Nov 5, 2008

Couchsurfing: Surfing Couches Around the World

A1 Speech, Rebecca Chou

Traveling is interesting but sometimes it costs quite a lot. If you want to go on vacation with very little money, Couchsurfing is the best choice for you. It’s a worldwide non-profit organization where you can meet new people with different culture and once you are a member, you may apply for free accommodation around the world.

I joined it before going to the UK because I know I wouldn’t have much money for traveling as we didn’t have much salary. So after my friend’s suggestion, I found the website and signed myself in.

The only thing you have to do is writing your personal profile, like, personal description, interest, philosophy, types of people you enjoy, favorite music, movies, or books, languages and etc as a self-introduction. Then you can enjoy surfing other members’ couches. You can send out your requests and wait for reply. Of course, not every time you can get positive answer but it’s always worth trying.


When you set your profile, you may decide to be a member with a couch, or just a cup of coffee/tea which means you can accommodate someone or you can just meet up with them. You may need to describe your couch or room and upload a picture for review. It’s totally up to you. If you are welcoming people to stay with you for a couple of days, you can show you have a couch to share. Or you can just be a local tour guide and tell others where to go or what to see when they come to your city or town. Or you will be traveling at the moment and is not available to host anyone like me at that time.

However, saving money is not the only purpose I join couchsurfing. Practicing languages, increasing life experiences and making friends with people who probably have the same interests or hobbies are the other advantages you can find if you’d to try it.

I start with introducing myself to other couchsurfers including my itinerary and planning and ask them for their available dates to host me. Even though we are absolutely strangers, they are still very friendly and nice. Most of the time, I need to use English and it helps me to understand the art of communication. As you know, I went to England to teach Mandarin but before going there, I have no idea about English people. Then I found the way they use English is different from the Americans. They are very conservative and polite and you need to be very indirect when you talk to them. For example, if you are asking for something, you may have to say “Is it possible for you to bring something to me?” Honestly, I am not used to speak English like this probably because I watch too many Hollywood movies. So I learnt how to talk to English people. Always start with the weather. Or greet people with “Are you alright?” And many couchsurfers I met during my journey are curious about Tibet when they saw the news on TV. They also like to ask me what different between China and Taiwan. Then I have to use my poor English to explain the political situations in Tibet and Taiwan. They also want to know about Kaohsiung or anything about Taiwan so I try to be their tour guide and find different pictures on google so that they can get to know my city as well.


Moreover, you may wonder couchsurfing is only for young people or is only for very active people but as a matter of fact, many middle-aged or retired people are couchsurfers and they are all from different background. I met a couchsurfer in Oxford who is already 67 and he teaches English to wealthy new comers. Another one in Oxford is a lady, 39, from Italy and she is a physicist in Oxford University and she plays Frisbee for Italian team. I also met a Taiwanese couchsurfer in Edinburgh and she studies bio-technology. A computer programmer who is a gay , a couple, one is a social volunteer and the other is a doctor in London, a town councilor in Swansea, a musician in Nottingham or another couple who are both nurses in Newcastle, a Californian housewife in Newport or a journalist-to-be and bride-to-be in Edinburgh. When I stay with them, sometimes we will cook together or share our opinions about global warming or other problems. I have made fried noodles, spring opinion pancakes and red bean tang yuan and since I am not good at cooking, they are not very tasty but still not too bad except tang yuan. At least, it’s a whole new experience for them and for me.

Some of them became friends of mine and I appreciate their help for offering me a free place to stay and welcome me as a family or a friend. You may say couchsurfers are people who love traveling and sharing and I am very happy to join this big family. At least it’s easier than Toastmasters. You don’t have to deliver speeches or take any assignments.

At last, we have local couchsurfers in three major cities from Taipei, Taichuang to Kaohsiung and other places. Probably you can find one in 屏東 and plan your 海角七號 day tour with a free local guide and free house to stay.

Not every time you will have wonderful experience. At least I had one unlucky chance when I went to Wales and I waited for a couchsurfer for over 3 hours till midnight. But I still believe Couchsurfing is a warming place for people who love traveling and sharing. I have been to Spain and the UK but hope to go to the United States, Italy or Japan in the future. Are you looking forward meeting someone in Taiwan or abroad? It’s time to join Couchsurfing and enjoy couchsurfing!

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