City: Udupi, India
Years on CS: 6
How did you learn about Couchsurfing?
In 2014, I was planning for a Sri Lankan trip. While I was reading on a travel forum, I read the term “couchsurfed around Sri Lanka. I was curious and found more about it. As I find more, joined instantly and such a small incident changed my life.
Why did you decide to get involved with Couchsurfing?
At first, I joined Couchsurfing to cut down the cost of traveling. Later after hosting and staying with some host, I find that couchsurfing is an easy way to connect with world travelers and learn more about their culture, daily life and even get into their personal life stories and experiences. Because of that I got addicted to couchsurfing and I participate in hosting and even surfing both overseas and locally.
What was your first CS experience?
My first CS experience was in Kandy, Sri Lanka, that’s in the year 2015. Hosted by a family of 3 members, all of them had a passion for travel and helping travelers. Even though the host and his wife had a busy schedule of teaching in school and at home, they somehow manage couchsurfers with lots of love and care. Which inspired me to keep on hosting.
Why did you decide to become an Ambassador?
Couchsurfing is one of the best things that happened on the internet and I feel happy to get involved in this global community. I enjoyed as a couchsurfer, then become an ambassador to connect with other ambassadors who has the same interest as mine. It is one of the best learning experiences for me.
What was your most interesting hosting experience?
I have hosted more than 200 people from different parts of the world without discrimination. It was a life-changing experience not only for me, even for my family. My family especially opened up to the world and started accepting people as they are. We enjoyed hosting a couple from Russia who had the experience of traveling around the world. At home, they helped on the farm, played different games with my kid, showed us a live performance of musical instruments using a didgeridoo and Jew’s harp. More than that, they made a portrait of all of our family members using Pencil. It happened in 2015 and all of us still remember that experience.
What about surfing?
Me, my wife, and our 7 years old kid couchsurfing around India using the general class train. One of the unique experience we had was in Madhya Pradesh, in India. Where we have been hosted by a joint family of 40 members! They treated us like a god. We also visited their corn flakes factory which was a bit away from the house in a village, there we have been served a unique dinner. Another best experience was in Tamilnadu. Where we stayed with a host in a small zoo with many exotic animals for 18 months long.
What is the craziest thing that has happened to you while traveling?
We have experienced many crazy things while traveling. Here is the story of the general class train of north India and our encounter with a Transgender. The train was filled with people more than it can handle. In between, a Transgender came begging for money. Someone who has refused to give money even after asking multiple times, Transgender showed the inner parts by lifting saree (dress). That was one of the craziest thing that has happened while traveling.
What is one thing in your city that you think every Couchsurfer should experience?
Udupi: Krishna Janmashtami celebrations. Nearly a million attend this yearly celebration and one can experience chariot, tiger dance, live music, food, and much more.
Have you ever met a celebrity?
I Met Shiva Rajkumar in 2009, who is a south Indian film actor, producer, playback singer, and television presenter, best known for his work in Kannada cinema. I and my wife were at the Taj Mahal, and he was shooting some film there. Completely unknown to the locals as he is a famous south Indian star. We got very close to him like a normal people meet and we took some pictures.
What is your one piece of advice for every new Couchsurfer?
Couchsurfing is all about sharing experience, culture, learning new things. It’s not about taking advantage of the hospitality of some innocent couchsurfing host or abusing the couchsurfing concept just for free accommodation.