Five floors, 6 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, a massive kitchen, a garage, a living room half the size of a basket ball court and balcony that can comfortably fit 30 people and it overlooks the city center, for only $350 a month. That was my house in Cambodia. And it was fantastic. When empty it was creepy, when full it was always a party. Lucky for me, it was full almost the whole time. I gave everyone a free place to stay : volunteers with other NGOs in Cambodia, my girlfriend, my sister, and couchsurfers. I had been a member of Couchsurfing.org for some time, I had been hosted a few times by people around the world and even hosted a few surfers myself but with my new house, I opened it up, said any and every couch surfer could come for as long as they wanted. Soon an average of 7 people per night were staying at my house.
I let them stay for free, that is the idea behind couch surfing. People open up their houses to total strangers, trust them, and invite them in. Before we go any further, yes it is safe and I have never had an issue, not with any of the 250+ couch surfers who stayed. There are millions of couch surfers around the world and the story is always the same “couch surfing is great”.
I told everyone they could stay as long as they wanted. Some stayed only a night. Most stayed a week, some even a month. I’m not bragging, I am not special. There are so many hosts like me, many who have hosted much more people and for longer periods. When you travel, you can use couchsurfing, you can go to homes where there are many couch surfers every night or houses where there is only 1 per month, and this month it is you. You won’t be expected to pay or really do anything other than enjoy your time, share your story and make friends.
People stayed at my house, shared their stories, their lives, their aspiration and their adventures with me. I loved it. It was more than money could buy, it was a great time, a time I miss. When I left Cambodia to hitchhike to the USA, I stayed at dozens of Couch surfers places along the way. They invited me in, they showed me their country, their cultures, their food, their people and gave me a place to stay until I was ready to move on to the next. From Cambodia to Europe I spent almost nothing on housing, in part because of wonderful couch surfers.
Echo is a veteran couch surfer, she left China and couch surfed to Turkey. A long trip. Her most luxurious couch surfing experience was with an Indian prince. Now that India has democracy the royal families of India are not as powerful, but they are still rich. During Echo’s stay she had her own lavish room in her own exquisite building outside of the main mansion. Each day her host showed her around the city in a different car, for meals two servants came from the house and made them anything they wanted to eat.
Not all couch hosts are like this, in Cambodia I simply gave each of my guests a mat, a fan, plenty of space and then took them around the city and partied every night with them.
Check out Couchsurfing.org, you can sign up and it’s free. My profile is http://www.couchsurfing.org/people/airyk/
For those more adventurous, you can do what I did when there was no couchsurfer available. There are millions of couch surfers, but many times I found myself in a small village where there was no couch surfers, no internet, and sometimes no running water except the ice cold stream that ran down the mountain. In these villages I wasn’t doomed, but the contrary. The locals all invited me in, for dinner, for a good night’s rest and to make friends. There wasn’t a single village that I went to during my 5 month trip that I didn’t easily find free accommodation. Why was it easy? Because people are good and everyone can spare a couch or at least a nice soft mat on the floor for a stranger, especially a stranger from a world away.