Celebrating the Life of Massimo Bennardo

For over 10 years, Massimo Bennardo dedicated himself to Couchsurfing. As an active host, surfer, event organizer, Community  Manager, and Ambassador, few have given more to the Couchsurfing community than Massimo. 

Massimo passed away on July 11, 2017. Below is a guest blog post celebrating his life, written by his good friend and fellow Couchsurfing community member Flohfish. 

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Last Tuesday, my good friend Massimo Bennardo passed away.

The information spread like wildfire on the internet. Condolences from all around the world were flooding Facebook within the hour. No matter where these farewell messages were coming from, most of them had one thing in common: disbelief. Wasn’t Massimo still posting travel photos from Prague two weeks ago? How was this possible?

Massimo was one of the most shimmering stars the Couchsurfing community had ever seen. He had an aura surrounding him that made it hard to escape him. With entering a room he was able to spread good vibes in a manner that would turn a funeral into a celebration of life. An active member of the Couchsurfing community 2007, he quickly became one of the best ambassadors for the ideas of hospitality exchange and international friendship. Being an active traveler and couchsurfer, he never forgot to give back. Those who attended will never forget his legendary pizza parties in Pistoia, when he was hosting hundreds of friends and friends to be in his house and garden. Countless local meetings in various countries, the annual CzechSurfing event, and the legendary Prague WinterCamp of 2012/2013 would never have happened without him.

Not entirely happy with the changes Couchsurfing had undergone when investors came into the boat, Massimo didn’t complain like so many others. Instead he tried to stay focused on the positive and tried to encourage the community for constructive criticism. Probably, this was the reason why Casey Fenton, founder of Couchsurfing, asked Massimo during a dinner in 2013 if he would become Couchsurfing’s new Community Manager. Only weeks before leaving Europe for an infinite travel around the world, he postponed his plans and moved to San Francisco. There, he became the link and word of reason between investor’s interests and a disillusioned, but hopeful and demanding Couchsurfing community. During this time as the Couchsurfing Community Manager, first in California and later working while on the road, his paramount interest always remained the well-being of the community.

From the USA, Massimo proceeded with his travels, first to Yucatan, then Japan, and later to South-East-Asia. His goal was to visit his godchild in Australia, but he would never manage to reach the continent down under. In autumn 2014, Massimo was diagnosed with lung cancer while traveling in Thailand – despite never having smoked. He had to immediately return to Italy to undergo therapy. While many of his friends had already started crying, Massimo didn’t take this diagnosis as a death sentence, but as a challenge of life. Not willing to give up so easily, he started celebrating life more than ever before. Whenever his therapies allowed it, Massimo was back on the road, traveling to places he hadn’t been before (some as far away as the Philippines), moving temporarily to cities like Warsaw and Berlin to experience living there, and visiting old friends all over Europe. Living more consciously than ever before, his will to embrace life to the fullest empowered him so much that it was easy to forget that Massimo was ill at all.

Finally, after winning so many battles against the cancer, Massimo lost the war.

His memory will remain within hundreds of people around this globe and with it a huge source of inspiration.

Dear Massimo,

Farewell my big brother, my best man.
May you have eternal travels and be re-united with your beloved dogs.

The world will always remember you (with a little tear in the eye and a huge smile on the face.)

Your little Padawan,

Floh

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