Couch-surfing as a family
Couch-surfing as a family, because, if this trip isn't meant to be one in which we experience the new, to overcome our pre-set personal limits, to see what's out there, then what is the meaning of this trip?
I had signed up to Couch-surfing, I don't really know why because it was obvious that we would not be sleeping on any couch as a family. However, this trip won't cease to amaze us, that's exactly what happened, we did couch-surfing as a family.
In case you don't know what couch-surfing is, it's a hosting and rental service page that you can sign up to as a host or a guest, the website is couchsurfing.com. As a guest, you'd stay at a host's home, and as a host you'd welcome others as guests into your home. The array of things and situations that could come up through such an exchange are unthought of. I've gotten to know people who ended up marrying the host of the place where they stayed, so make your own conclusions. Couch-surfing is free of charge, you don't pay to stay at someone's home, although we always bring our host or hostess a gift.
While traveling through Indonesia, we asked ourselves: 'why not?', as long as we'd let them know this was for a family of four and they'd be ok with it? and to our surprise people welcomed us into their homes! Our first host was Nurul in Melaka. Nurul and his family are Muslims and we were quite worried about how to dress while we stayed in their home, so I asked for some advise and they lent me clothing so I could feel comfortable and we could respect their customs. Their home was joyous, they have a modest house but their hearts are of immeasurable size unlike anything we had experienced. Upon our arrival, Nurul let us know we'd share a room with his parents. Shortly after that, we dressed up to attend his cousin's wedding, just a few blocks away from his home. The children and Artur felt comfortable with their outfits, but I had nothing that seemed appropriate for the occasion and to show respect to their customs, so Nurul offered to lend me a long dress and a pair of shoes. We turned out to be the center of attention at the wedding, and my children's cheeks were squeezed a thousand times over.
We spent our days meeting family members, friends, and neighbors coming over to meet us. there was joy and love shown to us in abundance, so much so that my children started calling Nurul's mom, "grandma."
Our second couch-surfing experience was in Hoi An, Vietnam. We arrived in Hoi An from our previous destination, Bali. We arrived there at night, something that prompts us to advise anyone planning a trip not to arrive anywhere at night, everything seems to work out better when you arrive in the daytime. We had directions we had received from our hostess, Ludov, originally from Russia, who was a hostess through couch-surfing, she knew we were a family of four, but we expected what we should've not expected: a bed. We were overly exhausted, we were hungry, and it was nighttime, her house was far from the city, and when we got there, there was a mattress on the floor and, of course, a couch, of course as this was 'couch-surfing,' and the room was scorching hot. I sat down and started shedding tears uncontrollably, I felt such guilt and regret, and I asked myself: 'how can we be such bad parents, allowing this to happen, having our children sleep in this place?' all I wanted was to go back home and have my mother give me a big comforting hug. We spent that night there, and the next day, although we felt sorry to do this to our hostess, we left to stay in an Airbnb rental. And we felt truly happy to do so! We learned a valuable lesson: whenever something doesn't feel right or have the right vibe, we step aside. It was a valuable lesson I learned after shedding all those tears that night.
Our third couch-surfing experience was in Da Lat, Vietnam. We were welcomed by our host, who'd just opened up a kindergarten school there. Because we arrived there at the break of dawn, we stayed in a hotel the day we first arrived, because after our experience while at Hoi An, in Vietnam, we decided to first go and see the place in Da Lat, and not leave the condition of the place we stayed in up to mere "couch-surfing" fate, on the couch of our new friend. We got there and they welcomed us by inviting us to join them for lunch, the kids attending that school were such munchkins!, and the place where we'd stay was clean and beautiful. We were told they had a room for us upstairs, just like one we were shown downstairs, so we happily went back to the hotel and packed our bags and off we went, to stay in the room that had been assigned to us, but to our sad surprise, when we got there the room that was exactly like the one downstairs was indeed exactly like it except that it was disgustingly dirty, so much so, that we dared not set foot in it. I guess it would have been 'ok' if we were in our 20's and had we been traveling alone as campers, but we were not in our 20's and we weren't campers either. So, we felt heartbroken and left our host.
In conclusion, do experience couch-surfing, it's overall a wonderful experience, but do so knowing and understanding that the 'couch' can be full of surprises, both good and unpleasant ones.