on a couch (but the couchsurfing website tells you exactly what kind of accommodation is on offer – so there are no surprises).
More often than not though, I have slept in a proper bed. In my own bedroom. And sometimes even with my own, personal, bathroom too.
And sometimes, as happened twice when I was walking along the Canal du Midi in France, a swimming-pool.
Najet, who helped me when I fell far from home (far from anywhere really)
An unsung advantage of living with a local, and this is something that I hadn’t even considered myself until I needed help after a fall, is that when things occasionally go wrong (which can be extra-difficult when you’re far from home), then having local knowledge/help can be a godsend.
Luckily, I only sustained ligament damage when I fell. But my agreed 2-day stay with my couchsurfing host, turned into a 4-day stay until I was well enough to walk again. 4 days where I was helped by “Nurse Najet”, whose neighbour and friend just happened to be a doctor – should I need further medical attention.
And this was in a wee village in the back of beyond in rural southwest France.
So couchsurfing is actually way more than I had ever imagined.
And, again, it will be my first choice of accommodation on my forthcoming round-the-world by train fundraising/awareness-raising journey.
So go on, try it yourself. It might just change your life. Forever.