Couchsurfing. To a lot of you, this might be something you don’t know yet. But it’s a thing of beauty. A way to meet travellers, much alike ourselves. A way to bring the world right at your doorstep.
Couchsurfing is a hosting system. Travellers can find a local host to show them around, and most of the time, offer them a bed or couch to sleep on. It’s a way of travelling that is off the beaten track, and it can show you the real local life. One of my dear friends, Shira, got me all enthousiastic about this way of travelling. I decided to join the site about a year ago, but at first didn’t really do much without it. I gradually learned more about the project, and got more and more excited due to the great things I read online about it. So, I decided to give it a go :-) It seems one of the best decisions I ever made!
In the beginning of July we surfed our first couch, in Monnickendam, near Amsterdam. Looking back at that experience right now, it was OK – but not the real spirit of couchsurfing, mainly because the Netherlands and Belgium, well, there’s not much real cultural exchange to do I suppose :-) Our ways of living are much alike. Monnickendam was a great place though, one I would’ve never discovered without couchsurfing, that’s for sure :-)
But from Monday untill this morning, we discovered the real couchsurfing experience, while hosting Janny Chyn from Shangai – China.
It’s amazing, but we actually learned more about China in the day and a half that we hosted Janny than we did in all of our life before that. Janny told us about local food – those soup filled dumplings sound amazing! -, the ways of travelling through China, the cost of it and introduced us to some Shangai cooking and the very beginning of the complex art of tea drinking in China. She really brought the country to our doorstep… Truly an amazing experience!
And that, I think, is what couchsurfing is all about: exchanging different cultures, learning from eachother. It’s a way to travel, right from your own doorstep.
In return, I brushed up on my historical facts of hometown Gent, introduced her to the city I’m so damn proud of, and made her taste some Cuberdons (local candy), some local beers, Gentse Waterzooi (regional dish) and took a walk with her to our local river here in Eksaarde, which I hope she also liked.
After this experience, I am truly amazed on what this project can do for people. And keen to travel more and more in this new style… Open your eyes people, and join: it’s an amazing trip! More info: www.couchsurfing.org.
Oh, by the way – if you ever end up in Shangai: do me a big favour and take one of Janny’s tours. She has her own touring company, to show you Shangai – the real Shangai. Off the beaten track. The couchsurfing way. You can find her at www.shangaipathways.com. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it. And Janny, one day, for sure, we’ll take one of your tours as well. Febe needs to grow a little bit though :-)