Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Couch Surfing

Surfing on a sofa?  Does it sound like a foreign concept to you??  Well, its actually quite a popular new movement thats going on.  The idea is that an online community communicates via internet to look for places to sleep while travelling - but not hotels or hostels, right on people's couches.  Hence, surfing the couches.  Say you are going to south of Spain, but don't want to pay for a hotel...what can you do?  Log onto couchsurfing.com and find a free couch there and contact the person and ask if you can stay.  Voila, if they say yes, you've got free lodging and a local to show you around.  Sounds pretty crazy huh?  Just letting someone you don't know come into your house, sleep in your spare bedroom or on your couch and have breakfast with you?  Well, I agree, it kind of caught me off guard the first time I heard of it, but then Joseba and I hosted a 'couchsurfer' for the first time, and I have to admit, it was a good experience. 

On the website, each person has thier own page, where they can list interests and such.  On this page, people also leave comments about how thier stay with you was.  So, if you see someone was a super jerk and locked you out or something, you obviously won't contact them to stay.  Joseba's profile shows that he is interested in music, sports, and that he has a spare bedroom for couchsurfers.  So, awhile back, a guy named Wijnand Boon, contacted Joseba through the website explaining why he wanted to stay in Orio.  Apparently, the Queen of the Netherlands said that social media (like facebook, blogs, couchsurfing, etc) is making man more detached from his fellow man.  With that in mind, Wijnand set himself on a mission to prove her wrong.  He has challenged himself to make a pilgrimage to all the 3 major pilgrimage spots of Europe - Santiango de Compostela (Spain), Rome and Jerusalum walking.  Yes, walking.  And how will he manages to do all the lodging via social media, to show the Queen that although yes, social media cuts down face-to-face communication, it CAN bring people together. 

So, after contacting us, we said yes and prepared for our first 'couchsurfer'.  We picked him and his massive backpack up at the town square and took him home, where he was happy for a hot shower and meal after a long day of walking.  Over dinner we talked about his mission, history, music, art, just everything.  A real nice guy, it was a bit strange letting him stay awake to check his emails and such while we went to bed.  But, for some reason, we trusted him.  The next morning, at 6:30am we awoke and everything was still as it was when we had went to sleep.  We hadn't been robbed by a crazy Dutch man.  I made breakfast while the boys got ready and we had a half-awake conversation at the breakfast table and then headed out.  Before setting off on his next route, he took a photo of us to put on his website.  You can tell its about 7am!  Later that week, he posted on Joseba's couchsurfing page that it was a pleasure to stay with him and that he was a great host - and two thumbs up for an entire spare room insted of just a couch! 

The other day, an article popped up on my Time Magazine website (which I read religiously).  It was about couchsurfing!  It talks about one guy's experience with couchsurfing and how well it turned out.  It's not just saving money, its about a new way of travelling. It also delves a bit into how instant trust, like we developed with Wijnand, can develop.  If you are interested in it, click HERE.  Reading it, I thought it might be an interesting thing to share for those who might not already know what couchsurfing is!


1 comment:

Wijnand said...

Hi Amanda,

Can you believe I only just came across your blog? It has been a while back since I stayed with you guys, but I still look back with warm feelings. I am glad to read that you enjoyed it too! I am about to continue walking after a two month break in Lisboa. It was too hot in the south of Spain to go on. Hope you are doing well. Say hi to Joseba for me!