My first year of Couchsurfing: Irish boys in Galway and stealing food in Greece

I had been involved in the Couchsurfing scene as a host for some time before I actually decided to try it out on my own. For those who don’t know: Couchsurfing is a website where you can find hosts in the cities/places you’re visiting. You crash on their couch for a few days, or sometimes the host will even have a spare room for you. And it’s FREE!


It works because it’s an honour system. The guy from Buffalo who’s about to crash at my place tonight has 44 references – all positive. Some people think it’s risky (my mother is tearing out her hair right now as she’s reading this), but it’s easy to do safely. And then you get that whole insider knowledge thing. Yada, yada.

In Galway, I had posted a message on the site saying that I was looking for a room to rent for a few weeks. A guy named Cathal messaged me. He was like the Holy Grail of Galway Hosts – tons of references, immediately friendly, and wonderfully accommodating. He had a place for me to rent, and he was moving into it in a few days. Until then, I could crash at his place. He invited me over to meet him.

Pretty Galway

Galway is attractive.
It was about 7 PM and dark when I left my hostel to meet him at his house. Alone. So, not the best move on my part, but on the other hand it’s Ireland and I had chatted with Cathal enough that he didn’t seem like a serial killer. I showed up at his house and in true Irish fashion he offered me a cup of tea and we chatted. He took me out to a pub for a pint, and then introduced me to some of his buddies (who were all similarly hospitable, and took me around town on several occasions). One evening we ordered pizza and watched episodes of The Wonder Years. I love the Irish.

On Monday, I helped him move into his new apartment. There I met Richy, and Padraic, two handsome devils with a touch of mischief. Richy and I had known each other for about five minutes before he made an offer I couldn’t refuse.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if we pretended to be making out when Cathal walked in?” he asked.

“Haha, yes…” I was delightfully awkward. Cathal totally fell for it anyway.

Over the next few weeks living together I learned that the Irish are exactly how you think they are. They’re wonderful. When Julia showed up, they welcomed her with open arms too. One evening we went out and partied until the wee hours of the morning, and then came home and promptly crashed. A few hours later Richy burst into the room, trying to rouse us to go surfing. Julia and I were aghast. The Irish are tireless.

Richie and Cathal

A romantic candlelit dinner with a bunch of handsome Irish men. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Richy even took us around Connemara. He led us to a cow auction, a secret waterfall in the middle of nowhere, and a dusty ‘ol pub with no cell phone reception. We stopped mid road-trip and danced jigs in the street. Richy’s the kind of guy who has a tin whistle tucked into his socks, “just in case.”

Couchsurfing hosts

A fun night out in Galway.
Richie being majestic

Richy being majestic.
Since then, I’ve had several amazing Couchsurfing experiences. I stayed with Vidir in remote Iceland, where I had my own private room and a view of the ocean. He took me whale watching, and he cooked for me. I stayed with a kind woman in northern Iceland, too. I woke up to the sunrise over the harbour, and the nip of wintery air on my skin.

Douchebag waterfall shot

Douchebag waterfall shot.
In Greece, I stayed with two of the loveliest girls I’ve ever met, Daniella and Natasa. They were sisters living in Mytilini, and their punk-rock personalities led me to their circle of friends sitting around heavy metal bars drinking beers (or in their case, Frappes). They showed me their anarchist radio station, hosted into a shack on some public property where nobody bothered them too much. Natasa even had her own radio show. One of the hosts admonished everyone for speaking Greek in my presence, and so they welcomed me into their little circle of friends like I belonged there my whole life.

They even snuck me into their university’s cafeteria. I was nervous as hell. When we got onboard the student bus taking us to the university, Natasa told me to not even look at the bus driver, but to head straight to the back of the bus.

“Don’t worry, students get free bus fare and they don’t even check for passes,” she insisted. I did as I was told. It was only when I sat down did I realize that the driver was the same one who had delivered me from Perama to Mytilini earlier in the day, and he was very much aware of my Englishness.

But, anyway, I made it to the cafeteria for a free meal.

“When you get your tray of food, don’t go to the checkout. Just head straight to a table and we’ll join you,” Daniella instructed.

I had laden my tray with food, when I looked up and met eyes with the woman at the cash.

“Now,” one of the girls hissed.

I turned on my heel and darted to a table. I held my breath waiting for the woman to come and scold me. Nothing happened. You know that thrill that people supposedly get when they commit crimes? That didn’t happen for me. I was so freaked out the whole time, I couldn’t wait to leave.

We hitchhiked home on the way back. That’s two things in one night I’ve never done before: steal, and hitchhike. What an outlaw I’ve become.

Candice and Julia

Julia and I.
I feel Couchsurfing is in the same thread – getting outside your comfort zone and doing weird things with strange people. Ain’t life grand?

  • August 22 2014

    I’ve only used Couchsurfing in the US, but I’ve had some wonderful adventures and seen places I was visiting that I probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I’ve also made some great friends. I’ve only had one bad experience, but that can happen even if you stay at a hotel or hostel.

    • August 28 2014

      Agreed! I’ve been hosting people lately, and it makes me feel like I’m travelling again.

  • August 23 2014

    This post makes me want to try Couchsurfing even more now!

  • August 23 2014

    It sounds like you’ve had a whole lot of fun and some great memories to last a lifetime! I’ve never tried it but I’ve heard great things from multiple bloggers!

    • August 28 2014

      You should definitely give it a shot sometime!

  • August 24 2014

    How do I become known as the type of person who keeps a tin whistle in her socks?! I don’t even really know what that means, but I want it as a reputation!

    Couchsurfing is the best!

    • August 28 2014

      I’m not sure, just start sticking various musical instruments in your clothes!

  • September 15 2014

    Wait, I want to know how you “pretend to be making out”. Is it the ol’ hand over the lips trick?

    • September 17 2014

      Hahaha, if memory serves me correct, he grabbed my head with both his hands and put his thumbs over my mouth. Sounds kinda racy, now that I think about it.