I don't know you, but please come into my home. Take off your shoes and join us for dinner while I prepare your bed for the night. Oh, you forgot to bring toiletries? Don't worry, here's some shampoo and soap.
That's the concept of couchsurfing.
Imagine welcoming a person of another nationality with different sets of culture and opinion, who is not related to you in any way and giving him or her the hospitality that you would to a guest like a relative or a family friend.
I've heard of www.couchsurfing.com from friends. Its a website whereby locals can offer accommodation to travellers for free and vice versa. In exchange you as a host are able to enjoy the experience of culture exchange and make new friends. I suppose if you're into that sort of thing, then its a win-win situation.
Recently I offered to host JP from Philippines. After reading his profile, I felt like he is someone I could welcome into my home. He seem well travelled and interesting. Sure enough, my instinct was spot on.
Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances, JP was not able to stay overnight with us. I managed to bring him to a few sights and we talked about travelling and compared many things between Malaysia and Philippines. We explored the walls of Kek Lok Si Temple on a Sunday afternoon and walked back to the car in rain.
I find it very refreshing to spend time with a person who is equally curious about my hometown as I felt really excited and proud to be tour guide for the day.
Later that day, I introduced him to my family members. Then we had dinner in the company of my sister-in-law with her baby. We introduced him to Thai food - favourite among Malaysians. A culture that I embrace whole heartedly.
The next day we stroll around Georgetown and I showed him the various lorong and jalan with all the adorable cafe and hostels that merge along side the famous murals done by street artists over the years.
In that moment, I realize how little I knew about Penang. On a usual today, I would just zoom by in my car leaving no care about the beauty that has attracted so many tourist from around the world into my country, particularly Penang.
Towards the end I made sure JP had a ride to the bus station as he would be taking a 12 hours van ride to Thailand.crazy.
Now I am a believer that you don't need to travel to far ends of the world to make friends as there are so many people out there who are willing to do all the travelling to your place.
You might say that all this sounds crazy? I agree. Give your precious time and money (gas, meals and etc.) to a stranger and what do you get in return? Well, expect nothing. That's the beauty of it. You cannot claim for any expenditure and risk inviting a freeloader into your home.
I remember when I was in Philippines and a family friend welcome me into their home and shared with me culture, food and their thoughts of the world from a very personal point of view. I think that was the best holiday experience. Bare in mind, I have never met them prior to the "couchsurfing" experience.
I think that if a person who makes the effort to plan his or her travels and is pleasant enough to be invited out for a cup of coffee, then why not welcome him or her with open arms?
The great thing about the concept of couchsurfing is that you have a choice. You can reject a request if you feel uncomfortable or provide an outing with the traveller instead of letting them into your home.
I see it as an opportunity to network and meet new people in the comfort of a snoopy shirt and Hawaii shorts. There is no guarantee that you will secure a lasting friendship but one thing for sure, you'll get a life-changing experience if you decide to host a traveller.
For more information login to https://www.couchsurfing.com/