When I was on the airport alone, waiting my flight to Malaysia, my brain started firing panicky neural signals saying, “What am I putting myself into?!”
Packs are bagged, the plane’s ready, and I’m off to my first solo flight for the next six weeks. It was really terrifying since I have only been abroad once before. True enough, arriving at the Kuala Lumpur airport, it was terrifying to be in a place without friends to run to or even a lot of people who understood your language. Nobody really cares about me there at first.
As if that’s not enough, I made sure I did another thing that scared me (and my parents) on my stay in Malaysia: Couchsurfing. Backpackers do this all the time. Couchsurfing is a cheap form of lodging by looking for hosts in the country you are travelling in. It is also a community!
The first time I met couchsurfers was in Penang, Malaysia. I was looking for people to tour me around the place. Basically, I posted in couchsurfing which goes something like “Anyone who would like to tour me?” and waited until someone offered to take me to Batu Ferringhi!
I ended up hiking to the beach with strangers and going around the museums in Georgetown. Was it scary? Yes. I could think of a thousand warning signs popping in my head like they could kidnap me or something. But nothing is ever absent of risk, so I stuck to my gut and tried it. I swum in an awesome beach with people almost twice my age, and learning more about Penang.
As if that wasn’t enough, I mustered enough courage to try the “real” couchsurfing AKA staying over at a stranger’s place when I headed back to Kuala Lumpur, days before my flight home. Was it scary? Of course! I had all my belongings with me and I had to commute and find out where they live. Note that I’m the kind who forgets where she was the moment she steps out of the comfort room. But I found it!
Did I have a blast? O, yes! I had my own airconditioned room and bathroom. I stayed two nights in a condo overlooking the glistening city of KL, navigated around the city alone for two days, and met two interesting Australian couple who made me watch Spirited Away because they can’t bear the thought of me missing it (and also, who cooked literally the best homemade organic food I have ever tasted). It was exhilarating and liberating at the same time.
Without a doubt, Couchsurfing is terrifying and I would understand why other people would advice against it. I mean if I had a barely 21-year-old daughter sleeping over at a stranger’s place in a foreign land, of course I would worry. But I’m deeply glad I tried it. And for sure, this will not be my last time.
I’ll be posting some tips to “somehow” ensure a safe Couchsurfing experience. As I said, no form of getting out of your comfort zone is ever out of risk.