Often people ask if I’m traveling to find myself. I, happily, really like who I am. I also know who I am. It is because I know myself that I choose, or perhaps feel driven to travel.
I absolutely love the people in my life, and my home. I also deeply love experiencing other ways of life and making new friends when I travel.
Traveling for an extended time is an amazing experience, and challenging, too. Unless you are in a single place for at least a month or so, it is hard to make new friendships, and not to be looked through by shop keepers. Even when you are quite comfortable with your own company, it can occasionally be a bit lonely.
So far, I’ve used AirBnB for most of my lodging. The idea is that people rent out a room in their home or entire flat, and thus have some cultural exchange. Many times it has been a wonderful experience. A few of the times the rentals were run by a rental company, and not very personal. I don’t enjoy those as much. As I was planning Singapore and Hong Kong, most were agencies or hostels, not homey. So, I tried something different.
I just experienced Couchsurfing for the first time.
Couchsurfing is a online board that people can use to find travelers to Host or Couches to Surf. There is no expectation of payment, just cultural exchange, help around the house, or maybe a small souvenir from the Surfer’s home. Or even just conversation.
The process is like this:
- Go to Couchsurfing.com and create a profile.
- Start a search on where you want to visit, and look through the Host profiles, and see what is a good match. See if your interests mesh, do they have something to share that would be meaningful to you? Do you have something to offer to teach, learn, share with them?
- When you find a Host that looks good, send a CouchRequest to them and see if they offer to Host you.
There are all kinds of people in the world, and it is the same in the Couchsurfing world, too.
My first Couchsurfing experience was great! Weizhen, my Host in Singapore is a great person, and we had wonderful conversation about Massage Therapy, which I practice, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, which she is practices. She picked me up from the metro stop and we went to dinner. She asked what I liked, and chose the place, and I treated. I think she was planning on treating, but I beat her to the register.
After dinner and great conversation, she took me to her clinic, where I slept in the treatment room on a massage table. I’ve slept many a time on my own table, and on more uncomfortable beds, so I slept well.
She returned the next morning, and when she found out that I was having some, shall we say, “abdominal discomfort of the travelers variety”, she gave me a consult and prescription of Chinese herbal medicine. THEN, she said when I return to Singapore in a couple if weeks, return to her and she will provide a treatment for another issue (was also diagnosed by a TCM practitioner in NH, USA).
As I write this, I’m flying from Singapore to Hong Kong. I “kind of” have a second Couchsurfing spot lined up. My next Host’s English is loads better than my Chinese, but seeing as I only know how to say “Hello” and “Thank you”, that isn’t saying much.
My seat mate is a woman from Singapore named Lillian. We are having wonderful conversations, and she has been brainstorming on possible options for who she knows who could host me. Her thoughts are so generous! She insisted on buying me a muffin and coffee! If our schedules allow, we may meet for coffee while she is in Hong Kong, and she offered to take me to dinner when I return to Singapore.
A day or so ago, I was feeling not so good, and like a stranger every where I went. (Cuz I am – LOL). I thought hard about what I wanted from my experience, and wished to find warmth of spirit and to feel cared for, and like magic, I was gifted with these people.