We’re hosting travelers, organizing events and will be out surfing around the globe!
Role: Community Team
Surfing in… Greece
I’ve been to over 20 countries, but never have I felt like I understood a country in the same way as I did during my Staff in the Wild trip to Greece. Staying with locals opened my eyes to Greece in a whole new way. Rather than chatting with my friends and family, visiting tourist locations, and missing the local spots and people, I was able to truly embrace the Greek culture and get glimpses of several other cultures at the same time.
This was my first solo travel experience, but at no point while I was Couchsurfing did I ever feel alone! My three hosts welcomed me with open arms, and with each host I saw a different perspective of Greece. Rather than having a cookie cutter experience in hotels, I had three very unique Couchsurfing experiences with three very unique people.
Even before I met Aristide, he made me feel comfortable and safe. Without me asking, he sent me detailed messages before my trip, telling me exactly how to get to his work and home from the airport, down to the exact bus numbers and metro line that I would need. He told me which restaurant to wait at until he could meet me, and exactly what to order if I wasn’t sure. He completely erased my initial worries about traveling alone in Greece, a new country where I couldn’t even read most of the signs, let alone speak the language.
Aristide loves meeting new people from other countries, and that’s why he hosts. Not only did he offer me a safe bed to sleep in, he took several hours out of his day to get to know me and make me comfortable. We made homemade orange juice (the best I’ve ever tasted!), walked around Kallithea and ate amazing donuts (I thought Krispy Kremes had the best donuts – I was wrong). We also went to Nafplio and Mycenae with three other Couchsurfers that he had invited to come along, a couple from France and a girl from Palestine who has spent the last few semesters studying in Athens.
Daphne, a Chemistry student, lives a little bit outside central Athens with her sister. Her house was spacious and cozy at the same time, and exuded personality. Her sister is an artist, and she has used the walls in the house as her personal canvas, bringing the house to life!
Daphne and I spent a relaxing and comfortable evening together. We made some pasta with pesto for dinner, then went to admire a different perspective of Athens from a beautiful outdoor restaurant. This restaurant was a 20-25 minute drive past the end of the metro line, well off the beaten path, but provided fantastic views of Athens. While we talked about the political climate of Greece, her studies, and gossiped about boys, we watched the sun set over the Parthenon and the ocean. Afterwards, we went back to her house, listened to records and watched Friends – even though we grew up a continent apart, we still had the same favorite TV show!
I don’t know why, but I felt as if I had known Anna for several years. In fact, I felt so at ease with Anna that I fell asleep while we were relaxing 30 minutes after getting to her house! Her apartment in Paros is in the typical Greek Island style – white with blue accents. Her studio apartment was comfortable, welcoming, and very sunny. Another Couchsurfer from India, Neha, was staying with Anna at the same time as me. Together, we walked around Paros, admiring shop windows, eating Souvlaki, and relaxing on the beach. Anna took us to a outdoor bar where she used to work, where we sipped on hot chocolate while watching the moonlight fall on the water. I wish I had spent more than two nights with Anna. I felt so at home at her house, and in Paros.
As Neha, Anna and I discussed creativity, societal expectations and our routines on Anna’s porch, Anna paused thoughtfully and said:
“I feel as if I have three continents sitting here on my porch.”
While I was physically only in Greece on this vacation, through Couchsurfing, I was able to get to get a glimpse of life in Romania, Canada, France, Italy, Palestine, Israel and India, as well as Greece. I explored ancient Greek quarries next to a new friend from Canada, learned some new French words from a French couple while we walked through Mycenae (I never learned fourmi meant “Ant” in my high school French classes!), and goofed around taking pictures on a ferry ride with someone from Palestine and my Romanian host. I hung out on the beach and walked around Paros with a girl from India. I stuffed my stomach full of stuffed tomatoes, fried zucchini balls, and tzatziki in the company of girls from five different countries.
These are experiences I’ve never had before, and they were only made possible through Couchsurfing. It’s made me realize that it doesn’t matter if you can’t host, or if you can’t travel – it’s always possible to meet new people from different cultures. Going forward, I’m going to take a page out of Aristide’s book, and try to work small Couchsurfing outings and events into my weekly routine to spice up the daily grind. Couchsurfing can change your life if you let it – you just have to learn to open your heart and your mind.
Check out more of Zareen’s photos and adventures on Instagram by following @couchsurfinginthewild!