Yes, you read the title of this post correctly – couch surfing! For those that have never heard of it or have mixed opinions on it, I’m here to introduce you to this wonderful world and share my first couch surfing experiences I had over the weekend.
It’s a pretty self explanatory topic, you surf couches anywhere in the world of regular people, in regular homes and what’s better is that it doesn’t cost you a penny. There’s a website & a handy app for this setup and don’t worry, every member on the website whether you’re a surfer or a host has to get verified to become a member, the hosts tend to be people who have travelled and want to keep the backpacking vibe going in their lives, they might still be travelling and have stopped somewhere for a while and want to offer help to other backpackers but one thing that every host wants is to meet new people, exchange travel stories and just to let some awesome people come into their lives!
After flying back from Thailand, I flew back to the Gold Coast last Monday and stayed a few days in Coolangatta where I spent most my time with my friend Barni who lives in Surfers Paradise. We spent some time on the beach, checking out the surf at Snapper Rocks and going to more of the Springbrook National Park until my Danish friend Pernille (who I met at surf camp) arrived on the Gold Coast. Throughout the three days I had spent in Coolie, heavy rain showers kept descending upon us so Pernille and I made the decision to head up to Surfers Paradise for a few days. She also bought my surfboard with her from the camp which I was stoked about because I hadn’t surfed in over three weeks and I was CRAVING some time in the water!
I’d heard mixed things about Surfers, some people love it and some people hate it so it was nice that I was going to be able to make my own decision on the place and maybe, FINALLY get to surf! It was pretty simple to catch transport between Coolie and Surfers but the 20 minute bus ride and jumping onto the tram system in Surfers Paradise proved much harder with an 8ft surfboard added to my luggage load! It was manageable and the transport space was pretty accommodating but it really made a difference to what I was already carrying around with me and I knew it was going to cause future issues with travelling around.
Once we arrived at the hostel there were signs of rain but we didn’t think much of it, all we wanted was to get to our accommodation and put some much needed laundry on because neither of us had clean clothes – you do, unfortunately, get used to this as a backpacker! We arrived, dumped our stuff, chucked our laundry in and then, to cut this story down, it rained HEAVILY for the next 48 hours. The hostel had a courtyard you had to cross to get anywhere so we got drenched running to and from the laundry room, our washing had nowhere to dry other than the fences outside out bedroom door which was partially undercover until we later discovered was directly in line to catch the raindrops from the roof and we had to venture out into town to get some food to cook. Now, when I packed my backpack back in the UK, I packed for Australia. Not only that, I packed for an Australian Summer, the warmest thing I had was a not-so-warm jumper and a not-so-waterproof jacket. SCHOOL BOY ERROR!
Anyway we were looking forward to a night out so we cooked, washed and headed out into the town. Fortunately Barni works in one of the big nightclubs so we were able to have an extremely cheap night out which was enough of a reason for us to give Surfers Paradise a chance to make us like the place. We went to a bar with a few people we’d met in our hostel and then headed to the club, walking through the town was like walking through Maidstone on a Saturday night. It was full of guys and girls wearing fake tan, blinged up to the max and wearing about 10 pairs of fake eyelashes – I’m sure it had the potential of being a favourite location for Jersey Shore to be filmed. We enjoyed our night of free drinks and then headed back to bed while the rain decided to stop for all of 15 minutes.
The next morning we realised we hadn’t made any plans to move on or stay anywhere so decided to ask reception if we could stay for an extra night but they were fully booked. However they called a hostel around the corner and kindly dropped us there with our heavy load of luggage and still soaking laundry to save us the walk in the forever, ongoing heavy rain. Feeling slightly fed up and miserable in this depressing weather, we were greeted by a friendly face and a friendly and unexpected room upgrade! We bagged a private twin room in an apartment which was a sweet result and had a cosy night in with some soup and chocolate milk! – it’s the simple things in life!
Fed up of the crappy weather we decided to head to Brisbane the next day, we’d heard about Couch Surfing from a couple of different people and thought we’d at least try emailing some hosts and see what sort of response we got. A few got back to us and we decided to go with the happy looking chappy – Caleb. He sent me the details to get to his place and once we got to Brisbane we made our way to the ferry terminal and headed up the Brisbane River about 10 mins. After a short walk up a steep hill we easily found his place and were greeted by his house mate, Dave. Caleb was out for the rest of the day so Dave gave us heaps of information on the City so we dumped our bags and headed out to explore. We just wandered aimlessly around, taking in the City which is actually a lot smaller than I expected. Everything in Australia seems so big and spread out but not Brisbane, it’s quite a small and compact little City but it’s got a really nice vibe about it. We ended up walking over a bridge and there was a distinctive moment where I felt like I was walking across Waterloo Bridge in London, the view was ever so similar and the hustle and bustle along the river side was actually called South Bank.
We browsed the markets of South Bank before Caleb and Dave turned up and we decided to go and grab some Mexican food and a beer and sit around South Bank listening to some live music. It was so nice to hang out with some Aussies and talk about our travelling experiences and swap surfing stories, it was already more refreshing than staying in a hostel! Caleb then decided to take us to the West End and meet some of his friends that were there in the Motor Room, a bar with live music and surrounded by loads of street food market stalls. It was a real hipster place but not in a pretentious way, the vibe was buzzing and everyone was just there to have a good time – I could get used to this place!
After moving onto another bar and watching another band, we decided to call it a night and shortly realised after getting into bed that we hadn’t really made any plans of where to stay the following night as Caleb was heading up to Noosa for a night. Dave was kicking around all weekend and kindly offered us to stay another night which we quickly accepted straight away – not even for the free accommodation but it was just such a nice place to be around such nice, friendly and hospitable people!
The next morning Caleb took us to a super cheap fruit and vegetable market before heading off too Noosa and dropped us off in the City afterwards – Sunday reached a whopping 38 degrees so Pernille and I decided to chill on the Fake Beach all day – yes it was a FAKE beach but in this heat we just needed to be near some sort of water! It was packed and actually quite pleasant and weirdly enough Pernille spotted two Danish friends from home so we spent the afternoon with them showing them the markets.
We headed back and Daniella, a room mate of Caleb & Dave kindly offered to drive us up to Kangaroo Point for the sunset. She made a lovely little picnic and grabbed some blankets and we spent the evening watching the sun set over the City it was really beautiful! We spoke about careers and travel stories and girly chit chat and I just couldn’t believe how lucky we had been to find such awesome people to stay with! Not only are they giving up a sofa bed to us but they had all gone out of their way to spend time with us and show us the City and make sure we had a great time!
Monday was Australia Day and it was nice to be able to spend it with some Aussie’s in an Aussie home – Not with some Europeans in a hostel drinking Goon (no offence!) Again we had no real plans and we ended up staying yet another night after drinking some beers and ciders all day with Dave and a few friends listening to the much talked about Hottest 100 on the radio! – (it’s the hottest 100 songs that the Nation have voted for over the last couple of months, apparently it’s a pretty big deal!) Had a bit of a BBQ later on and then Caleb arrived back from Noosa and took us out to a bar for a drink again, such great hosts!
We eventually left the house the following afternoon and it was actually really sad to say goodbye to the boys because we’d all gotten along so well over the weekend. It was so refreshing to meet well travelled people that could appreciate anything in life and accept other people into their homes with so much trust and enthusiasm, which is why I think Couch Surfing is such a great setup because it enables those that have travelled to help others that are and still experience that side of life even when they’re settled down and working full time. We loved it so much that we ended up crashing on Ben’s sofa across town on Tuesday night, who was also another lovely and welcoming host! We had a pretty chilled evening sat in front of the tele which Pernille and I actually really appreciated but he cooked us some dinner and even drove us up to the top of Mount Coot-Tha after the sun had gone down so that we could see Brisbane lit up at night, something that we hadn’t yet experienced. Again, Ben was extremely well travelled and had Couch Surfed before in Europe and the UK so was more than willing to do what he could for us!
I just wanted to share my first Couch Surfing experience with everyone because some people can be quick to judge on the concept of it all. Yes there are some surfers and hosts that haven’t had such a pleasant experience as I’ve had but I think if you use your gut feeling when speaking to people about staying then you’ll know whether they’re the right host for you or not. You can also read people’s references who have stayed with the host previously and who have also hosted for them. I’m for sure going to continue it when I can and will eventually offer my couch to other travellers when I’m able too.
Next stop, Melbourne! And I have a couch waiting for me over there….