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Saturday December 8, 2012

Couchsurfing provides free accomodation and enables members to see more

Going places: Tey (front left) during a Couchsurfers reunion in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Going places: Tey (front left) during a Couchsurfers reunion in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Anew method of travelling has emerged and it involves sleeping on a couch.

Couchsurfing.org, which is promoting this new way of travelling, has connected more than five million members around the world who provide free accommodation to travellers.

As part of the arrangement, the host will bring the Couchsurfers around town to experience the non-touristy places usually frequented only by locals.

Aptly named, the host would prepare a couch for the visitors to sleep on, a basic necessity for those travelling on a shoestring budget.

An avid Couchsurfing member Tey Kher Ying has hosted more than 23 Couchsurfers and the most memorable experience was when she hosted an Italian motorcyclist who was travelling around the world on his third-hand motorbike.

“I had a chance to ride with him around Malaysia for a week. We slept in palm oil plantations and beaches, we rode during the day and night, and event in the rain.

It was an amazing experience,” she said, adding that she felt like Ernesto from the movie titled The Motorcycle Diaries.

Mobile home: Tey (right) and her Italian couchsurfer Eleonora (left) who stayed with her for two months in Melbourne.
Eleonora owns the van in which she travelled with her boyfriend Stefano. Mobile home: Tey (right) and her Italian couchsurfer Eleonora (left) who stayed with her for two months in Melbourne. Eleonora owns the van in which she travelled with her boyfriend Stefano.

That experience in her life has now motivated her to backpack and travel a fair bit herself.

The 29-year-old freelance writer, who is now living in Melbourne, Australia said hosting Couchsurfers had been a learning experience.

“If you can’t get out to the world, bring the world to your doorstep.

“Learn about the world through surfers and you will realise that the conventional beliefs that we hold on to so firmly mean nothing once we step out of our little bubble.

“My Couchsurfers taught me that anything is possible if you set your heart on it,” said Tey, who had travelled to more than 50 countries by Couchsurfing.

A new member of Couchsurfing Lina Abdullah said hosting Couchsurfers had been an eye-opening experience and that through hosting, she had been to parts of Kuala Lumpur that she would normally not venture into.

“Central Market is always a good bet and they always want to see the Petronas Twin Towers. I usually take them to good places to eat and chill out,” she said, adding that Couchsurfers usually ended up being the ones who taught her about her own city.

German couchsurfer David Schneider, 34, had visited Malaysia three times and all three were through Couchsurfing.

“I learnt about the locals more deeply and experienced their way of life through Couchsurfing, something that I would not be able to do had I stayed in a hotel,” he said.

Schneider added that during his first visit to Kuala Lumpur, he stayed with a couple who took him back to their kampung in Alor Setar.

“I followed them and had a chance to see the simple life of villagers, surrounded by the lush greenery and serenity that I did not get in the city,” he said.

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