A friend recently alerted me to an article about Couchsurfing that, in my opinion, is very biased and one-sided, and does not portray couchsurfing as the positive and life changing community it really is. Although I will admit what she was submitted to was awful and I hope she goes about the right legal channels to pursue her complaint, I personally feel her reasons for going couchsurfing were wrong (to save money rather than to make a new friend) and feel the article in question is extremely one-sided and a little farfetched. You can read the article here and make up your own mind.
This post is not going to be one full of snide remarks damning the author (although that does sound like fun) writing paragraph after paragraph about how wrong they are and how their attempt to campaign for the closure of an active and positive community is both naive and a leap too far. Instead I would like to spread some positive energy about Couchsurfing and tell you my story; How Couchsurfing changed my life…and the lives of many of my closest friends!
Most articles you read about couchsurfing describe a single persons adventure surfing a strangers couch in a foreign city, a reporter trying it out for the first time, or seeing it from the eyes of a host describing what crazy and amazing characters have surfed their couch over the years. This post is more about the couchsurfing community and how it has made such an impact on my life, encouraging me to be more outgoing, more open minded and to have nothing but positive thoughts for everyone that I meet, whether I know them or not.
Since joining couchsurfing I have done some whacky things. Things I NEVER thought I would do. I have posed butt naked with 300 others for a Spencer Tunick installation in Dublin. With the help of 5 loyal friends, I have spent over a week making over 300 handmade Valentines cards which we later handed out in local hospitals and on Grafton street in Dublin to unsuspecting passers-by. We also spent the afternoon (about 30 of us) giving out free hugs to share the love. These FREE HUGS days tradition with a group of us hitting the streets in the summer, in the spring and even at Christmas time to spread some Christmas joy to shoppers.
Thanks to couchsurfing I have spent many a night dressed as a Zombie, or at an 80’s party or wearing a crazy wig or dressed like an absolute chav. (Yes these are good things!!) I have spent a day face painting for free while dressed as a clown. I have made a human pyramid in central Edinburgh and re-enacted scenes from Braveheart!! I have been proposed to at 8am in the morning in the middle of Dublin city. I have gone surfing, camping, singing, drinking and dancing in parts of Ireland I would never have seen had it not been for my couchsurfing buddies.
Thanks to couchsurfing I have met some of my best friends. I would have been an absolute loner in Sydney with the help of CS. Many times on my travels I have fallen back on CS to keep me entertained, to look for help to find a friend. My best friend here in Korea, Brittany, is a fellow CSer I met on a night out. Heck I even moved into a couchsurfing house in Dublin one summer with 4 other couchsurfers and we were dubbed ‘The House of the People’, and that was exactly what we were…hosting over 200 people in one summer alone.
We have organized random ‘surprise birthdays’ on the dart train, improv Pillow fights in Iveagh Gradens and St. Stephens green, I played Urban Golf (where you dress up in random mis fitted clothes and hit a tennis ball around derelict buildings with broken planks of wood..!) with a group of wacky CSers in Toronto and again a few weeks later in Detroit. In that same weekend we went Urban spelunking, cycled around ghetto areas of D-town and even gave free hugs to homeless people. IN DETROIT.
Despite Couchsurfing strictly NOT been a dating website, a lot of people do meet their other halves through couch surfing. I have dated many wonderful people through this site and probably will in the future. Some of my friends (Elly and Eddie) met through CS and our now engaged. Two others recently got married (congrats Cristof and Marianna) and two others are living in Oz together as happy as can be (Sophie and Simon!) It is inevitable that in a community of 2 million that you won’t meet people you simply click with in everyway. We are all such like minded people, open to adventure, and travelling the world.
I have been to many ‘COUCHSURFING FESTIVALS’ including a weekend camping in the Wicklow mountains, a weekend of singing and dancing in Scotland, a weekend of craziness in Detroit, ultimate frisbee and picnics on Bondi beach in Australia (and an all day all night St Patrick’s day Pub crawl). CSers introduced me to my first ‘Korean Noraebang’ Karaoke room experience which was something I will surely never forget.
Csers taught me Scottish dancing, golfing, how to hug, how to smile, how to be a zombie but most of all..HOW TO BE A GOOD FRIEND. And that is now something there seems to be no shortage of in the CS community. In fact I would go as far to say that far from being a social network connecting strangers and turning them into friends Couchsurfing is more like one big FAMILY and I love all my brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles very, very much!!
Couchsurfers are some of the coolest people I have ever met. The CS community has challenged me to think outside the box, to never judge a book by its cover and to live life to the full. I have stayed on people’s couches on 5 continents (Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America) and have hosted over 300 people back in Ireland. How many truly negative experiences have I had which would make me want to leave the site or spread bad publicity? NIL.NADA. NONE. That has to be some sort of impressive record for mankind and the awesomeness of putting your trust in strangers..strangers who I’m happy to say are now friends.