Couchsurfing hosts open their homes every day to travelers and adventurers alike in nearly every country in the world. When people travel through Couchsurfing, they often gain access to places where travel is not always easy without the knowledge and insight of a local guide.
One country where it can be difficult to travel without local connections – and which has a lot of Couchsurfing activity – is Iran, where over 20,000 Couchsurfing hosts receive travelers from all over the world.
One of these recent travelers was German Couchsurfer Stephan Orth, author of the book „Couchsurfing im Iran“, which he wrote after a two month journey in Iran. Stephan, who has been a member of Couchsurfing for over ten years and has traveled to more than 30 different countries using Couchsurfing, said that his trip to Iran was his best yet because “the hospitality of the people was just stunning, and I really felt like I was part of the local life for those weeks, not just a tourist.”
As someone who experienced a life-changing Couchsurfing journey, Stephan shares with us 7 discoveries he made during his trip to Iran:
1. The people of Iran are incredibly hospitable.
“This is breakfast with my wonderful CS host on Kish island – with his wife on the right, her cousin and the cousin’s two kids. We’re having bread, goat cheese, honey and tea, all you need for a perfect start into the day. I stayed there for three nights. The kids enjoyed practicing their English with me and taught me some Farsi, we celebrated Iranian new year together, and we went fishing all night, catching some quite huge catfish from the Persian Gulf.”
2. There are incredible local traditions to discover through Couchsurfing – even if you don’t know the language!
“I went to the magnificent tomb of Hafez, one of the most famous persian poets. Lots of young people go there with their lovers, some recite verses near the grave. A friend of these three girls read some poems to me – I didn’t understand a word, but still the tone and rhythm of the words made me feel the greatness of Hafez’ art.”
3. Following the advice of locals can lead you to experiences you never would have discovered otherwise.
“The cartoon shows me. The wife of my Couchsurfing host on Kish island in the south of Iran introduced me to her art teacher – a cartoonist working in one of the many huge shopping malls of the place. I would never have gone there without the local’s advice – but this way, I got one of the best souvenirs of the whole trip (and for a discounted price because after the introduction, I was a friend of the cartoonist!).”
4. Straying from your original plans and opening yourself up to new experiences may present you with amazing opportunities.
“This was my taxi driver in a place near Kerman in southeastern Iran. Besides his striking resemblance to German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl, this guy was special in another way, too: Every three or four minutes he stopped his car and asked me to take a photo of him. I was happy to obey because he looked gorgeous and the evening light was magic. On the one-hour-trip he offered me cigarettes and Halva sweets, and we had a wonderful drive even though there was a language barrier.”
5. Your host might have different interests and expertise than you, so Couchsurfing can be a great opportunity to learn something new.
“This is my host in Hamadan with one of his friends. We took a tour on an ancient motorcycle to look for some rare flowers, both of them were absolute flower experts. As you can see, they were happy with the stuff they found, later they would sell the flowers on the local market.”
6. The Iranian people will go above and beyond to show hospitality and generosity with their time.
“This is in Kaluts desert region near Kerman. My host introduced me to his friend who was doing a day trip to the desert with her CS guests. So I went with her (who took a day of sick leave from her job just to show visitors a place she had visited more than 20 times before – I think that tells a lot about Iranian hospitality), her daughter and an Australian couple. The sandstone hills in the desert were totally amazing – for dozens of kilometers there were sights like this, a really magical place far off the common tourist trails.”
7. A willingness to participate actively and engage with the people you encounter will further enrich your travel experience.
“I met these boys in the Kurdistan area in western Iran, not too far from the border to Iraq. They had just finished school and were playing soccer. I joined the game and had a great time. Obviously my soccer skills were not that bad – after a few minutes (and after I told them which country I’m from) they gave me the nickname “Schweinsteiger”.”