Couchsurfing Part 2: Your New Home Away from Home

On January 22, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

We were already exhausted when we sat on the steps of Piazza Repubblica and waited for our Couchsurfing host. We had been awake for 23 hours. The relief of a warm bed was a short drive away. But we had no idea what our host had in store for us. As we soon found out, it didn’t include sleep.

FROM HOSTING TO SURFING

A few days ago, we posted part 1 of our Couchsurfing series, where we tried to convince you to host surfers from all over the world. We hosted 5 different surfers in our one bedroom apartment in Philadelphia.

Then we began our own journey around the world on September 15, 2013. Instead of hosting, we were now surfing. We crashed on couches, beds, and floors. We stayed with 3 different hosts in Italy, 4 in France, and 1 in Spain. We had unique experiences with all of them, and I hope we see them again.

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Our first experience couchsurfing.

OUR FIRST NIGHT IN ROME

Gianfranco picked us up at 8 pm, along with one more girl he was hosting that evening. The drive to his home in Castelnuovo outside of Rome took about one hour. But we only stayed home for a few minutes – long enough for Gianfranco to grab his guitar.

Then we were off, grabbing some pizza before heading to Gianfranco’s friends. We had never met any of these people before, but they welcomed us like family. They brought out beer, wine, and pasta. Everyone started singing and eating and drinking. We didn’t get home until 1 in the morning – about 31 hours without sleep. No matter how tired we were though, it was a night we will never forget.

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The guitars came out and the night began. Our host, Gianfranco, is on the right.

OUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME

We stayed with more couchsurfing hosts as we made our way across Italy, then southern France, and finally Spain. Each experience was incredible in its own way. In Marseille, we met Marc and his friends, who treated us to a great meal and a night out by the port. We keep in touch with Marc all the time, and we hope he visits us when we’re home in the States.

In Carcassonne, we met Yves. We didn’t know what to expect with Yves, since he is more than twice our age. But he had great stories from his travels across the world, and we gorged ourselves on figs from the tree in his backyard.

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Picking grapes and figs with Yves, our host in Carcassonne.

And in Granada, we stayed with Rafael, who taught us all about his city, its religious traditions, and a culture of bullfighting. We even celebrated my birthday with him! Everywhere we went, we found a home away from home. A place where we arrived as strangers and left as friends.

BECOMING FRIENDS FOR LIFE

Our most special surfing experience was in Paris, where we stayed with the first surfer we hosted in Philadelphia. He only stayed with us for a night, but he invited us to stay with him for all 5 nights in Paris. Reda is a friend for life, all thanks to a simple offer of a place to stay on Couchsurfing. We know for a fact we will see him again, even if it takes a few years.

We gave a Philadelphia LOVE keychain to each host as a token of appreciation for the home they gave us, even if just for a night. We cooked for some of our hosts, showed them pictures of life back home, and drank more than a few bottles of wine.

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Our first night in Marseille with our newest friends for life.

Back home, we offered our couch to complete strangers in need of a place to stay. On the road, our offers were returned tenfold. I think you get more out of Couchsurfing than you could ever put in, and that’s part of what makes it so incredible.

This is part 2 of a 2 part series on couchsurfing. For part 1, click here.

-O.L.

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