The first time I heard about the term was back in August 2008. Back then, I was working at the American School (Damascus Community School) in Damascus. One day I was talking to my friend Bilal about my travel plans for the summer of 2009. I told him I was thinking about traveling around Europe jumping from one city to another.
My original plan was to land in Vilinus, Lithuania.
Why Vilinus? Because I had a friend who want to visit & it was announced as the European Capital of Culture for 2009.
Then start moving on the ground by trains and buses passing by
- Then back to Damascus.
|Original Plan, 9443 km, 101 hours continues driving|
While describing the plan to Bilal he asked me, have you ever heard about CouchSurfing? I said no! Then he started talking about how people join the community and contact strangers asking them to stay at their place for free!!
He sent me the link www.couchsurfing.com I went online to check the website. A few minutes later I registered my own account.
Two months later, I've got an invitation to a camp in Palmyra (Tadmour) which was organized by a one of the local CouchSurfers there.
I decided to tag along and experience this CS thing first hand.
I invited 3 of my friends to join me to discover the Couchsurfing first handed, only to find out that one of them was already a CS member!
We Didn't want to use public transportation so we rented a car, packed our stuff and hit the road on Friday 25th August 2008.
We arrived to Palmyra Friday afternoon, introduced ourselves and enjoyed the below activities:
- Eating Delicious Food
- Music (Guitar + Singing)
- Camping in a Bedouin tent in the middle of the desert.
- Campfire games and conversations such; Do you think we are alone in this universe?
- Earth is your bed the Sky is your roof.
|Palmyra 7:00 am|
After having a traditional breakfast in the Bedouin tent we went back to sightseeing.
We had lunch and it was the end to the 4 of us even though the fun was still not over but we had to report to work back on Sunday morning.
|Palmyra Group Photo|
There was Couchsurfers from America, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Poland and of course Syria (Aleppo, Damascus and our hosts from Palmyra).
For me, Couchsurfing was a great online tool that is used to communicate with real people who have the same interests "Travel" mostly and everything related to it like Exploring , Photography & Culture exchange.
On Sunday Morning Oct 27th 2008 there was a major event in East Syria, in a city called Abu-Kamal.
US military helicopters have carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people including four children, Syrian officials say.
This event has changed my 5 years plan. The Syrian Government gave the school a notice for an immediate closure. Foreign teachers and staff had to leave Syria within 48 hours.
I have become unemployed & of course I have lost all hopes in doing any travel.
I have mentioned in my previous post how hard for the Syrian nationals to get a visa to many countries so for me, working with the American School was the only hope to get any visa easily. A recommendation letter from the school to any embassy could solve all my visa problems, because all the diplomats send their kids to our school.
Since I wasn't able to travel and visit the world anytime soon. I have decided to let the world come to me through Couchsurfing.
I have devoted my time to meet local and traveling Couchsurfers from around the world which happened to be passing by my city. During the unemployment period 2008 - 2010 I have become so involved in Couchsurfing. I can call that period "The Golden Age" of my participation in CS, in 2009 I have applied for the "Couchsurfing City Ambassador" for Damascus, a few months later I have been accepted for that voluntary position.
Couchsurfing has become a global network of 6 million travelers, adventure seekers and lifelong learners in over 100,000 cities in every country in the world.
In my next post I will write more about my Couchsurfing experience.