Couchsurfing in Colombia: Day 1

Going travelling for a year when you’re 32 takes every bit of the wiliness you’ve amassed in that stretch. You’re used to the finer things in life, but on a backpacker’s budget. And that’s why I love couchsurfing. You get to stay in nice places, learn about your new surrounds from a local’s point of view and save money at the same time.

Here’s the view from my newest home. Today I live in Bogota! The capital of Colombia.

A view from the roof of the Old Town apartment building.

This morning I rolled out of bed at 5.30am in Barbados, stumbled to the car via a breakfast of mango and banana and headed to the airport. Four planes later (Grenada, Port of Spain, Curacao in case you were wondering), lunch with my new plane buddies in Trinidad – a bunch of men in their 40s (Dutch Eric who lives on Curacao with his wife and kids, Miguel and Dallio from Brazil in case you were wondering) and lots of snacking and sleeping later, I arrived.

This was a new continent, new language and entirely new culture. And I was staying with strangers I’d met over the internet. I’d couchsurfed all over Hawaii, but that was through friends of friends. I needn’t have worried. Directly opposite the airport exit fighting a melee of waving signs, balloons and eager faces was Javier holding up a printed paper bearing my name. As soon as we met I felt in good hands. Javier’s been hosting since September last year and is fully versed in sofa-sleeping. So much so that he’s literally doing it tonight – the previous guest has stayed on in the spare room so he’s insisted on taking the sofa and giving me his room. He’s taken me to the roof to explain how the city works – the calles (streets) run east west, the carreras stream north south. Both are numbered. The mountains are on the east. Easy! My hands have been stuffed with city maps and my stomach is full. Thanks Javier!

So about couchsurfing. Filling in a profile on the website takes the most time, but it’s worth it. The more you put in, the more you get out as the old adage goes.

Then you fill in your itinerary and hope people contact you with invitations. Meanwhile, you search for people hosting in the destinations you plan to visit. Reading their recommendations by previous surfers gives you a fuller idea of the experience you might get and some piece of mind.

Couchsurfing is about exchanging ways of thinking, sharing local knowledge, improving language skills and making new friends. Share the love! It’s way more interesting. Plus you won’t have to try to sleep through dorm snorers or those people who think you can’t hear them having sex even though you’re in the same room. Hello? Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean I can’t hear.

Poor old Barbados hasn’t had a blog look-in since I was mourning leaving Hawaii the whole time. It was pretty fabulous though, more about that tomorrow.