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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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Couchsurfing: a tool to raise tolerance and open-mindedness :

This question came back to me an incredible number of time in my world tour: «How do you do to find a place to sleep?»

A little bit more than one year before to start my trip, this question would have been a daily problem. But in September 2006, something changed my vision of traveling, but also my life, and even the one of much more people...

I want indeed talk about “couchsurfing”. Couchsurfing is a website with the goal to help to create intercultural exchanges by offering to the traveler the possibility to spend the night to the local people's place.

How does it work? What does look like a couchsurfing experience? What are the assets? Is there any danger? If yes, how can it goes through?

After three years of utilisation of the website, I will try today to share with you this experience which, you will see, is open to everybody.

 

Technically, what is “Couchsurfing?”

On the front page of the website www.couchsurfing.org, this is quite clear:

CouchSurfing is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit.“

Literally, “couchsurfing” means “surfing the sofa”. Why?

Couchsurfing allows indeed to a person traveling to be able to request to spend 2 or 3 nights at the place of a local people of the place visited, everything for free. The aim is to allow an intercultural exchange.

Indeed, this is much more easier to understand the customs of an inhabitant of a random country by sharing his daily life for a couple of days.

You will certainly have an experience much more different than if you would have stay in a hotel or a holiday club.

Here, the goal is to know and understand the differences between two ways of life.

This is in December 2007 that Stelios made me discover Thessaloniki in Greece. It was for me much more easy to acceed to the secrets and the stories of the city, from a local point of view.


You have also a better chance to taste the local cuisine. How many times the mother of my host insisted to prepare me a typical meal of the country! Every time, that was a success!

The syrian breakfast in January 2008, that was the mother of a “couchsurfer” (technical term meaning a couchsurfing user) in the city of Homs who prepared it to me.


 

How much does it cost?

 

Nothing.

As I said a little bit above, “Couchsurfing” is totally free. I must say that in first hand, this is surely an asset and that is maybe why couchsurfing is working so well.

You will notice that from the moment the question of money is off, the frienships relations will develop more easy and naturally.

So, this is the great tip to travel for free?

Not really. I indeed said that couchsurfing was monetarily free. However, the guest must try to pay back his night in his own way. But how?

We are talking about “cultural exchange”, and in “cultural exchange”, there is “exchange”.

This is where we can find the real interest of couchsurfing. Indeed, you may realize that in the eyes of your host, you too are kind of exotic. Your mission, if you accept it, is to explain where you come from, to try to explain a little bit of your culture. You can also cook one of your local meal, your host will surely be happy!

This is also allowing your host to travel by procuration if he doesn't have the opportunity. This is delighting Glenn, a couchsurfer from San Francisco, who is telling us that: I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of great couchsurfers this year from all over the world!”

Very often, you will probably leave a friend. Juan Carlos from Panama is enlighting us about this fact : ”It encourages interaction, and communication between human beings, and that interaction in most cases, leads to lifetime friendships.“

From my side, I like to share traveling stories against some nights, like here in Sudan in March 2008 with some italians.


 

For who“couchsurfing”is destinated?

 

For everybody.

With the condition to be interested to know a little bit more about your guests or your hosts, the website is open to everybody.

Young, old, white, black, student, artist, workman... more diversity it is, more interesting the concept.will be. In this fact, there is no restriction to be part of the project, only to me legally responsible, by having reached your majority... but again, you can ask to your parents to sign up on the website, which will maybe allow the children to improve their second langage skills with a native!

In the United States in July 2009, Jon and his family were welcoming me


I could experiment couchsurfing in 33 different countries and each experiences were absolutely different. Alson the fact to welcome travelers from different countries will familiarize you with other customs and ways of doing, which will offers you some good laugh!

I have been able to meet different kind of people thanks this website. All of them have surely learned me something:

-I could cross the path of Juan Carlos in Panama. Juan Carlos is talking fluently 10 langages.

-I had the chance that Samwel opened his door to me in Kenya. Samwel showed me his community work in which he is involved.

-I shared some traveling days with Steeve in Malawi. Steeve is a United States citizen but he is feeling more like a world citizen, he was on the road for the last 8 years.

In Malawi in September 2008, I shared a day of hitch-hiking with Steeve, who was already traveling for 8 years at this moment.


 

But it is dangerous to welcome a foreigner at home! How can we trust him?

With more than 1,4 millions of members in 231 countries today, the project is safe and controled in a very professional way.

There is a system of reference where the couchsurfers met previously are writing their impressions about the person.

If an experience has been negative, it will be almost impossible for the couchsurfer to use again the website because this experience will be public in his profile.

Also, more positive references you have, easier it will be to find a host or to receive guests.

To give you an idea, at this day, the number of positive references reached the incredible percentage of 99,801%... who says better?

How to be sure that the person coming to your place is the one who wrote to you?

Today, thanks to a system of checking online, the persons realizing a little donation to the website can also be recognized as the real users of the website.

This is not obligatory but this is another step towards more safety, if you were still doubting.

A system of ambassadorship is also existing. The ambassadors have the mission to control more or less locally that couchsurfing is working well.

Riana, ambassador in South Africa, is talking to us about safety on the couchsurfing project: I'm not intimidated by travelling alone anymore as, at least some of the way, someone is "looking out" for me. "

Riana, while a couchsurfing meeting in November 2008 in Johannesburg


Personally, nothing bad ever happened to me in 180 experiences and 3 years of using the website. I feel in the contrary a huge cultural richness that I wouldn't have been to get so easily otherwise.

 

 

Today, I sincerely think that “Couchsurfing” deserves a place in my “New Leaders”.

Like William, a traveler from France, I think that:”With this kind of project, the world is getting better!”

Like Bojidar from Bulgaria, I am convinced that :”It has changed already in a positive way many lifes.

This last quote from our couchsurfer Juan Carlos from Panama is explaining exactly for me what couchsurfing can bring to you: “CouchSurfing helped me to find my true freedom, enrich my travel experience, and opened my mind to new ideas, changed my whole life in the process, and allowed me to connect on a higher level with other individuals.“

 

If you want more informations about the project, you can get connected on the website of couchsurfing below:

www.couchsurfing.org

 

I let you with a little reportage about couchsurfing, diffused by ABC Colorado in the United States.

Watch Here

 

See you soon,

Jeremy



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