Couchsurfing: Staying at stranger’s couches for free. Ever done that?
I started sharing my couch in 2010 when I was living in Heidelberg, Germany. My first couchsurfers were a friendly couple from I forgot where. We shared stories about traveling and I had them stay at my place for free. I hosted a lot of people at my apartment and once I had a few recommendations I started traveling around the world surfing at people’s couches and sharing life with them for a bit.
I haven’t done Couchsurfing for some years now and though it is not about staying somewhere for free, but rather getting to know new people through sharing life stories with each other, I have to admit that it is actually pretty awesome not having to pay. Especially when you got busted before and lost a lot of money. Time to save a bit now.
My Couchsurfer in Panama was called Martín. He is from Uruguay and moved to Panama 15 years ago. He quit his job and is currently applying to work in Poland.
He met me at a hostel in Panama City, that was directly located in front of Panama papers. I had been talking to Jack, a guy from Wales, who had been working in Korea as an English teacher and is currently traveling through South America for the next few months. We all had a chat with a few beers and about an hour later we hopped into my couchsurfer’s car to drive around the city. He showed us around Panama and explained all the different parts of the city to us. Couchsurfing is amazing!
His flat is located on the 26th floor of a huge skyscraper. You can actually head up to the 50th floor and enjoy the skyline at night whilst you hang out at the pool. Awesome!
If you want to meet him, make sure to check out his profile! He’s not only funny but also one of the best tour guides I’ve ever met 🙂
At night I had a longer conversation with Jack, where he told me how it was like to work in Korea. It basically sums up to massively long and inhumane working hours and breaks that consist of teachers preparing and serving food for their classes, which they then eat together.
After school which ends at around 4.30 pm the grading begins.
He told me that it was even worse for the children who then had to go to a maths school after (wtf!!! This exists?! Worst nightmare!!) and would after that be busy with piano lessons and shit.
He told me that the small kids come I to school and the older they get- the more similar they turn out to be.
Free time is not existent and students are basically boxed into characterless humans to fit into the system.
Reminded me of ants.
He said things are slowly changing though.
Anyways- did I drift off my actual topic here? I guess so …
After Panama I was on my way to Cartagena in Colombia- ready to visit my second couchsurfer.
He lived in the historical center of Cartagena and I had to get there somehow.
The airport in Cartagena ist so tiny it does not even have WiFi. No way I could order an Uber.
“8 Dollars to city” they shouted.
“No way!” I thought. Not gonna pay that.
Not that I couldn’t have paid it- I just did not want to. Bus would have been the cheapest option, but I wanted a cab- I just wanted it cheaper.
So I walked out of the airport and asked in the first bar which direction the center was. I headed there with my backpack and waited for the cabs to drive after me.
I mean you can spot the gringo from far away and since it was still bright outside I felt kind of save walking down the street on my own. And so I did. Sweating and walking. Walking and sweating and hey there! … no 5 Minutes later a cab stopped next to me, putting down the window and got me to the center for 5$.
I arrived at my new couchsurfer’s place, but he wasn’t home. The security guard opened the door for me, gave me the WiFi passcode and I entered a beautiful building that was facing the ocean.
I went out to explore the city and got to know my couchsurfer some hours later. He owned a bar in Cartagena and was very interesting to talk to.
I learned about the “rules” in UFC fighting, and learned a lot about how to run a business.
After complaining more about the current political situation in Brazil where a right winged faschist is most likely going to be elected, he said that sadly those regimes were the ones that worked out in South America and told me about Colombian government measures that had once involved drowning homeless people into the ocean to “clean” the country.
Humans are terrible beings.
I got invited for dinner and happily ate my Gnocci with tomatoes sauce (damn they were gooood), worked a bit on my laptop and went to bed quite early.
I had my own room, own shower and a double bed all for myself! Couchsurfing is great! My couchsurfer had organized my trip to Tayrona National Park, which meant me getting up at 4.30am. This was actually nice because I would arrive there quite early and was going to be picked up at his place. Plus I had not have to organize anything! Awesome! 🙂
The next morning I was picked up by a van and had 6 hours, 10 new apples and a lot of sleep in front of me…
Read more about Couchsurfing in my other article “The Art of Couchsurfing” and get hacks for finding the awesome couches!