Back in November, I hosted Ka Ho (who went by Leo), a couchsurfer from Hong Kong, in my home in Fishtown, Philadelphia.
Now my girlfriend is moving in, and, as she is somewhat less keen than I am to welcome strangers into our home, he’ll likely be my last couchsurfer. He was sweet and curious, a fine final guest to host.
Initially I mostly only couchsurfed myself, using the community to find free places to crash anywhere I traveled. My first experiences were part of a backpacking trip through western Europe in late 2008. (I wrote an Inquirer story about my first). Then when I bought my first home in 2009, I knew I’d have the chance to return the favor.
I welcomed people from Scotland and Germany, from Brazil and Japan, from France and China, from Nigeria and Spain, and many more. Most often, they’d quite literally get a couch, the pullout in my living room. My home isn’t particularly lavish, but it is a real place in Philadelphia, and I make up for the lack of amenities with eagerness and charm.
More recently, my girlfriend and I have used the Airbnb service to find paid opportunities, which tend to be somewhat nicer. We did that for the first time in Birmingham, Alabama back in 2012. Both services have a similar spirit: meet real people who live in that place you’re visiting for a chance at real insight.
I’ve loved my time on couchsurfing. I’ll miss it, and I’ll always be thankful for it.