Featured Ambassador: Artu, the chocolate-loving party animal of Uzice, Serbia

“Have you ever wondered how it would be like to be a guest at someone’s home? Or have guests at your place and make friends with people you’ve just met whether in your own country or far away? Ever needed travelling companions for a trip you’ve longed for but couldn’t find any? Join CS and enrich your travels.” Artu

Artu has had one special place to call ‘home’ for her entire life. Uzice is a small, yet hilly town in Serbia where one must go ‘hiking’ every day in order to get to where you’re going. Artu admits that though she loves to travel, something always brings her back to Uzice.

While home in Uzice, Artu is the proud leader of the Balkan Mafia, her local Couchsurfing group. I’ve been organising the BMM (Balkan Mafia Meeting) since 2009. We meet twice a year– spring and autumn– each time in a different country in the Balkans.” Artu loves being involved in the planning of events and meetups. She says, “The experiences and people I meet make up for the hassle that organisation brings.”

When Artu welcomes Couchsurfers into her home, some of her favorite things to do with guests include walking, talking and getting to know each other, or sitting outside and enjoying nature. She would rather get to know her guests at home with drinks in hand rather than at a bar or restaurant. Making that personal connection is very important to Artu and is what motivates her to keep going.

With a whopping 610 references on her Couchsurfing profile, Artu knows a thing or two about meeting new people. In fact, Artu has been hosting people at her home since she was a young girl. It all started when she and her sister would spend summers at their grandparents’ house. Their backyard was a shortcut to the main road in the village, therefore many villagers would pass through and say hello. Some of them had been walking for hours, so Artu’s grandparents would invite them to rest and spend the night. At first, Artu and her sister were afraid of these unknown people and they would lock their doors and hide in their room. Over time, it just became a way of life for them and they began to enjoy welcoming these mysterious travelers. They began to do the same at their own home– inviting workers who were working on the family home, friends and family members. Into adulthood Artu continued this tradition by welcoming hitchhikers and band members of the concerts that she organized in her hometown. Sometimes up to twelve people a night! Eventually she heard about Couchsurfing and today Artu continues to host people from all walks of life. She also has plenty of great advice for aspiring Couchsurfers everywhere:

“Act locally then globally. Be sure to meet fellow locals on CS and travellers visiting your hometown, even host some and show them around, listen to their travel stories and CS experiences and then venture into the world. Be enthusiastic about and interested in meeting people not just surfing their couches. To receive you have to give too. Always be a respectful guest and a host. Treat the others the way you’d like to be treated. Enjoy the travels and your time spent with guests/hosts.”

For Artu, Couchsurfing made it easier for her to do the things that she’s always enjoyed, like staying with friends, meeting new people and hosting guests. Artu says she’s never been into visiting museums or tourist attractions when visiting a new place, rather she prefers learning about the culture through the locals that she meets. Meeting their families, listening to their life stories and trying out new food have always been more valuable to her. Through her travels, Artu has made it her personal mission to try the local chocolate bar or chocolate biscuit from every country she visits. When it comes to hosting, it has helped Artu realize how different we all are. It’s those differences that have given her a better understanding of the world and how to communicate with people with different backgrounds.

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