My Couchsurfing Experience

24 February 2018


Hello!

So, I've recently returned from France. I was doing so well at keeping my blog up to date, posting on every day of my schedule up until Saturday just passed, and you know what? I'm proud of that. But, it was nice to spend the day with Saph instead of last minute panicking about getting a blog post written. I've been really tired after all my travelling but I wanted to get this written before my (already pre-typed) posts go live about about the cities that I ventured to.


I flew from Glasgow to Grenoble on February 3rd and I left from Paris to London on February 15th, arriving on the 16th. I visited 5 cities and another country (Monaco). Well, two countries if you count the 5 minutes I spent in Italy. To get around the country, I interrailed using my Interrail France pass, which cost me roughly £140. The reservations for the high speed trains I took cost me an additional £80 and my accomodation in Paris cost me £155. So I spent about £375. For my spending, I took 280€ and in total I spent about 300€. I was away for 12 days (and an extra 3 days visiting Saph), so how did I manage to spend so little?

I couchsurfed.

Couchsurfing is a social media site where you're able to message potential people who you think sound interesting, or people can message you. You can stay at people's homes, meet up with people through the Hangout feature, or offer your home to people. I kept this purposely on the downlow, not even mentioning it in my blog post about my French travel plans and didn't tell my parents because I knew that they would worry about me. (Mum, dad, I'm sorry this is the first time you're hearing about this.) But, I tried to keep things as planned out as possible. I found my hosts a month before I began my travels and had conversations with them so that I could get to know them, I had an emergency contact set up and I gave my work colleagues an itinerary of where I was expecting to be, at what time and who with. I was really excited and nervous.



(Gabbie)

The first person that I stayed with was Simo, in Toulouse. He was a really great guy and we got along. We had a few similar interests and he was really accommodating. I stayed at his for 3 nights instead of 2 because I stupidly missed my train to Marseille and refused to pay
60€ when the next day was going to be one of my travel days to get from Marseille to Menton. (Yes, I spent 11 hours on 5 different trains because I didn't want to pay 60€.) I really hope that the two of us get to remain friends, and I'm really glad that I got to meet him. I will have a whole blog post about my time in Toulouse so I won't say too much here and end up repeating myself but in short, he took the time to get to know me, allowed me to get to know him, and also spent time showing myself and others around the city to places of interest.

Through Simo, I also got to meet two others. Gabbie, who is Australian and was using the Hangout feature on CS, and Cris, who is Spanish and also stayed at Simo's for two of the nights that I did. (Cris also has a blog which you should 100% check out -  here.) Both of these girls were amazing. Gabbie was so funny as we walked around different churches - especially "LITTLE DOOR!" and Cris was such a badass, especially with her feminist views and the fact she was getting from city to city by hitchhiking! As a group, we also met up with Simo's friends and had a mini tour of Toulouse and then went to get some food. His friends were also all very warm and welcoming, and together, on Cris' phone, we took a group selfie. It had been months since I'd laughed so much and smiled as much as I did when I was with that group and it makes me so sad that I didn't get to spend longer with them. Even if I was called 'Wally" at a few points on account of my red, stripey shirt. THANKS FOR THAT!



(Cris)

Menton was also a really great experience. Here, I was staying with Chris, a well travelled guy who was also very friendly and welcoming, and where he stayed was just so beautiful - plus, it was basically right on the doorstep of the Italian border! He gave me recommendations on places that I should visit (such as the cemetory at the church in the old town and to go to Monaco). We also grabbed a coffee (tea, for me) at a nearby cafe.

Through him, I met Asta and Mila. Both of them were really funny and friendly. I had a few things in common with Asta, and we'd been up until around 2.30am the night that I arrived just chatting and drinking some mojitos. She'd been CS and this was her last night staying with Chris. She also brought me a cup of tea in the morning and together we walked to the Italian border to see the sites and explored the Menton old town. Mila I only got to talk to when she came over. Together with Chris, we had dinner and played some card games and chatted a bunch.



(Asta)

Unfortunately, the experiences I had with CS weren't all positive. The host that I was supposed to have for Marseille (that I eventually cancelled) made me feel really uncomfortable. The messages he was sending contained loads of hearts and kissy faces, and were on the topic of 'you look so pretty in your profile picture'. I'm not going to lie and say that there isn't another side to couchsurfing, because yes, there are people that are on that looking for hook ups. The thing is, there are other apps that exist for that purpose - namely Tinder. When I showed the guys in Toulouse the messages he was sending, they all told me, immediately, that I should cancel my stay with him and find an emergency host. As I mentioned, I ended up not going to Marseille anyway because I missed that train so it worked out for the best.


With most of the people that I met; Simo, Gabbie, Cris, Chris, Asta and Mila, we all swapped social medias; a mix of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter as well as Whatsapp, and I'm hoping that I'm going to have them all in my life for a little while longer. In particular, I'm hoping I'll be able to travel to Australia and Lithuania to spend time with Gabbie and Asta and see their countries, and where they stay, and I plan to follow Cris and Simo's travels around on Instagram. I've gained some incredible memories and they all make me so happy to reflect upon.



(The group in Toulouse - this picture was taken by Cris, and edited by Cris. I have only used this picture due to the memory behind it.)

This was my first time couchsurfing, and it's been an overall positive one. I probably would do it again now that I know a lot more about it, and the website. However, for anybody who is considering this as a way to explore, I'd say two things.

The first is that you should definitely give it a go. You can meet so many incredible people and it's a much better experience than staying in a hotel room by yourself, because it allows you to see places you wouldn't otherwise see, or know about.

The second is that you should be wary. At the end of the day, you're staying with a stranger. So talk to the person you're staying with. Look at their references and what people are saying about them. Read their profile and feel sure in your decision, if anything feels wrong, get yourself out of there. Make your safety your first priority. Tell someone where you're planning to be and when you're planning to be there.

I feel like I'm a much stronger person for managing to do this, and even my colleagues have said that they've noticed that I seem like a much more confident person now that I'm back to normality. Stay tuned on the blog for my next few posts, all about Toulouse, Menton, Grenoble, Paris and maybe Lyon, too to find out about what I got up to in full!

Until next time, be excellent to each other.