More than 400,000 hosts open their homes to the world and share their lives with travelers every year. Hosts are the backbone of Couchsurfing. Blanca Calafell has been a member of the Couchsurfing community since 2013. It wasn’t until a trip to Germany in 2015 that she began using the platform as a traveler. She says “ It was pure gratification, positive vibrations and happiness. And ever since I’ve been using Couchsurfing on a regular basis, as a host, guest, travel companion or as a way to meet people. Definitely, I couldn’t be any more grateful for this community. the kindness of “strangers” is truly magical.”
What made you decide to start hosting?
After several and very positive experiences as a Couchsurfing guest I felt like I had to give back all the generosity and hospitality that I received. I was willing to open my doors to fellow travelers who were seeking this hospitality and willingness to share their time, stories, desires, dreams, experiences, etc.
What are the biggest benefits of hosting?
The joy I get every time I have the chance to host a traveler at my place is just indescribable. For me, hosting means sharing, learning, and it does add growth and experience to my life. It is a unique opportunity to meet people who’re totally different from myself, people with different cultures, backgrounds, experiences, knowledge, and all in all a magnificent manner to get a different perspective of life.
Have you ever had any safety concerns about hosting strangers? How do you protect yourself?
In my entire Couchsurfing life I have never had a negative experience. I do take my time while choosing the potential hosts/guests, and for me it is pretty important to have a well completed profile. Pictures, descriptions, personalized messages and references are some of the aspects that I take into consideration while using Couchsurfing.
Why host people for free instead of charging a fee with other accommodation services?
Because I believe that true and genuine hospitality cannot be paid with money. Couchsurfing members have something in common, and it is this belief that altruism is life, that kindness can change the world, and that emotions are more powerful than money.
Who’s the most memorable guest you’ve ever had?
Every one of them was memorable in their own way, however, my first guest ever, Viktor, left a lasting mark upon me. Full of positive vibes and happiness, this Swedish guy from Norrköping was walking all the way from Sweden till Cabo Fisterra (Spain), which are 3645 kilometers (2264 miles). His joy of life was contagious, and his bright and vivid eyes could encourage anyone. This was a walk to recover from a dark past he had, a walk for the change and all in all a walk for a new beginning.
Are you still in touch with anyone you’ve hosted? Have you ever slept on their couches in return?
Absolutely yes, as in most of the cases we’ve become good friends! For instance, in summer 2016 I met Zach from Chicago in Barcelona while he was traveling Europe, and ever since we’ve been in touch. And last summer when I was in Chicago we met again and it was such a wonderful experience. After two years we could be reunited, visit the city together and he showed me numerous hidden gems of the so called Windy City.
Has hosting people changed the way you travel? If so, how?
Indeed! Since I started hosting people through Couchsurfing I see traveling as a way to immerse myself into a certain culture, rather than just standing out of it. I want to get involved, learn, interact and constantly experience new things.
What’s the most memorable meal that you’ve shared with a Couchsurfer?
He knows he’s my favorite Kiwi on Earth, Tim from Auckland was a gem to have around. Kind, generous and filled with curiosity I had the opportunity to host him for a night and being the purpose of understanding where we live, exploring and learning on a daily basis. Having him during one night and sharing an amazing vegetarian meal was such a fountainhead of wisdom, creativity and knowledge.
What have you learned about other cultures through Couchsurfing?
Definitely that we shouldn’t be driven by stereotypes! For anyone reading this, follow your instincts, be rational and keep positive. Life is beautiful and many people regardless of their gender/age/nationality/religion share this passion for traveling and living life to its fullest.
Don’t let anyone take your decisions, because you’re wise and know what you are capable of doing or not. Couchsurfing is a community of joy and love, of people from different backgrounds who share certain common values. A honest and inspiring platform which enables all its users to regularly encounter different cultures and genuinely capture the essence and the magic of a destination.
Tell us about your most generous Couchsurfing host?
His spirit of life and his endless curiosity made me feel as I had always known Beñat. This Basque guy living in Chicago hosted me for two nights, let me sleep on his bedroom while he’d sleep on the couch, offered me breakfast, gave me tones of recommendations on places to go and he even accompanied me to different museums in the city. We happened to have similar personalities and share many interests, which contributed to having an unbeatable Couchsurfing experience.
What are ways that Couchsurfers can incorporate our core values into their everyday lives?
Couchsurfing teaches us all to be more open-minded, respectful, comprehensive, tolerant, curious and to value the little things in life. Ever since my first Couchsurfing experience in 2015 I travel more responsibly, trying to create more meaningful connections with the people I encounter in all my travels. On a daily basis I appreciate every moment shared with a fellow traveler, and I always try to act according to the principles that drive this vivid and diverse community. I believe in the power of generosity and altruism!