21 July 2013

The Couchsurfing Experience

Last month, I did something out of the ordinary. I hosted a couchsurfer for a few days. And after the whole experience, I think I liked it, and don't mind doing it again.

See, it's actually not the first time that I opened my house to someone to crash and sleep on my couch. In fact, I met one of my very good friends this way. I met Puku first by reading his blog for about a year, and later we realized that Toronto and Buffalo were our homebases, and so one day, he asked me if I were free for lunch, as he was passing through town. That started it, and later on, he visited Buffalo for a few days, and I also visited Toronto quite a bit. I remember my other friends telling me how do I know that he isn't an ax murderer. Well, I didn't. But somehow, the vibe I got from his blog, as well as when we met for lunch the first time didn't tell me he was either. Overall, I am glad I met Puku, as he turned out to be a very good friend of mine, even now.

Aside from that, earlier in the year, I hosted another friend who I knew through my sister, who was in town for a few days. Now that I have an apartment of my own, I can host people who are in town, for a little bit. It makes life more interesting, I guess. And I always like to share my city to people who want to see it as well.

Anyway, last month was actually the first time in which I hosted a complete stranger. He stayed for 4 nights, and during those times, I had a great time. I take it as a learning experience, in so many different ways. And no, he wasn't an ax murderer either.

I think it is a learning experience to interact with someone whose personality you have no idea about. He had a different personality than mine (we actually did the Myers-Briggs personality test together to confirm), and we definitely had a different personality. But I was actually more intrigued and interested than annoyed. There were days where I worked, and there were days where we hung out together and I showed him some parts of Berlin. We had fun eating our way around town. And overall, I think he was an interesting person to get to know for 4 nights.

The thing is, I really don't mind opening my horizons and learning about other people. I don't see the point of secluding oneself within one's bubble of a comfort zone, and staying there, interacting with the same people all the time. How would you learn about the full spectrum of humanity unless you invite someone to pierce your bubble?

Aside from learning about the person, you learn about the culture as well. This person I hosted was not Filipino, nor German, and so I got to know more about the culture where this person is coming from. The world is getting smaller, and people travel, and as they do, they effectively serve as ambassadors to the places they visit. Travelers become the source of first impressions that locals then form. Ever remember the case of the Chinese tourist who defaced the Egyptian statue a few months ago? Just imagine the effects of that, effectively creating the stereotype that Chinese tourists do not know how to behave well. Travel has its good and bad sides, and with some effort, one can reduce the bad effects and increase the good effects.

So, I hosted a surfer who I really didn't know before, for the very first time. I had a great experience, and I think I will do it again. And who knows, I might even try the other side of things, asking locals whether I could surf their couch, when I am on the road again.

2 comments:

  1. Hats off on hosting your first stranger in the house :) Am not sure if I'm ready to host myself (my little apartment has seen only visiting friends/family members sleeping over).

    You're absolutely right about the learning experience from this. On the other side of the coin, many travelers want to do Couchsurfing not only to save money but meet locals and get insider's knowledge about the place being visited.

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    Replies
    1. TNP,

      Hehe, thanks! The important point about Couchsurfing however is that saving money shouldn't be the driving motivation to it. I have come to realize that I don't think I am comfortable with hosting people who tell me that they are requesting to surf my couch because it will save them money. My couch is not a hostel. I also tend to decline requests when I see that this person is very inexperienced with the concept; like, for example, just making a profile the week before. Of course, people would tell me how does one gain experience if there aren't hosts willing to host newbies, but I suggest that potential surfers should try hosting first, before actually surfing.

      That being said, I am trying the other side of the coin, when I go on vacation next month!

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