The Couchsurfing Concept

An interview of Levente Kádár
Author: Tamara Miletic

There is one way how to travel the world and discover new countries, charming places, new cultures, languages, keep in touch with local population, learn about their traditions and customs, but most important, share with them their private space and habits. I’m talking about CouchSurfing, a great way how to meet new people, make long-lasting friendships, and see the world on a shoestring budget. What is a better way to immerse yourself in new environment and learn about a foreign country!

Probably the most of you already know what CouchSurfing is. The concept of this alternative way of traveling is based on giving the opportunity to find someone, who will host you in their home for a night, or more, when you are traveling in an unknown place, then you become a couch surfer. And vice-versa, if you want to meet new interesting people coming from different countries and listen about their stories, offer them a cup of coffee, practice language skills, show them the particularities of your home town, you just need one soft couch in your home to host a traveler to spend a night, or more.

To understand better the philosophy of this charming way of traveling that is already popular in the USA and Europe, and that is going to extend in hundreds of other countries around the globe, we talked with Levente Kádár from Romania, who decided to make his life an adventure and discover the world through CouchSurfing. His experience begun two years ago when he started to hitchhike around the continent for a few months and then he decided to cover whole Europe in one year of full time traveling without coming back home. As he said, the main reason was to have contact with the locals in all countries, to understand their culture, their way of thinking and lifestyles.

We asked him to talk about himself, to share with us his opinions, expectations, thoughts and to explain the main motivation why one person needs to start this kind of adventure that takes one to see, to feel and to understand the world in a different way.

Who is Levente Kádár?

Levente: I am what I am and I change all the time. I have different faces in different situations, but they are all mine! I’m a smart and intelligent person, also naive and stupid. Often I am quick tempered and often relaxed. I am an idealist moral poet and also a not caring immoral jerk.  I am a complex personality, gifted with the talent of easily understanding languages. Culture and people oriented traveler, I tend to call myself half-hippie. I am a content person that doesn’t long for too much in this life. I live in harmony with nature but the thing that I’m most proud of is: I AM A FREE PERSON!    

We already said that you started your adventure two years ago. Did you always find available couches and which was the most comfortable?

Levente: Let’s say that CouchSurfing, BeWelcome (hospex – as they are called) works 90% of the time. The problem is that a lot of people get sick of hosting people all the time, or they don’t check their CouchSurfing accounts, or just they stopped being active on web and sometimes it happens that these are the people I write to. In these cases there is always an alternative: you can ask random students on the streets for a couch, or random people in pubs while having a beer. As long as you are casual and simple about it, you’ll never fail. About the couches being comfortable, well, in my case, I am happy with two square meters of space on the floor. The most important thing is the roof and the people!

What kind of people you met during the way and who left you with the best memories?

Levente: I would like to dedicate this answer to all the people that have hosted me during these years! Thanks guys and girls! Of course everyone has its story and everyone is so much different that it would be impossible for me to put them down here and create a ‘hierarchy’ of personality, so I will say that it all depends on the attitude towards them. You have to be ready to see the good in all of them and find the common point of view which can influence the meeting. Still, there is one thing I would like to mention: meeting these people several times in various places creates such a strong bond between you and them that brings you to feel as a family. I have a few friends of different color, culture, background and lifestyle that mean so much to me. I rarely meet them, but when it comes to meeting them around the World it is not really an issue to find a place and get there!

What is your personal life’s “motto” that you live by?

Levente: This is an interesting question because there are so many of them. Some of my favorites are ideas from Cesare Pavese, an Italian poet who says: “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, dreams, sleep, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”

Another one is from a Pulitzer winner for fiction, James A. Michener, who wrote bunch of sagas about the lives of generations in various geographic locations. “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”

And at the end something personal would be: “Push your and other people’s limits. In time, they might be thankful”.

Have you had any “strange request” or curious episode during your CouchSurfing experience?

Levente: Of course I had. It happened in different occasions, but not so often. I’ve hosted a large variety of people but I wouldn’t say that it was strange or such, as long as I was open minded enough. You should have the capacity to adapt yourself at the situation. Of course, the most interesting experiences are when you meet people that are “weird” in your eyes because of the cultural background that I was brought up in. Sometimes it takes some time to adjust, but usually it’s just some minutes.

Which Country you liked the most and why? 

Levente: Usually I tend to spend 2-3 weeks in each country, but it happened that I also spent months in some countries. So actually it’s too hard for me to decide which country I liked the most. Of course that every country is the best!

Portugal – for sardines and soup, Spain – football and fiestas, France – wine and cheese, Macedonia – turbofolk and nature, Albania – hospitality and culture and of course I could continue forever. There is no limit to what I can appreciate in one country, so sky is the limit!

Do you miss home sometimes?

Levente: Sometimes I get homesick when I think about food from home, so much grease and fat that you have to miss it! Of course, I go home when I have a reason, or just when I find some cheap flights. It’s always a nice feeling to be at home and relax, but also I have to face the pressure from my environment because for them it is incomprehensible, that I’m spending the time traveling. So there are a lot of stupid questions that have to be answered when I am at home!

Do you think that this experience will change your life and priorities? If yes, in which way? 

Levente: Of course it changes! It changes everything! I start to value simple things so much more. You start to understand culture differently, you look at nature with more respect and you become a simpler person. You realize that you are not the most awesome person on the planet, you acknowledge that you are not the smartest and you also experience that you are vaguely in control. Life takes you over! I’ve become so much less of an ideal and so much more a personality!

3 thoughts on “The Couchsurfing Concept

  1. I also use CouchSurfing and it’s a great way to travel.

    For those who are concerned about the safety of it, it’s actually statistically safer than staying at your friends’ house.

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