For those of you that don’t know Couchsurfing is this online database of travelers all over the world who offer a bed or couch to people who are passing through their area. It’s becoming a massively popular way for people to travel without spending any money on accommodations because the beauty of Couchsurfing is that it is completely FREEEEE (Uhh, I love that word).
I know what some of you are thinking…”Chantel, you want me to sleep on a random stranger’s couch in some foreign country?!?” If you’re somebody that enjoys meeting people, is not easily phased and open-minded I could not recommend this free service enough. Still need some more convincing?! Let me tell you about my first couchsurfing experience.
I was in Barcelona, about a week in on my three month backpacking trip through Europe. Sitting in the hostel common room playing cards. I struck up a conversation with two German guys from Berlin, Kevin & Brad Ratat (😂 that’s what he asked to be called in this article). I mentioned to Brad (Ratat) that I was headed to Berlin in a couple of weeks and that he should let me sleep on his couch (because why wouldn’t I #typicalchantel). He happily explained that he was a couchsurfing host and to ABSOLUTELY message him when my girlfriend and I were in town.
Fast forward a month later I shot Brad a message and before I knew it, my girlfriend and I made plans to spend the next three nights at his flat. We hopped on a train from Krakow to Berlin and were on our way. Here’s how the conversation went when I was catching up with good ole’ mom.
Mom: So Chantel what country are you in now?
Me: Oh I just got to Germany mom, Steph and I are staying in Berlin with some guys we met in Barcelona.
Mom: Are you f*cking kidding me Chantel?!!? Get their finger prints, I want an address, a blood type. D*mmit you’re messing with me right?
Clearly my mom and I have very different views on “living outside of your comfort zone.” Thank god I didn’t listen to her and stubbornly stayed my fearless self because I had a really special experience.
Brad and Kevin ended up taking us on a continuous food tour of Berlin. We hopped all over the city eating kebab, bratwurts, ice cream, sweets, waffles, you name it. They managed to cover every meal course imaginable. They continuously insisted that they knew all of the best places, and dammit by the morning of the second day I was convinced they were correct. My stomach, my wallet and my soul were happy. Days spent exploring the cuisines of the city were met with evenings discussing politics, music, and travel experiences. One morning after talking late into the night, I woke up to find Brad, Steph and myself had all eventually found a comfy spot on the couch. All of us snuggled up each in our own blanket, it looked like a scene out of a teenage sleepover.
Thanks to these guys my eyes were open to places that would have otherwise been non existent on my radar. My first time in Berlin, I figured I would see the Berlin Wall, Bradenburg gate, eat some schnitzel and see what else fell in between. I was able to experience that and so much more. Without them I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon the abandoned airport, now park, Tempelhof. I certainly wouldn’t have thought to go to the Charlottenburg Palace (picture in the header) but because of them it was a two minute walk from the flat. At one point we even indulged in an array of Haribos I had NEVER seen back in the states while watching monkeys at the zoo from a spot we didn’t have to pay. I felt like a kid! They showed me a lot of parts of the city that I would have glazed right over and helped me understand the lure of Berlin.
What was supposed to be three nights ended up becoming six. We kept finding reasons to stick around longer. I mean, doesn’t that ALWAYS happen. It was difficult to go when Brad so graciously encouraged us to stay longer. But alas, the next destination was calling our name and it was time to go. The morning of our departure, my girlfriend and I woke up to presents at our feet and Brad preparing a full breakfast to bring onto our train ride.
With a bag full of gifts and a very glorious looking sausage sandwich about to make its way into my stomach I was overwhelmed with appreciation towards this experience. I was reminded of the camaraderie that is unspoken amongst travelers, that if there is a way for them to help you, they will. I saved a bunch of money, ate like a queen, explored such eclectic parts of Berlin and made some really great friends in the end. Would I do it again, much to my mother’s dismay, ABSOLUTELY.