I joined Couchsurfing in 2017. For those who don’t know what Couchsurfing is, it is a website that allows you to host travelers from all over the world. You also get to be hosted by other Couchsurfers in their homes when you travel to their location. What makes it even more beautiful is that you get to learn from locals directly, you make new friends and you get to explore secret tourist attractions you otherwise wouldn’t have known.
So how did I discover couchsurfing? It was in 2017 when I came across a video. I wanted to travel the world for free, but I didn’t know where to start or how to go about it. I knew that some of the things that were going to cost a lot of money were hotel bills and transportation, so I started researching on how to cut them to the barest minimum. My research led me to a video that showed me someone that was able to travel the world for free, and in that video, I heard about Couchsurfing, so I quickly signed up.
I never really got to use the service until 2019 when I got a message in my inbox.
I was excited! Immediately, I chatted her up and told her I’ll be happy to be her host. It was my opportunity to experience the beauty of serving someone – a stranger – and being of immense help to that person. I remember when I told a friend that I’ll be hosting a German national in a few weeks and he asked me, “Has she been to Nigeria before?”
“No, she said she hasn’t.” I replied him.
“Does she know she has to be vaccinated before coming?” He asked me again.
I didn’t know that either. “Uhmm… I’m not sure.”
By the time my friend was done with his questions, I kept wondering whether it was a really good idea to host her. I was told, “Remember she’s a German and if anything happens to her, you’ll feel the weight of the German government.” Scary, right? But I knew what it meant to be hosted by strangers, I’ve benefited from that a lot as a traveler even before discovering the website, and this was my opportunity to be of help as well.
Brenda arrived two weeks later, and we had a lot of fun. I went with her to her film festival. Being a storyteller as well, we made a film together that was later showed at the grand finale of the festival. We toured different places across Lagos including the popular African Shrine, went to the local gym, ate street food and just shared lots of memories and laughter.
From my experience with Brenda, these are some of the lessons I learnt:
- Fear sucks! I remember when Brenda once said something like, “Chukwuka, I know you’re trying to protect me and all that, but the world isn’t as bad as we paint it to be.” There were many times she wanted to take the local tricycle and I’d advise her to take a taxi instead. I was uncomfortable with her walking the streets of Lagos by herself. It was just fear, nothing more. The first time she took a bike to visit someone, it was memorable for her. I learnt to have some more faith in the world. Fear cripples and can prevent you from truly living.
- Be ready to serve. You see, when you host someone, you’re not just giving them a bed, no. You’re also offering your time, your resources, and more importantly, your heart. So do it with love.
- Be open to learn. Your visitor often comes fully packed with lots of knowledge. I learnt a lot about Germany, her religious beliefs, her philosophies about life and I listened to her many stories of adventures across the world. I learnt a lot about documentary filmmaking as well. Be ready to receive ideas different from yours and what you’ve always believed.
- Share your knowledge. Share your ideas as well. If you have skills that can benefit your host, teach them.
- Just have fun! Don’t worry too much. Live in the moment and make beautiful memories with your visitor – the type of memories that can last a lifetime.
Brenda was an amazing guest. She offered to cook, she shared the bills with me and her energy lighted my home. It was an emotional moment when it was time for her to leave. And after she left, she left me this recommendation on the website:
I look forward to hosting my next guest and to getting hosted as well. Let me know in the comment section what you think about the service. Is it something you’d want to try out?