I was raised to be weary of strangers. I was taught to be cautious in receiving help from others and trained to be overly paranoid that this somehow placed me at a disadvantage in a relationship. All this became irrelevant when I chose to enter into a couchsurfing relationship.
CouchSurfing International‘s mission is to “Create Inspiring Experiences” by – you guessed it – facilitating your stay on a stranger’s couch (or other sleeping arrangement).
My first couchsurfing experience occurred in Vienna, Austria. E&I knew this trip would be on the expensive end of our budget so we sought to find ways to cut costs. I set up a couchsurfing account and messaged a few hosts but because my profile was new, I was turned down more than once. Running out of time, I posted a blurb on CS Group: Last Minute Couch Search – Vienna. Our host responded with a request for us to check out his profile and ‘policy’ for hosting. After some short introductions, we set and confirmed a time and place to meet.
This is where the little voices from my childhood jumped in – You don’t know this person. He could be dangerous. He could rob you. Haven’t you heard of travelers getting murdered? Etc…
And, I imagine our host may have had some small voices as well – You don’t know them. They could be dangerous. They could rob you. Haven’t you heard of travelers coming to stay with their hosts and murdering them? Etc…
Thank goodness we all ignored those voices. We stayed at our host’s home for several days. We cooked together, explored the city, attended the Opera and had an overall amazing time. So much so that when we came back through Vienna after our two weeks traveling, we stayed with him again.
That is what is so amazing about CouchSurfing and other travel hosting organizations. They facilitate the meaningful interactions that we all look for in our travels and reaffirm the truth that “strangers are just people who are not yet friends”.