Friday, June 28, 2013

Couchsurfing | The First Encounter

Have you ever heard about "Couchsurfing"?

Couchsurfing New Logo
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 

EU Road Trip
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 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.

Palmyra | Emad Al Sagheer

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:
  • Sightseeing
  • Photography
  • Eating Delicious Food
  • Music (Guitar + Singing)
  • Camping in a Bedouin tent in the middle of the desert.
  • Stargazing
  • Campfire games and conversations such; Do you think we are alone in this universe?
  • Earth is your bed the Sky is your roof.

Emad Al Sagheer | Palmyra 7am
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
Palmyra Group Photo
As much as I enjoyed the trip, I did enjoy the company, I am still in-touch  with 98% of those Couchsurfers who was on that trip. Some of them are now considered as close friends no matter how far they are.
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.

Happy Surfing

1 comment:

  1. Dear Emad.
    your post brought up alot of memories about CS.
    to me you are one of the Good Friends i made Via CS.
    happy surfing to you too :P