Everybody loves to travel and the one thing that will make your travel experience memorable is by getting to know the locals and truly immersing in the countries’ local culture. There are many ways to do that. You can either walk up to a random stranger and strike a conversation which will be pretty cool or you can leverage on the couchsurfing platform.
Couchsurfing is basically a platform for hospitality exchange. Most travelers use it to get free accommodation from the host in the country they visit which is a cheap way to travel. The goal of Couchsurfing is not exactly just giving out free accommodation but more on cultural exchange. It helps to bridge the gap between locals in the country you are visiting with travelers who wants to get to know the country and culture.
My experience with Couchsurfing
When I was travelling in 2016, one of my goals is to meet locals in each location I am travelling to. My initial plan was to look for a local host to save up on accommodation but I ended up staying at a backpacker’s hostel simply for the sake of accessibility and flexibility I need. However, I did utilize on the app ‘hangouts’ feature extensively.
One cool thing about Couchsurfing app is that it allows you to meet people with mutual interest. For instance, going for dinner and visiting a place of attractions together. You can also browse through a list of events around the area, similar to meetup.com. Perfect for solo backpackers!
Dine at a local warung + chilling at a hipster cafe
Bandung was my very first stop during my 2 months backpacking journey and i really love the authenticity of the place. Not as touristy as places like Bali. If you are planning to explore Bandung, check out my guide in traveling Bandung. This is the where I met Reza, pretty awesome dude who had travel a lot as well.
I got in touch with Reza on couchsurf even before I arrived in Bandung. The one cool thing about Reza is that we were both from AIESEC, the world largest student-run organization and it instantly felt like meeting a long-lost friend. We met up at Dago and he brought me to a street warung (stall) nearby which has the local touch which is something I want to try. Bandung has always been famous with cool cafes which was our next destination. We went to SWG cafe which is a place you should check out if you happen to visit Bandung.
The great part about couchsurfing is that the people are genuine and always looking forward to help you, making you feel like home.
Motorbike ride to a famous sate stall
My second experience with couchsurfing was at Yogyakarta. I was randomly browsing through the hangout list and met up with Irfina for dinner. She picked me up with her bike and drove me to a local sate stall which is pretty far away from my hostel, somewhere I will never discover without her.
The experience of randomly meeting up with a stranger (now friend) on their bike was scary at first but again, people on couchsurfing are genuinely nice. Irfina is a nice local Indonesian girl and I enjoy talking to her a lot. We have a great talk and she drove me around the area visiting her university campus.
Half day trip to Koh Kret, Thailand
While I was in Bangkok, i stumbled upon Koh Kret, a man-made island which seems very appealing. I posted my half day trip plan on couchsurf and Tammatat express his interest to join the trip. Tammatat is a medical student (soon to be doctor) from Thailand whom i met through couchsurf. He was not able to join me on my journey to Koh Kret as he had a last-minute class. I was on the impression that he won’t be coming at all. Thus, I head down to Koh Kret myself first.
But Tammatat came over immediately after his class to Koh Kret right after his class which is pretty amazing cause the place is located far away.
Random fact: Koh Kret is 30 to 45 mins away from Bangkok.
We traveled a bit and later head back to Bangkok for lunch with a quick tour around his medical campus to end the day. His campus is sort of connected to the hospital and i go like WOW! By now, you would know that I like visiting universities in places i travel.
I fell in love with couchsurfing
The platform itself is amazing. I have so many positive experiences connecting with people through couchsurfing. Definitely try it out the next time you travel. I would not have met all these amazing people without this platform . It makes the whole stay so much more memorable.
- Where else can you get a ride at the middle of the night snacking at a local sate stall.
- How often would you be able to meet like-minded people who happen to be in the same organisation you were in.
- How is it possible for me to get a tour around a university campus without meeting the locals.
- How great it is to get to know more of another country.
You will truly experience that regardless of nationalities, we are all pretty similar. We tend to travel without getting to know the people and merely focusing on visiting places of attractions. But the travel experience would be significantly better if you get to know the country and the people better.
Things to look out
As much as I love couchsurfing, there is still a need to be cautious. There is nothing more dangerous than meeting someone you do not know for the first time. Here is some things to keep yourself safe and to manage your expectation.
- Always read the references in the profile of the people you are meeting. These are references from past surfers who has previously met them.
- Communicate beforehand on the hosting arrangement. This is particularly important if you are planning to stay overnight. Always clarify with your host on the arrangement to ensure you are okay with it. The last thing you want is to go to a place being unhappy with the conditions.
- Always bring a small gift from your country if you have one.
Sign Up here: Couchsurfing
The above is my own view on couchsurfing. If you have tried couchsurfing as well, let me know what have you experience. If you have not tried it, you should try it once the next time you travel.
- How to meet people when you travel
- Ways to get free accommodation when you travel
- Workaway Experience in Mindful Farm (Volunteer in exchange for food and accommodation)
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