Faces of Pittsburgh

Changing the World One Couch at aTime

By JULIE GABRIEL
jxgst17@mail.rmu.edu

Good news for travel lovers looking for a cheap way to stay in cities, meet new people and have a great time for less money, couch surfing is all rage. Couch surfing, a relatively new concept in America gives travelers the opportunity to sensitively reduce their costs.

Ready to dive into those travel waves?

On the Couch Surfing website, anxious travelers can look for couch surfers in the town they are in or are planning to visit. From there, they are able to make contact, chat, go on their profiles and see what their interests are, and eventually decide to exchange information in anticipation of meeting up.

When entering “Pittsburgh” into the database, 697 results listing current couch surfers emerges. Who knew a city as small as Pittsburgh would have nearly 700 people willing to share their couches and give visitors from all around the world a taste of the real Steel City?

Originally from France, Sophia Bourgade, and Alexandre Bouvier, are experts at finding at the best deals in town and are frequent couch surfers. Mathieu Lakhani, and Marc Coudray, two Robert Morris University college students are not new to the topic of couch surfing either.

Couch surfing includes a network of people willing to share their couch, take visitors out for a drink, a bite to eat, or maybe a concert in the city they live in. Indeed, visiting a city with the locals is the best way to have the most accurate travel experience.

“We always meet great people open-minded, people lovers, willing to share a bit of their experience, world, life and couch,” said Sophia.

Sophia and Alex have travelled a lot over the past three years, from Western Europe to Asia, even going through some African regions.

“It is weird at first to contact some random person and ask them, ‘Hey, I am in town tonight. Can I stay with you?’” Alex shared.

Sophia attributes her involvement in couch surfing to Alex, who introduced the whole concept to her.

“I thought I wouldn’t feel comfortable staying over at some stranger’s house, but after you have done it once, you realize how great the concept is. We have met so many different people, I would not even think about booking a hotel anymore,” she said.

Couch surfing is a great way for people to travel and meet people, without overspending.

“Thanks to couch surfing we were able to travel a lot more than we could have if we had to spend money on regular hotels. Couch surfing is like staying at your friend’s place, even though they are people you just met. Really often, the people you meet become life-long friends ”said Alex.

“When I heard of the concept, I thought it was a hippie thing to do,” attested Mathieu. “I thought it was weird to crash at someone’s place that you don’t know anything about.  One of the reasons –we went out for drinks with our host before going out just to meet, talk and see if I would feel comfortable staying at their place. Finally, it came down that these people were just wonderful, open-minded, and not creepy at all. We all ended up having a blast.”

Marc and Mathieu decided they wanted to go out hard for the Super bowl. Neither of them wanted to drive back if they were under the influence, nor did they want to spend money on a taxi if they could even find one. So they decided to find a host through the couch surfing website, CouchSurfing.com.

They found a die-hard Pittsburgher, whose couch surfing username is Stephie S., who has traveled the world, but always came back to her roots. According to her profile, while traveling, she learned how to speak French, and Czech. She is a professional photographer and has her own studio attached to her loft, which is located in the South Side of Pittsburgh.

Indeed, Stephie S., was the perfect match for Marc and Mathieu.

“We got her contact information, called and met up for a drink down at Mario’s, talked and spent the night of the Super Bowl together.” shared Mathieu.

It also was Marc’s first couch surfing experience.

“I remember that Mathieu and I kept talking and made up different scenarios as we were driving down to South Side. Indeed, we were saying things such as, ‘What if she is a crazy psychopath that will drug us and kill us?’ It was funny, but we definitely were scared, “ Marc said.” Although, the second we met her we felt so stupid thinking all that of her.”

They both ended their evening crashing on Stephie S.’ couch in her photography studio after having great fun taking pictures for most of the night. Marc and Mathieu are still in contact with her, and call her every time they go to a party down in the South Side.  

These great stories prove that there are still some people out there who are open-minded, people-minded, and are willing to share their world.

Marc, Mathieu, Alex and Sophia, have made life-long friends, and have had great experiences through couch surfing. Couch Surfing is open to everyone, everywhere, all the time. Afterall, its motto is, “Changing the world one couch at the time.”