Name: Syril Eberhart
Surfed in over 14 countries and hosted over 20 surfers
Words of Inspiration: “[Couchsurfing] gave me another image of foreigners, it made me more tolerant and taught me that money is not as important as many people think it is, and that sharing is better than possessing!”
Syril traveled from Switzerland to Timor Leste, Couchsurfing along the way. Over 7 months later, he returned home with a changed perspective and a passion for learning about the world and for Couchsurfing. Now, he organizes excursions for other Couchsurfers, taking them on amazing hikes and adventures in the Swiss Alps. Check out his stories below!
You took a long trip recently. How much did you Couchsurf during it?
S: My goal was just to start at home and go as far as I could without using a plane. I had 6 month for my trip and my plan was to travel to Australia. But it took much more time than I expected, so I arrived in Timor Leste after 7.5 months of traveling. As I couldn’t take more time, I had to return to Switzerland (this time by plane) and couldn’t go on to Australia. I’m not exactly sure with how many different people I stayed with, but I had a total of 96 CS nights on my trip, so I stayed for almost half of the time with some Couchsurfers. Normally I stayed only one or 2 nights at the same place. The longest was 5 nights. And in every county I crossed, I Couchsurfed at least 1 time.
Can you tell me about one host that stood out to you on this trip, and why your stay with them was unique?
S: Oh I had many really amazing hosts! But I think one of the best of all CS experiences was still the one in northern Siberia (Novy Urengoy). He told me that I was the first tourist that he had seen in this city. Not only is it a very cold city (in winter) with nothing for tourists, but it is also a restricted area of Russia. So normally I would not have been allowed to go there without asking for a permit well in advance. But as I was traveling by train, bus, and hitchhiking, I didn’t know and nobody checked me!
I surfed his place for 5 days, and he and his family were really amazing hosts, even though they didn’t speak English. It was a family with 2 kids (8 and 10 years at that time). We tried Banja (Russian Sauna) where we jumped out in the snow at -36°C. He took me to a trip with huskies (where I could ride on a sledge behind the dogs).
On the 19th of January we participated in the traditional orthodox event where men take a bath in an ice hole in a frozen river. It was -34°C and I succeeded in putting my head 3 times below water while swimming in the ice hole, like the Russians! Something I will always remember!
When I was playing monopoly with the kids they taught me Russian numbers and colors. That’s the moment when I really started liking the Russian language, and maybe one of the reasons I started learning a little bit of Russian last year. It was really cool to be integrated in a family, even though nobody spoke my language! And it’s only thanks to Couchsurfing I could do some activities so far in the north of Siberia, because there are no tourist agencies or any information available in English in this town.
Why did you decide to organize adventures to the Alps?
S: That’s something I started when I came back from my round the world trip. There are several reasons. One is for sure to give back to the Couchsurfing community a part of what I experienced on my trip. And then by doing these trips with Couchsurfers from all around the world it’s like bringing my holidays to my home. I mean, I am now working and I don’t have much time for traveling. But doing these mountain adventures with all these people from different cultures is almost like being back on my round the world trip.
It’s also a really great pleasure for me to show the beautiful places of Switzerland to some tourists. Especially places that tourists would never reach without a local Couchsurfer. And for me giving is as beautiful as taking. I have already had several Couchsurfers tell me that my mountain adventure was the best experience they have had in their whole life. And to hear that and see in their face how happy they are is just one of the best feelings you can have!
It always reminds me of many of my experiences on my round the world trip. I mean it was really hard to go swimming at -34°C, but to have succeeded was a really memorable experience that I will remember for all my life. It’s kind of the same for the Couchsurfers who join my mountain adventure: many of them are coming close to their limits by hiking so much up and then back down. They will be really tired at the end of their trip and have burning muscles. It’s often the first time they did such a big hike. But at the end they are so very proud that they could do it, impressed by the beautiful scenery and have an experience they never forget!
Can you tell me one memory from your trips to the Alps that has stood out for you?
S: The trip with 4 Indians was quite cool, when we went camping on a frozen lake in half a meter of snow. One Indian saw snow for the first time!
Or the Igloo trip, where we hiked by snow shoes far out in the nature, far away from all civilisation and built on a 2’000 m high mountain an Igloo. We underestimated the time of building an igloo, so at the end we couldn’t finish it and we had an igloo with roof window 😉 But this was the best that could happen to us. Before sleeping we just watched at the stars for half an hour! It was so beautiful and the stars were so clear and close!
Or the trip to Lake Seebergsee. Before we went there we were looking forward to go swimming in the beautiful mountain lake. But we didn’t expect the lake to be frozen for 90% of its surface! And when we came there, we decided to go swimming even if it was frozen. And we got some cool pictures on top of the ice shells.
And another really cool experience was the trip to Stockhorn. When we were on top, there was an amazing view of fog below us. Everybody was amazed by the beautiful sunset, maybe one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! Read more about this experience.
What have you learned through Couchsurfing?
S: It made me much more open minded. And it helped me understand many other cultures. If I couldn’t understand the way of thinking in different cultures before, I can understand it now. It gave me another image of foreigners, it made me more tolerant and taught me that money is not as important as many people think it is, and that sharing is better than possessing!
What advice do you have for travelers using Couchsurfing?
S: Just try it, don’t be afraid! I have never had a bad experience! Check the references before you go there, so you will have a safe stay. Don’t expect anything more than a couch, like that you will never be disappointed, but in most cases you will be heavily surprised to the good, because it’s almost always much more than only a couch! And it’s sure you will have many very good experiences you could never have had without Couchsurfing!
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