Traveling with “Couchsurfing”: the world seen from a couch

Do you trust it? Aren’t you afraid? I’ll never go to unknonwn people’s houses. What if they kill you? Oh, yes, I heard people saying that and much more. Friends, even who I thought to not be sceptic, but open to the others, said to me all this kind of things when I started to use Couchsurfing.

To surf, to jump, from one couch to another one, has been for me the discover of a new way to travel around the world. When, a couple of years ago, I found out this website, I wanted to understand what it was about, in order to not risk anything. Thousands of people, everywhere, make available a couch or even a bed, a room, an entire flat, for free. Why? What do they get from that?

Quando in Olanda una ragazza turca ospita un Italiano e due Slovene...
When in Holland a Turkish girl hosts an Italian and two Slovenians…

I asked it myself and the only way to answer has been to create a profile on the platform and to start beeing a part of this net. Living near Florence (Italy), I had the possibility to find immediately travelers who weren’t searching only for a hosting, but also for locals able to be guides in the city center. So between a walk with an English guy and some art with and Equadorian girl, from an aperitif with some Mexicans and a pizza with a Russian girl and a couple from California, I started to know these original travelers and to understand the reason of their choice.

After some hours together, each of them found in me what made their journey special: someone from the place who was able to show them the little secrets of the city. A monument seen as a turist rests on the picture, but a nice story about it, told by one who walked in front of it for years and years to reach school or job, impresses your mind in a different and particular way.

I wasn’t thinking to do anything special, but I received nice heartfelt thanks, saying goodbye, even simply for the advice on a non turistic icecream shop, for the suggestion about a garden where to have a pic-nic, for the help to buy a train ticket with the best price.

So, I decided to try to stay on the other side. Two summers ago, I started a one month travel by InterRail  across Europe asking for hospitality in all the cities I visited. The richness of my backpack coming back home was infinite: people of every age, gender, social class and style of life hosted me asking back only my words, my stories, my experiences. Asking me the sharing of lived life.

Dormire in una soffitta basca...
Sleeping in a Basque attic

From Germany to Belgium, from Holland to Spain, I had the possibility to live the cities as places not to visit, but to live. A young architect who brings you by bike to a concert, two schoolgirls who make you dancing in a square, a middle-aged woman who prepare for you a delicious typical dinner. Each night spent on an unknown bed or couch, thousands of kilometers from home, turned into an experience of sharing and a memory of joy.

I’m leaving for a new travel, this time as a couple: and I’m going to live this experience again. To sceptic people I say: the beauty of the life is in relations, don’t be afraid to create them!

Andrea Cuminatto

Leggi questo articolo in italiano: Viaggiare col “Couchsurfing”: il mondo visto da un divano


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