City: Madrid, Spain
Years on Couchsurfing: 9
Hey Kelly! So tell us, how did you first find out about Couchsurfing?
At a random bar meeting through a friend.
Amazing. And why did you decide to get involved?
I needed to surround myself with like minded people. People with interesting lives. People with stories and experiences to share. People I could relate to. People that see the good in other people.
Very true. Glad you found that on Couchsurfing. So what was your first experience on CS?
Being a single mom meant I had to take it slow and do my due diligence. After attending events and acquainting myself with the local CS hub for almost a year, one rainy November night towards the end of a metal pub event, I got to talking to 2 Russian kids, both 21, who as it turned out had a newborn with them sleeping in a carry on at the back of the bar. They had no host, and apparently no back up plan either. Needless to say, I took them all in for about 2 weeks. And gave them both crash lessons on child rearing before sending them back into the world. That was my beginning.
Wow. A baby in a bar! Bold. What has been another of your most interesting hosting experiences?
I have this saying about hosting, “I open my door to complete strangers, and hope that by the time they leave they will be like family just came by for a visit. And for family, the door is always open.” So the interesting part for me is staying in touch. Meeting up again, at my place, theirs, somewhere in the world.
A beautiful sentiment. What about surfing?
Omg. Only on CS could one experience such adventures. I am talking about the kind of stuff movies are made of. My most memorable, by far, damn, this is difficult too you guys! You are killing me!
My son and 6 other people I adopted along the way sleeping in a newly built, campstyle, somewhere in south Morocco, between Essaouira and Agadir. There was no roof/ceiling. We literally slept counting the stars and wondering what a scorpion sting felt like! Haha
Wow! Hopefully you didn’t experience one! What’s your favorite gift you’ve received from a surfer?
Oh my, who doesn’t like a magnet, right? Especially one that doesn’t break! Remember that folks. But by far, food and drinks from all over the world puts a huge smile on my face. I suppose it’s the extra effort one puts into this that makes the whole thing feel uber special. And imagine homemade stuff!!! Real tearjerker. I should know. gallivanting all over Asia in the summers carrying 5-6 kilos of chorizo for my CS hosts and friends isn’t easy! So of course I appreciate it even more!
That is kind of you! Cured meat for months is a commitment! What is one amazing story from your travels?
One thing in particular that had a tremendous personal impact on me takes the cake:
I am in Busan, South Korea. Haeundae, it’s packed, broad daylight, 40 degrees, I am waiting for the lights to turn, so I can cross over to the beach front. I see all of a sudden a toddler no more than 3 running in traffic trying to cross over to my side. All this happened in split seconds, but I remember it like in slow mow..I sprang to action, stopped the traffic, grabbed her up from the middle of the street, and ran back out. I thought her parents must have seen what happened and will most likely cross when the lights turn. I kept her in my arms trying to lift her high, make her more visible..we stood at the traffic light for 10 minutes. Nobody came, nobody was frantically screaming for their child, nobody even inquired or offered to help even though 100 people stared on while this whole event unfolded before their eyes. I even got worried that I might get in trouble. I decided to take her to the police station. Somebody must have reported her missing. When I got there, they all sprang to action, but they were all calm and collected. For those 20 minutes of my life, I switched from horror to shock to relief to bewilderment to despair and then back to disbelief when they told me nobody had reported a child missing. I couldn’t fathom how this was possible. Then the following happened: a police officer unbuttoned her top, reached out for a necklace she was wearing, flipped it and read out a phone number to another officer who dialed the number. No one answered. He tried again and again. The third time somebody picked up.
5 minutes later a man casually strolled in all smiles, scooped her up and soothed her. Apparently, the family wasn’t even aware the child was missing. He thanked me, apologised to all parties involved for any inconvenience he may have caused and waved bye with a smiling Nae Yun in his arms. No ID check for him, no report filed, nothing.
It took me a week to recover mentally and psychologically.. to process my feelings and embrace this experience. I grew up in a part of the world where children disappear all the time. Where even the most vigilant eye can’t guarantee a child’s safety. I had my own son in a body wrap till 2 and a leash until 5. I remember losing him once in a supermarket for 3 minutes, and I went all Rambo.
How wonderful it must be to live in a society where there’s no crime. Where a child missing is no big deal. Where the first thing in people’s mind is, “it’s ok, she is around playing. Worse case scenario is somebody will find her and call her ID number.” Where the authorities promote ID chains for children, so their parents can be contacted in case of any emergency! Where crime is so low, especially certain types of crime, that people don’t worry about losing their children in public. Crazy huh?
I remember calling my son after, I never call him when I travel, but I needed to hear his voice.
Wow. That is an intense story. My mom would have gone full Rambo too if I went missing for even a few minutes. And she did a few times! So, what is your favorite cuisine from Spain that everyone should try?
Galician. Hands down is the best cuisine in Spain. Ok, Andalusian too. Ok, Basque is yummy too. Damn it. Another impossible question!
Ohhh. True, Spain has some great cuisine. What’s somewhere in Madrid everyone should visit?
Templo de Debod.. for one, cause we are talking about an actual Egyptian temple in the center of Madrid. Secondly, for the sunset. Best sunset spot in town. And the Guernica from Picasso in the Reina Sofia museum; for obvious reasons.
Agreed! I love both of those. Lastly, what is your advice for new Couchsurfers?
Couchsurfing is what you make of it. Follow the rules and you will always be safe. There’s plenty of room to grow as a human being on CS. So long as you are open to improving yourself on any level, CS can completely transform your life.