10 Questions with a Couchsurfing Ambassador: Gabriela

Name: Gabriela
City: Mexico City, Mexico
Years on Couchsurfing: 8

What made you start using Couchsurfing?
I read about the site at a blog on “How to travel cheap” and it reminded me of a conversation two friends had. I reached out to my friend and asked her more about it and she told me great stories about it, being a community and it’s like staying with a distant friend or relative. I was very curious about it and tried to attend a few local events however there was always something holding me back. I finally decided to go on a CS camping trip. After that trip, I started hosting but living with my parents and siblings complicated the logistics a bit so I attended meetings, crashes, and whatever we could think of. After studying abroad, I came back to Mexico and started hosting in my own place. I loved the vibe and everything about CS that I started organizing meetings and trips. I’m always happy to make new friends in CouchSurfing, they are like a family to me.

Gabriela at her first CS meeting! Vintage sign and all!

Wow! So you have done it all! What were your first experiences like as a host and as a surfer?
As a host, it was a girl from Singapore studying in NYC and visiting Mexico. I was her second host so it was great that we were each others somehow first experiences. She stayed with me at my parents’ house. She cooked some Japanese food and I cooked some Mexican food. My mom loved her and couldn’t wait to host more people. Sadly my brother wasn’t on board with the idea of hosting strangers so in order to keep the peace and not make anyone uncomfortable I paused my hosting while staying there.

And, as a surfer I did a massive first-surfer experience. I joined the ‘invasion’ of Puebla with the CS community from Queretaro and we were hosted by Ray. We still keep in touch and he’s a good friend and we now live in the same city.

Gabriela and some Ambassadors at Teotihuacán

Amazing! That’s so cute your mom was so excited about hosting! So what has been your most interesting experience on CS?
Oaxaca for sure! I went there with a friend and we decided to couchsurf. We stayed with a guy who had a TreeHouse!!! I had never even seen one before. His place was a bit far from downtown and there was no running water. We had to shower “a jicarazos” this is a Mexican term to refer to a shower where you grab water with a small bowl and pour it on you since there is no shower. This was a very different experience for me (even though my mom had grown up with this showering system) and I loved being able to do it. Our host was very cool and took us to one of his favorite places in the city.

I have definitely showered like that on camping trips. What a special experience! What is the coolest gift a surfer has given you?
Wow! This is a difficult one. I’ve gotten all sorts of gifts, from local liquors and wine to sweets to house appliances (those are the more random ones)! But one surfer (and now friend) sent me a postcard and a video of the Marathon du Medoc. When I got the package I was really exited at having something delivered by mail (especially given that the Mexican mail is not the greatest). He wanted me to see what I could expect from the marathon and get my hopes up of one day participating in it.

Gabriela, FINISHER!

What great inspiration for you to run the marathon! Speaking of inspiration, are there any books that have inspired your travels?
Wanderlust! Maybe it’s a thriller among travelers but it was a really good book about a girl who needed to get away and experience life in a different way; getting to know different cultures and get the most out of life. She didn’t stay in her “comfort zone” and even though it was difficult for her to let go of her family, she understood it was what she needed to grow and be herself.

What a great lesson to take with you! What is something unexpected or exciting that has happened to you while traveling?
Going to a Maroon 5 concert in Morocco for free! It was so random, I was visiting Morocco and hanging out with a Couchsurfer when he mentioned that there was this free festival in the city. I was at the right place and right time to be part of that. Some months later they actually came to Mexico, but I was glad I got to see them somewhere else.

Gabriela in Morocco (pre-concert!)

Oh, I have been a Maroon 5 fan since I was 14 so I completely understand and share your excitement! So what is a food from Mexico City that you think people must try? And as I will be in Mexico in 2 weeks, I will be trying this!
Enchiladas and Chilaquiles!! I’m not sure if you can say they are from my city, but they are Mexican cuisine in general. I don’t really like cuisine from my city since most of it it’s too greasy and fried. But tamales that aren’t fried are really good, again, not sure if they started here but it’s also general Mexican cuisine.

It all sounds delicious, I will be eating it all. I’m sorry to now be making this all about my upcoming trip, but hey! What is one place in Mexico City you think everyone should visit?
Chapultepec Forest. I find it really cool to have a forest inside the city, and it’s really big. Maybe it doesn’t have as many attractions as Central Park, but it’s great for picnics, running, museums, etc. There are a lot of things to do and it’s great to get a break from the city.

Chapultepec Forest in Mexico City by Suriel Ramzal / shutterstock

Amazing, as resident of New York I understand the need to take a break from the city in some nature – and anything that have the vibe of Central Park, I’m sure I’ll love. What is one thing you never go on a trip without?
I always try to carry Ana with me. She’s my traveling companion. When I started my one-year trip I decided to create a blog and speak through Ana von Reisen; she’s a Mexican doll from a place call Amealco (my grandparents’ hometown) who I take on almost all my trips. It was a great way of keeping my family in the loop of my travels and my thoughts along the way. Now she’s the model for my pictures.

Ana on a camping trip!

That is so cute! Lastly, what is one piece of advice you would give new Couchsurfers?
Keep the Values of CS in mind; they interconnect and sum up what Couchsurfing is about.
Share your life, while hosting and being hosted; remember it’s like staying with friends/family. Your host/surfer has a lot to share so try to spend some time with them and get to know them. It’s not free accommodation, it’s being part of someone’s life; create connections with people you interact with. Be kind with everyone but also be true to yourself and avoid difficult situations. Remember to keep yourself safe and if you don’t like something, stay away; learn to say NO when you feel uncomfortable. Stay curious about others; find out where people are coming from. This is the best way to grow and be a better person. And last but not least, leave it better than you found it: this symbolizes the growth we have as a community.

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