Matthew Lafontaine of Oslo, Norway

I was on my big backpacking trip in Xi’an in central China. I was surfing with a German engineer named Wilhelm who is about 30 years older than me. He was kind, tall, bald. I had heard about the spicy Szechuan cuisine in the neighboring region. We went to dinner, and feeling confident in my newfound ability to handle spicy food, I ordered us the chicken and peppers dish. Wilhelm didn’t say anything. What arrived was some bits of chicken swimming in a sea of chili peppers. I was taken aback but was still bound and determined, so we tucked in.  It was overwhelming. My mouth couldn’t handle all the spice, I was gulping water, my nose was running incessantly. I looked over to Wilhelm and beads of sweat were clustering on his forehead.  We made a valiant effort but I don’t know if we even finished half of it. I give Wilhelm credit for putting up with me, we laughed about it then, and that story still makes me laugh years later.

Matthew heard about Couchsurfing just in time for his 4-month tour of Norway and Asia in 2007. If it hadn’t been for that friend who told him about Couchsurfing, his journey could have turned out completely differently. Matthew ended up using it for the entire four months, with only two exceptions, and surfed all the way from Indonesia to Nepal making countless memories that got him started on his Couchsurfing journey.

Matthew (center) with his very first CS host Andrei (left) doing Karaoke in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

After months of traveling, Matthew was looking for a place to call home in Egypt, and finding a place that could accommodate couchsurfers was part of the equation. Matthew was able to find one of the few flats on the Red Sea that actually came with a couch, which was quite an achievement as traditional couches are not common in that region.

Couchsurfing has certainly transformed how I travel, as it has become my default. I’ve met a lot of people with alternative perspectives on life and it’s given me some of my closest friends. I’ve seen that you can make a meaningful connection with another traveler in a short time, and sometimes that connection can last for years afterwards.

Taking couchsurfer Emily diving in the Red Sea

At the moment, Matthew is working on his thesis, but his still finds time to stay active in the CS community by promoting and attending events and even inviting travelers to events personally. In the past, Matthew has been involved in the organization of a few Couch Crashes in the United States, including the 2012 and 2015 Twin Cities Crashes, while also attending the Madison Couch Crash in 2012.

Twin Cities Couch Crash 2015

Becoming an Ambassador has been a very rewarding experience for Matthew as he has enjoyed helping out fellow travelers as much as possible.

To me, being an ambassador means being a resource. A few times during our regular events in Oslo, the organizer pulled me over to answer another surfer’s ‘couchsurfing question.’ Because I’ve done this for a decade I’m happy to share my experience and give tips on how to surf and host better. It also means representing my community in larger conversations with the CS leadership, and defending the original values of this community if need be.  

While hosting in Oslo, one of Matthew favorite things to do with his surfers is bring them to the Aker river. “It’s free, tourists don’t really know about it, and it gives us a chance to get to know each other and swap travel stories in ‘the nature,’ to transliterate from Norwegian.”

Like any good Ambassador, Matthew is always spreading the word and trying to get more people to experience the beauty of Couchsurfing. Throughout his 10 years as a couchsurfer Matthew has recruited numerous friends to the site and continues to recommend Couchsurfing widely.

“You will be positively shocked how kind, giving, and trustworthy most of the world is. On that backpacking trip [around Asia] a host let me stay in his flat alone when he had to leave early. I’ve received so many insights into cultures that I never would’ve had otherwise. Often they’re surprising, like how my Malay host, a middle-aged mother, loves pro wrestling. Start small, meet some couchsurfers where you live at an event or make your own through Hangouts. And then go for it!”

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