What's your greatest couch surfing experience?

I think the key shared experience that unites all of us on this forum is that we’ve all done couch surfing, and we’ve all had some amazing experiences through it. That’s probably why we’re here: building a new platform and voicing our opinions on what matters and what doesn’t. It’d be great to get to know everyone better and share some stories.

So what’s your greatest experience or moment on the platform? What was memorable about it and how’d you end up in that situation (or how’d you get out of it)?

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there are plenty …

but maybe a mix of the good and the bad:
we were in China hosted by a shop owner who had a room for us, I think 4 or 5 nights.
Took us out to dinner in the evening, showed us the place, left us there in peace.
Sounds wonderful, right ?

I got sick, really sick, from that food.
We were locked up before we realized it with no means of escape (but we had internet !!!)
The sanitation was … well … lets say most places looked better in China, and if you know China …
We speak about 10 - 11 years ago.
The sleeping accomodation was … back breaking

We were lucky to find that same night (!!!) a new host in a nearby univercity,
actually a whole town the goverment just had siezed and converted to a univercity.
So we ESCAPED the next morning first thing after he unlocked the door with a polite good bey and some excuse.
There was that wonderful young German woman (teacher) who accommodated us for the rest of our stay !
She was busy and grateful we did our thing and cooked for all of us when she gets home,
we were grateful and had a good time sharing experiences in China, and yes, whatever you do, in China you experience things.

So with that luck we turned a nightmare into a great stay !

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I think my favorite experience would be the CS parties that used to happen in Istanbul between 2010-2012. Oh man, such a fun and crazy crowd, always discovering the coolest new bar (most are now closed permanently), getting awesome discounts, great music, dancing, all-nighters. These events drew such large crowds we’d often have the entire bar to ourselves, multiple floors, the works. We even hosted people from CSHQ at these events and in those days there was a lot of hope for the future of CS and the community.

Not sure if there’s anyone else here from the old Istanbul crew or who may have come to one of the “so-called weekly meetups” (actually insane parties of 200+ people), but those were definitely the days.

The community in Istanbul is still going really strong but there’s been so much external drama in Turkey and also a very distinct change in the quality of people (and gender imbalance) showing up at events that it’s hard to compare. Still great, but definitely a different vibe.

A different, totally unrelated and maybe irrelevant story is when I found a hitchhike partner via CS so that I could feel safer about hitchhiking across Europe, and he was actually way more scary than anyone who picked us up along the way. Ah yeah, good times. It actually hurt my chances of getting good rides because the dude was so intimidating and always talked about his ninja stars. I’ll never forget him.

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I’m sure I have many but sitting down to dinner with the founder of Couchsurfing and listening to him tell us the story of how the website was started was pretty cool.

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There was a bloke in London called UKPilgrim who would only let males stay in his house and only for three nights. He he’d had more than 1000 people staying at his house. I messaged him and asked if my two daughters and I could stay for a week and he said yes and gave us a private room, but there was still a dozen or so others staying in his house. He provided breakfast and dinner and lots of things like phones and a bike. It was the first time he’d let females stay. Not long after we stayed a man spoiled everything and Richard didn’t host again. Has anyone else stayed with Richard in London?

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Every CS experience I had was magical so it’s hard to choose a favourite. Some of my current best friends that I have now I met via CS ! I have learned many things through CS experiences like yoga, walking in forests, meditation, vegan cooking and lifestyle to name but a few…

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When I lived in Normandy I became a part of an active community. We had monthly events, sometimes even by-weekly coffee or drink nights and we really helped each other with requests because the area was very popular for tourists. We would bring our guests and most of them were very happy about it because it was chill. Though once we planned a trip to a nearby area, and we decided to pool all of our surfers together. We went as a huge group of at least 20 people. I went along to help with translations, and ended up hosting a few of the surfers as some of the hosts over-estimated numbers/spots. In effect it was a strangely organised event, but everyone came away happy and fulfilled as we all had common goals. I honestly miss this community since moving away!

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Too many to count - but some of the most memorable:

  • I was cycling round the Baltic Sea in 2015, and when I was in southern Sweden I was looking for hosts around Kristianstad. I mostly had my trail planned out and knew when I wanted to reach which city, so I was always sending requests for a specific date 3-4 days in advance. so of course there understandably were a lot of declines, but one of the hosts actually sent a counter offer: The night I had requested initially they were too busy, because her husband was celebrating his 30th birthday the day after, and they had a lot to prepare. But I would be more than welcome to join the party and crash there the next day, if I would explain this strange “couchsurfing” thing to her parents, who would also be there and were really interested in this strange practice her daughter had picked up in this foreign land (she was from Korea originally). So I went to a Swedish birthday party (that I initially didn’t even find, because it was some remote house in the forest 7 km from the main village, on the other side of the highway) and explained Couchsurfing to a 70 year old Korean couple there. It was a really great party as well, and easily one of my top travelling experiences. :smiley:

  • on the same trip (a lot earlier, while still in Germany) i already had a host in Greifswald lined up, but the day before I noticed that I might be too stupid to read a calendar correctly: my whole trip planning from there on was a day off - i just kind of “forgot” a day somehow… So I phoned her and asked if I could come a day earlier, which fortunately was no problem. I actually ended up moving to Greifswald for my Master studies only two months after the trip, and she became one of my best friends there. :slight_smile:

  • after my master thesis I cycled through Europa for half a year, and normally i would put out public trips on CS about a week in advance when I had planned out the next part of my trip. More as a means for me to see it written down than actually hoping that someone would react to that (though that happened, albeit rarely), but the first night after crossing the italian-french border someone actually did. I stayed with an elderly couple and their visiting granddaughter, and the only language we all had in common was French. I learned that at school, but that was some years ago… and i wasn’t the most attentive student back then. Forunately the granddaughter normally lived in Germany also, so she could translate. :smiley: We had a great evening, but the funniest part was breakfast: my host handed me a letter and asked me, if I could take that with me back to Greifswald (where I lived back then, see above). It was supposed to go to a former Au Pair of hers, a girl called Sanne, that was supposed to live there, or at least still have family there, but she didn’t have her address anymore. So I transported the letter for about 5-6000 km on the bike till I got to Greifswald, but… No-one with this name lives there. I even went through the telephone book and called everyone where the surname would fit if she had missspelled it, but again no luck. So the letter sat on my desk for another year, until I moved away from Greifswald, when I decided to take another shot at it. So this time I posted the story and a photo of the letter in various Facebook groups from Greifswald, until someone wrote back and told me he knows someone of this name, but she had only studied there as well and is actually from somewhere near Lübeck (while my host had been adamant about the fact that Sanne had family in Greifswald). This being the only lead i wrote her, and she actually was the one I had been looking for! But even this ain’t the end. Last spring i made a small bike trip from Hamburg to Greifswald and visited Sanne in Lübeck to deliver the letter. And while I was there (I couchsurfed with them as well) we discovered that the old woman in France isn’t the only connection: She actually went to school with my brother’s girlfriend in a small village in Holstein… The world’s a village indeed, as we say in Germany. :smiley:

But there were so many more… getting smuggled into student dormitories after closing time in Poland, drinking far too much while in the sauna with a finnish musician during the midnight sun, surfing in a military police barracks in southern France and the list goes on. And, hopefully, will continue to grow. :slight_smile:

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I really liked your stories, Johannes. It’s amazing how small the world is. I had a similar experience to your third story when I went to a London agency to take part in a rural youth exchange. It was before couchsurfing and WWOOF existed and I found it a good way to travel. To meet the criteria, I told them I was from a small farm in Mt Many Peaks in Western Australia (population about 100) where my father owned the only shop, thinking they would never even have heard of the place. The lady doing the exchanges actually new farming people there and I didn’t. I still got the exchange I wanted, to Finland, and returned to London 4 months later because I had my name in the hat at our Australia House for tickets to a royal garden party, trooping of the colour and another invitation to a royal event. Being an avid royal in those days (I’m no longer a fan at all) I left the farm and the farm’s really nice au pair from Switzerland, who I have stayed in contact with for the next 40 years!

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Like many others mentioned, it’s hard to pick a single one. One time I was traveling in Costa Rica with a friend of mine who was new to Couchsurfing and we were able to find a host last minute near Montezuma. We had searched for about a week without any luck, so we were really glad someone finally responded last minute.

The family we stayed with was Sweden and they were house-watching a beautiful villa nestled up in the hills. They offered us the pool house (!) to have to ourselves and invited us to grill out with them. The grill-out was fantastic and we exchanged stories about traveling, Couchsurfing, life, and living as an expat. They were some of the most kind, thoughtful, and generous hosts I’ve ever had. After just a day or two staying with them we felt like we had made life-long friends.

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One of my most cherished memories was when I hosted for the first time. Once you become familiar or regular with couch-surfing it feels really just a natural thing. But I still remember I was pretty nervous that this can only get awkward, opening the door to someone I’d never seen before to welcome to just stay… But my guest already had experience both hosting and surfing and all felt easy within minutes. We even accepted another request to stay as well and everyone had a great time.

What surprised me as well was that I got so much out of it as a host. Because I guess when you don’t host, you often feel the hosts would offer something and the guests receive it. But I was living on my own at the time and it was quite amazing to see how opening the door transformed my place into a much more welcoming home, also for myself.

So I was very lucky with this first experience and guess got hooked from then on. With my first guest, we also exchanged several visits in the years since.

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TEL AVIV. Honestly 99% of my couchsurfing experiences have been great. Only a couple of sketchy encounters in a couple of cities… but those stats are great for having couchsurfed 6 months at a time! But Israel… my people. The guys that hosted me were top notch. The most blunt, no bullshit, open, loving guys. Gave me keys on day 1 (like a ton of hosts, surprisingly!) and basically took me in as a fourth roommate for a month. It was home base as I traveled to diff places within Israel, but I mostly stayed in Tel Aviv. We went food shopping together, ran errands, went out… I cooked & cleaned & seriously loved them like family. Taught me how to play some chords on guitar, how to skateboard, all sorts of things. And they were no polite dudes :crazy_face: no pouring me glasses of water or speaking in English to make me comfy. I was free to get myself whatever I wanted in the kitchen whenever, and if I wanted to engage, I had to make them speak in English to me. It was my home :two_hearts::two_hearts:

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Totalllly agree about hosting. I didn’t get to host until years into surfing, when I moved out on my own a year ago. It is THE most rewarding thing, esp. as a long time surfer, knowing what someone really wants at the end of a long day of travel. What kinds of things they wanna see and or do. Taking my surfers out to do anything - eat, walk around, meet my friends - is the most fun! Truly the best part about travel in my opinion, the feeling of meeting and connecting to people.

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When surfing the first experiance is SO IMPORTANT on how you look at CS I guess. We were fortunate enough to surf with whom I consider the mother of CS and she made us totally fall inlove with the concept. Sine we first met, we’ve surfed several times at eachothers places and still keep in contact on FB.

Other experiances I want to mention is:
Midsummer celebration in Stockholm, Sweden. 40 CS:ers in one place. Everybody is super social… you can just imagine the noise in the house we were all staying in. Great food, terrible first night I think for everybody (with noisy sleeping bags and strange, unfamiliar snores etc. that made it impossible to sleep much) and then total exhaustion the second night which made everybody sleep like babies. We went swimming, dancing around the midsummer pole. Sang by the fireplace until a deer came up to us at 5 am, then we went to sleep. The only time every chatterbox in this group went quiet was when the Surströmming jar got opened. People were shocked that it actually smelled even worse than they could have imagined. :smiley: Anyhow. Great concept, well thought out and we loved cooking, playing games and singing together and just enjoying the Swedish scenery.

Our 2 weeks using only CS around Europe. Okay we are not your typical CS:ers I guess. My family likes to plan ahead. So we had planned a trip from Bergamo to Venice, Verona, down into Croatia, then on to Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and back again. This would take us 2 weeks and we had hosts all the way but didn’t think this would work. I mean someone must get sick, or get other more important plans, right? Nope! Great hosting all the way.

Most memorable: A very, very hospitable man in Italy who stayed in a huge villa with just his cats. The Italian newbie on CS who spoke bad english and who’s son didn’t understand the word “hello”. My husband ended up talking Swedish with him and he answered in Italian and the funny thing was that somehow, even though my husband doesn’t understand a word of Italian, they still understood eachother. Gotta love communication!

The substandard flat in Austria: I LOVED it! It was like staying at a museum! My husband for the first time ever in his life got scared of ghosts I think? Because he wanted to cut the stay one day short to take a night at a hotel after this. :wink:

The great host in Slovenia who gave us his keys and had the strangest bathroom we have ever been to. It was like 10 meters to the door from the toilet seat? If you run out of paper, noone will hear you scream in there…

The short visit to Switzerland that made me love Austria even more.

The stay in a child’s room in Italy where a sweet couple let us stay. I stayed on the couch and my husband on the bed and in the middle of the night he wanted to change places. My husband got the bed because he is more picky about his sleeping arrangements than I am. However when I went to bed I noticed that what he had said about it being REALLY hard was accurate. In the morning it all got its explanation when it turns out the bed was flipped upside down, so we had slept on the hard wood underneath it! Apparently the couple has just bought the bed and we were the first ones using it so they hadn’t even realised when they made the bed that it was wrong side up. :stuck_out_tongue:

And not to be forgotten: all the lovely Italian icecream!

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