Couchsurfing is one of the most awesome things EVER! Been doing this unofficially since 2007, officially since July 2008, it's forever changed my life. Hosting and Surfing with people from other cultures and countries is a wonderful way to learn that as Human Beings we are far more similar than different & it's a GREAT way to see a city whether hosting or traveling through another person's eyes & experiences. Sharing our stories we learn our humanity. If you haven't yet tried it, DO it, you won't regret it. I've heard so many stories of so many friendships created one couch at a time! HUG!
When my daughter reached school age, our travel was limited, but we lived a block from the university and hosted international students in our home for 5 years. It was a truly enriching experience for all of us! I recommend it to anyone living near a university or college with an ESL program.
We host exchange students – teenagers who live with us to spend a year in an American high school and who become a member of our family.
My grandmother hosted a boy from Sweden, Andy, 50 years ago, and we still have a relationship with him. He spent just this past Thanksgiving with us. My parents followed in my grandmother’s footsteps and ended up hosting over a dozen students from a variety of countries – Finland, Germany, Brazil, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Indonesia and Sweden, to name a few. One of these students was Andy’s son, Daniel, 25 years ago. Daniel and his young family have visited us and we them in the last couple years. We continue to have close and special relationships with nearly all of these “kids,” who are now grown with families of their own.
Sharing my home and my family with so many international people defined who I am today…so much so, that I chose a career as a travel consultant! Growing up this way had a tremendous impact on me – it helped me understand that we live in a bigger world than just here in America, taught me to recognize, appreciate and value differences, allowed me to share my own perspective and culture, and was the source of life-long friendships and gave me a world-wide family. I have people who I truly consider my brothers and sisters who live all over the globe. And now I also have international daughters.
My husband and I wanted our two boys to have the same valuable exposure to an international view that I had growing up. So we host exchange students – our fifth arrives in August. Our first was Ida from Norway, who arrived to live with us when the boys had just turned 11 and 9. What a truly amazing experience it was, and we keep in close touch often and have seen each other every year since. Our third student was her younger sister, Ane, who lived with us a few years later, and who also has a very special place in our hearts. These sisters and their family are loved and treasured as our own family. We look forward to visiting Prague this September, where Ida is a student in medical school, and Ane and their mother will fly from Norway to join us. We will also have an opportunity during this trip to visit the Czech girl who lived with my parents for many years, as well as travel to Berlin to visit the German student who lived with my parents my senior year in high school (all of us together!). Obviously, our opportunities to travel are fabulous, and the experience when we do so is much more personal and gives us a more real-culture experience.
Between Ida and Ane, we hosted a Danish girl, Katrine, and since then have become close with her family and have visited each other in our respective homes. After a year off, our next student was Lisa, from Finland – the daughter of the very first exchange student my parents hosted when I was in junior high! Her mom and I were best of friends the year she lived with us and always kept in touch, even joking that someday we could host each other’s kids. And now our relationship deepens as we share parenting of ‘our’ daughters. Our relationship with Lisa is deeply special, because she is a fun-loving caring member of our family and also because we share a long history (we first met her when she was 18 months old). And now Laura, Lisa’s sister, is the student arriving in a few short weeks. We could not be more excited to get to know here more deeply than we do already.
We love each of these girls dearly, each uniquely as one does their own children. We value the experiences we share, the lessons we learned from having each living in our home as a member of our family, the truly heart-felt, deep relationships we’ve developed, and we look forward to a life-time of being family. Maybe someday our boys will host one of their kids and continue this tradition in to the fourth generation!
Gotta go pick up my 18-year-old son…arriving home from Kenya today! He values and appreciates and enjoys experiencing other cultures. I wonder how that happened?
My family and I have hosted 15 high school exchange students from around the world with Youth For Understanding. This has been a most valuable and incredible experience for my children, husband, and even me! Our first "son's" sister came to live with us four years after he left. While our "daughter" was here, their parents came to visit us...we really do have family all around the world now! Learning about another culture is quite exciting. We love being public diplomats...helping to bring more love and peace in our world.
Hosting is for all families...empty-nesters, families with younger and/or older children and even families without children!
I've done this as a Couchsurfer and a member of BeWelcome. And I've been hosted by many, many people as I biked around the world. There is also Warmshowers, which is the same as BeWelcome or Couchsurfing, but exclusively for cyclists.