Have you ever picked your next travel destination by whom you know from that place just so you can save up on accommodation? Imagine if you know someone from wherever in the world. You can go anywhere you like and not worry so much about where to stay.
That's one thing CouchSurfing does for its growing global community of 10 million members over 200,000 cities. It defines itself as “a hospitality exchange and social networking website” that provides its users a platform to “surf" on couches by offering their own or by being a guest at a host's home.
You may think that not too many people have heard of CouchSurfing in the Philippines. That's why you'd be surprised to know that around 40,000 users here either want to meet up or want to host (or at least are thinking about it). On second thought though, it may not be so surprising as after all, Filipinos have always been well-known for their warmth and hospitality.
CouchSurfing Experience: The Meetup
I headed over to the website and signed up a few months ago. I was basically just looking around, checking how it works until one day I finally decided to be a little more active. I browsed for travelers going to Manila and while I was not planning to offer to host, I was very much willing to meet up and show them around.
I started sending messages to a few people, got fewer replies, and then the next thing I knew, I was meeting up with a traveler from Norway. Once he landed, we exchanged numbers and talked about meeting at a coffee shop. When I got there, I was surprised that there were eight more people around the table (one American, one French, two Chinese, and four Filipinos) as it turned out, he organized a little meetup with other couchsurfers. It was unfortunate that we weren't able to talk much but on the upside, I was seated beside Filipino couchsurfers who shared to me many stories on how they use the site to help further their travel experience.
After that, I figured how challenging it can be to make a connection given the group dynamics within a short period of time. But if you keep an open mind, you would find that you can still have a good time. We all left the coffee shop and roamed the streets where a bazaar was being held. Some wanted to grab drinks to which I politely declined. After a few more minutes of walking, we all stood on one spot and watched in awe as the many shades of Manila sunset unfolded before our eyes.
Just like all things, CouchSurfing has its pros and cons. You can't really trust everything a person's profile says even until you meet them in the flesh. What's important though is that, sites like CouchSurfing remind us that wherever they may be, people are trying—to communicate, to tell a story, to connect. CouchSurfers don't always offer just their couches. Often they offer their time, friendship, and a little piece of their home too. And the reason why CouchSurfing is here to stay? Well, since when did things like giving and sharing ever go out of style?
Photo Illustration by Calando Santos