This year for my 22nd birthday, I asked my parents for a trip to Greece. My parents were okay with paying for the flight as long as it was cheap- so off to Corfu I went for 130 euros.
For the first three nights I stayed at the Pink Palace – an infamous party hostel I had heard about for years. The hostel was everything I expected; rowdy, alcohol-stained and full of Canadians. I had rightly assumed I wasn't going to learn anything about Greece there (besides the shots of ouzo I was being handed left and right) so I checked in advance for Couchsurfing hosts in Corfu.
A few days before I left, a girl named Marina accepted my Couchsurfing request. She seemed like a fun, well-read and overall, trustworthy Greek girl. I decided the plot of Hostel happening to me was unlikely so I decided to stay with her. I had no idea how to Couchsurf- but hey, what's travel without some new experiences?
Staying with Marina was better than anything I could have hoped for. She took me out for cocktails at a bar next to a Greek fortress. She introduced me to all her friends. She taught me how to pronounce all the names of the Greek gods and goddesses in Greek (I'm a nerd, yes). She made me pasta with her dad's homemade olive oil. She took me out for ice cream topped with the ever-ambrosial Greek honey.
To top it all off, she basically brought me back from the dead. I had tonsillitis and a fever of 103 degrees while I was staying with her (this may have had something to do with binge-drinking at the Pink Palace for four days). She not only took me to the hospital and the clinic, she also made me teas with her magical Cretan herbs. She even gave me the one fan in her house to use during the 110 degree nights.
Crispy-skinned bass on a breezy Greek night. Heaven.
By the end of it I was petitioning for Marina to become the new patron saint of the island.
This review of Couchsurfing may be a bit premature (advocating staying with strangers after one experience) but the concept is so brilliant- stay with a local host for free and learn all about the local culture. And make lots of friends.
Here are some tips to have a successful Couchsurfing experience yourself. All you have to do is create and build up your profile and then send out Couchsurfing requests.
1. Have at least one profile picture, but having two or three is better.
2. Fill out your profile. You want to seem trustworthy and like a real person.
3. Check the reviews of whoever you’re staying with.
4. Check to see if your friends already have accounts (use the name search). They can provide you with your first references.
5. Use good judgment. As a solo female traveler I will only stay with a female host.
6. Make sure you review your hosts and your host reviews you- the more reviews the better.
7. Go to the couchsurfing events to meet people.
8. If you enjoyed your time with your host, add them as a friend. That way you can keep in touch with them and they can keep in touch with you, in case either of you are in the same city again.