Not a CouchSurfing Virgin anymore

24 May
More than just a couch...

More than just a couch...

One is always nervous for the first time… I apprehended the moment… Delayed it on several occasions… but then decided – enough is enough – I didn’t want to be a couchsurfing virgin anymore!

So when preparing for the Philippines, from my fancy hotel room in Bangkok, I thought to abandon the 4star luxury lifestyle (as in Penang) and go local (and non-commercial). I contacted a few people via the CouchSurfing.org website, and a few hours later I had a choice of many couches to lay my head on – and much more than that…

My host in his favourite position - church - lol

My host in his favourite position - church - lol

When I was planning my trip, and I still had a sort of ‘backpacking’ idea in my head (which soon after arriving in Asia disappeared), people recommended CouchSurfing to me. There’s a whole website full of lovely people that offer to open their house to travelers and give you a couch to lay your head on, or more… I created a profile, and then pretty much forgot about it…

Until I was trying to get my head around yet another mega-city: Manila. I couldn’t really face finding a place to stay again from scratch, negotiating price and comfort and location in my head, and then in real life. I was longing for a place without complications, without strict breakfast times, without roomkeys that don’t work, without a plastic smile at the reception…

So instead of looking at hotel sites, I remembered my CouchSurfing profile and had a look at Manila couches. There were hundreds of CouchSurfers in Manila, and there are just as many neighbourhoods, none of which I really knew. Then I discovered that CouchSurfers can enlist themselves in groups – such as ‘political activists’, ‘language exchange’, ‘vegans’, etc… and ‘Queer CouchSurfers’, surprise surprise…

Getting along well - despite the rain

Getting along well - despite the rain

Yes, there’s more in life than the gay ghetto (indeed, I move around in a straight world probably 95% of the time), so it’s nice to meet like-minded people, and why not stay on their couch. It would certainly give us some things to talk about (e.g. boyfriends, clothes, sex, shopping, sex, Madonna, sex, you know the usual – LOL – just joking) and it would take the awkwardness out of some situations (e.g. what clothes  -read undies- to wear, sensitive subjects to avoid, connecting with others of ‘the family’,…).

I send around a request for couch to a few people, and virtually all had a couch for me, or even invited me into their bed! Hm – that’s not really what I requested (nor was looking for). Having said this, I have to admit that some also just offered a place in their bed out of space reasons (no spare room or couch – so it’s not all that naughty!). I take the first offer I got, of ‘F’, a guy that seemed to me most ‘serious’ (as in ‘not trying to get me into his bed, rather than on the couch’).

F even comes to pick me up at the airport, in his lovely air-con Volvo with leather seats (quite comfortable in 43° in Manila), and drives me ‘home’ to his Villa in a ‘gated community’ (they seem to love gates here in Manila, even the roads and bus stops are gated off to prevent people from crossing the road). The house is at the same time also his company, but still has a garden pool, outside dining area, stylish decorated salon, huge kitchen and a bedroom as big as my apartment in Brussels. There’s no couch but a lovely double mattress in the corner of my host’s bedroom. That’s more than I expected.

try

My 5 star couch ;-)

And that’s not all, F even has 3 ‘maids’ (which is not uncommon in Philippines, but for me having servants is new), who come running to open the door, to serve the meals, to do dishes – and even my laundry. F refers to them as ‘maids’ even though 2 of them are male, hehe (maybe a gay insider joke at their expense?). And they even prepared lovely Filipino food for us (with bangus=milk fish, longaniza sausages, pork adobo, garlic rice, pan de sal, fresh soursop & sweet pineapple, there’s even cheeeese for breakfast, and reeeaaal coffee).

  • So from what I gather, CouchSurfing could be a convenient & cheap couch to sleep on at night, or sharing someone’s cosey home and life for a nice moment together.

My host also took me around to see different places (e.g. a visit to the gay bars, an excursion to Taal volcano,…) which is not necessarily part of the CouchSurfing package. We found out we both had a collection of gay feature films and he took me to a DVD shop where he usually gets his supply (a very expensive affair for me – but I got lots more films which I can see when I retire, hehe, or in the remainder of my sabbatical year). F is also member of the ‘nude sleeper’ group on CouchSurfing, but also goes skinny dipping in the pool, something that I joyously joined into, leaving the last veil of formality behind us.

I really felt like ‘being home’, something that I really longed for after 5 months of traveling, and my host and I, we connected well in a variety of ways – so my couch in Brussels will be open for reservations when I get back – to give back to the CouchSurfing community what I got out of it.

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