I had wanted to try Couchsurfing for a while when the opportunity arose during my first visit to Mexico in 2014. In Aguascalientes, my hosts had just waved another Couchsurfer goodbye but were intrigued when my request mentioned my hometown was Freiburg, Germany. It turned out they wanted to visit the place during a three-month-trip through Europe. Although I stayed for just one night, we got along so well that we decided to meet again. A few months later, we reunited in Freiburg, where we talked about everything and anything in a beer garden downtown until late at night.
When I moved to a small island in Scotland later that year, I found myself in an apartment with two spare rooms (sic!). To give back to the community, but also to battle my increasing loneliness, I hosted many interesting people, but the most memorable of them I met through another Couchsurfer on Shetland: Two travelers from Canada interested in visiting my island. They ended up staying for an entire week filled with shenanigans including sightseeing, hill-rolling, and whiskey.
I planned my first major solo trip, a literary tour of North America, around seeing all of them again. In April 2017, I flew to Vancouver, where one of my friends not only hosted me and another friend but also guided us on adventures to other parts of the area. Due to time restrictions, I couldn’t stay long in Aguascalientes, but my friends gave me tons of recommendations and asked people in other cities to host me, too. I’m already looking forward to meeting them again, maybe to explore another part of the world together!
During my trip to Norway, I Couchsurfed with a girl in the town of Alta. I had been sleeping my car for that last few nights while chasing the Northern Lights all over the northern coast, and was so happy to finally have a bed and a shower!
My host, Isabel, offered so much more than that. Along with home-cooked dinners and a daily sauna, there was one night where she introduced me to the art of dumpster diving. We headed out to each of Alta’s major supermarkets, where I watched her jump into the dumpsters like a professional secret agent and feel out the garbage bags for wasted food. That night we got a few loaves of bread, all brand new and still wrapped, a dozen apples that were all close to perfect, a few cauliflowers, a whole bag of fresh fruit and vegetables, stacks of gourmet chocolate and yogurt, all for free. We spent the next afternoon using the apples to make apple cake and the cauliflowers to make cauliflower soup (or rather, she did while I sat around and watched). It was such a fitting experience to close my Norway chapter – perhaps even more memorable than the Northern Lights themselves.
One of my most memorable Couchsurfing experiences was in Istanbul, Turkey. I was still a student back then, so I often had to travel on a tight budget with no emergency money available. Unfortunately, my solo travel to Istanbul did not begin as I had hoped. My backpack, which travelled with me for the past 2 weeks, did not arrive with me in Istanbul. I had nothing with me other than my toiletries and I was very worried as I only had few hundred Euros left, which I planned to spend in Jerusalem.
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Lena is the creator of the Social Travel Experiment. Planning her trip around the world took a lot of effort. To make it easier for future world travelers she has made it her mission to teach others how to have an unforgettable trip around the world, through short stays with locals, without wasting valuable time or money.