During my last weekend here in Skopje, circumstances led me to live an experience that I never thought I would witness today. Thanks to my friend Zoe, I crossed Macedonia from the capital Skopje to Thessaloniki in Greece, relying only on the virtues of solidarity and sharing. Let me tell you everything about it.
Couchsurfing? Does this term sound familiar to you? I’ll explain in a few words what you need to know about this concept that has been around for about 20 years:
More than a simple way to travel, Couchsurfing encourages a way of life, a certain mind-set. At first glance, the objective of this concept is straightforward: to be able to share for a short stay the daily life of your hosts, their couch (joking aside, hosts can often provide a guest room), and benefit from their advice as locals. But this way of traveling the world goes further than one might think. Indeed, this hospitality exchange aims to promote people’s interactions to contribute to world peace.
Made famous by the Internet and social networks, the first platform created with this purpose was The Hospitality Club, invented by a young German in 2000. Nowadays, Couchsurfing, the most popular website in the community, has 12 million users in 200,000 cities. This is proof of many places to discover and people to meet that are just waiting for you. Unfortunately, it became a paying service a few years ago. However, accessing this service and offering your help on other dedicated platforms less visible by Internet users is still possible. (Trust roots, couchers.org.)
Now an essential question remains: how to do it?
Just for you, I suggest this little guide to starting the Couchsurfing adventure!
1. Register on a website specialized in the field (trustroots.org, couchers.org, be welcome, couchsurfing.com,.)
(You can also find some Facebook groups created for the same purpose. Groups where you can share and get help from people who are into Couchsurfing.)
2. Create a profile indicating what you want to do: host or travel. Or both! Attention! This step might seem trivial to you, but it is imperative to write and provide your profile with a fair amount of information because it is the only guarantee for the other members of the community to be sure of who you are and to trust you. A picture of you is also essential, of course.
3. After these two steps, you can browse the offers made by other members according to the city you wish to visit. On some platforms, you can filter the proposals according to your criteria (gender, languages spoken, pets, etc.)
4. Select the offer that interests you and communicate! Couchsurfing is primarily a lifestyle based on sharing and the willingness to exchange.
5. Travel & meet your host (remember to bring a small gift from home; it’s not mandatory, of course, but a little attention is always welcome when someone does you a favor)
6. Final step; last but not least: keep in touch! Thanks to Couchsurfing, it is possible to have unforgettable encounters.
And there you have it! You are finally ready to start this great adventure!
Would you try it?
Myself: As I mentioned at the beginning of my article, I had an unforgettable weekend thanks to this first Couchsurfing experience. One weekend after visiting Thessaloniki as a regular tourist, I discovered a completely different facet of the city. Our host had shown us places we would never have visited on our own. We also ate typical specialties together in a friendly atmosphere and discovered great spots in total immersion in the Greek student life of Thessaloniki. I hope to try this experience again in the future, without hesitation!
Zoe: Before our trip to Greece with Carole, I already had the opportunity to try Couchsurfing through couchers.com
This first experience was in Split, Croatia. My host’s name was Mario; he opened his door to me for a weekend. He even gave me his spare keys because he had already trusted me. After showing me his favorite bar, we danced all night to techno music. He was very relaxed, and when I had some administrative problems, he hosted me again for another week.
After that, I was able to visit the islands in Croatia. Mario welcomed me back because it rained a lot for several days when I came back because of other problems. The guy was nice. It was a real experience of Couchsurfing. For me, Couchsurfing is, of course, about sharing and supporting others who are struggling like me. I mean, being a backpacker is like a holiday, okay, but it is also exhausting and sometimes challenging. So when someone brings you warmth when it’s cold in your heart; I say thank you ❤
Finally, Couchsurfing is, for me, an entire network of solidarity. It allows its users to connect with local people willing to host. This system based on solidarity must be accessible. That’s why many users of the Couchsurfing website have turned away from this platform to support websites that promote this mind-set. (Trust roots, Be welcome, or couchers.org)