Name: Prunella and family
City: Perth, Western Australia
Years on CS: 8
How did you learn about Couchsurfing?
We learnt about Couchsurfing directly from other travellers and from the online travelling community. We started informal couchsurfing in 2006, when we were involved in other hospitality communities. In preparation for our family gap year, we officially joined this amazing community in 2012.
Why did you decide to join CS and how do you mostly participate?
We subscribe to the true spirit of Couchsurfing. We are curious by nature and love the idea of learning about our world first hand from locals. We have a huge passion for travel and as a family; learning from travellers about their customs, culture and perspectives. We believe in the idea that we are true global citizens, who are more alike than different to those across the globe and have a desire to show genuine hospitality to “friends we have not yet met”. We believe in the power of hospitality and real friendship to create powerful connections, break down negative stereotype and foster positive diversity. We participate in Couchsurfing in so many ways. We host regularly, surf both overseas and locally, attend CS events, host CS events, meet up with members, chat to fellow ambassadors and members online, assist in CS forums, enjoy CS groups, meet up for meals and even host Couchsurfers for Christmas :)…
What was your first CS experience?
Our first CS experience was in Vientiane, Laos. Our kind CS host was a single man, who had a passion for travel and helping travellers. We were couchsurfing as a family of five and our youngest child was four years old. Our host accepted all those who requested to stay with him, which was a considerable number, so there were people always coming and going. Whilst staying in this home we co-surfed with many other travellers from across the globe. We enjoyed meeting locals in the surrounding neighbourhood, as this was in a local suburb away from tourist areas. It was the stuff of true adventure and the start of our love of all thing Couchsurfing.
Why did you decide to become an Ambassador?
I have a passion for couchsurfing and the real global community that it has created. I enjoyed CS as a member, then became a CS City Ambassador and have recently taken the opportunity to become a CS Country Ambassador for Australia. It has been a great opportunity to connect more deeply with other members, (especially those in Australia) and fellow CS Ambassadors globally who have a passion for cultural exchange and friendship. Through being a CS Ambassador I have chatted to others across the globe, not only learning about their lives but also about all the many events, local happenings and big gatherings within the global CS community. It is also wonderful to hear many of the deeply touching personal stories that have developed as a result of couchsurfing experiences and the ability of such positive experiences in forming life-long friendships.
What was your most memorable hosting experience?
We have hosted people from different religions, backgrounds, age ranges, genders, socio-economic backgrounds, etc. There have been so many interesting and wonderful Couchsurfers who have visited us and many have become life-long friends. Thanks to all of you who have enriched our lives.
We really enjoyed hosting an amazing couple who had just recently explored the whole of South America for about two years, travelling down it’s entire length on a Vespa with only a tent and a backpack. We were inspired by their sense of adventure and real world experience. After they stayed with us, we followed their local work experiences, later we Couchsurfed with them on a dairy farm, then again followed their adventures as they travelled around Australia. Now they are staying in Tasmania and we hope to visit them soon.
What about surfing?
One of our standout CS surfing experiences was in a remote location in Romania. We met our hosts on a CS forum and after being invited to stay with them, decided to change our travels plans to make it happen. Getting to their home, involved a train, a few buses then walking a few kilometres up a dirt track. Once there, our family could not have asked for a more scenic or peaceful home. We hiked forest trails, drank fresh cows milk, helped plant tomatoes and played with kittens. It was an unforgettable experience so far from our suburban reality, filled with warm friendship and joy.
What is the coolest gift you’ve received from a surfer?
We are lucky enough to have received all kinds of unasked for gifts from our wonderful surfers – drinks, delicious foods, interesting trinkets, etc.
By far the most precious gifts have been their kind service (be it cooking us a meal or helping us around the home), their skills (such as teaching us to play the accordion or how to use a scythe) and their genuine friendship that continues today 🙂 “
What is the craziest thing that has happened to you on your travels?
So many crazy things have happened on our travels. Here is the story of The Great Varanasi Rickshaw Race
We departed Varanasi in carnival style. Unwilling to pay the tourist price for an autorickshaw to the station, we held out as the time for our evening sleeper train approached.
Eventually, a deal was secured with two pedal rickshaw drivers, and our bags and crew were loaded aboard. There followed a crazy 40 minute ride through busy streets and bumpy back roads to the station. Here the rickshaw is not a tourist vestige, but a cheap form of public transport used mostly by locals for short hops. The wiry riders, with calf-muscles that could make a Tour de France rider’s eyeballs pop, weave confidently along the street, in our case plunging through more motorised traffic with courage, skill and several hundred kilos of passengers and luggage.
Three of the passengers spent most of the trip with huge grins – for this was the Great Varanasi Rickshaw Race!”
What is a place in Perth that has the same ideals as CS?
The Buy Nothing Project Facebook groups. A wholly volunteer run, network of gift economies that build true community connections.
Last question, what is one thing you never go on a trip without?
A sarong – you can wear it, use it as a towel, carry stuff in it, use it for shade, etc…