I have been a member of Couchsurfing for a long time, but I’ve never been active in the community. Most of the time I end up staying at hostels or with friends so I’ve never tried it out. However, when my friend Reena told me she’d meet me in Ubud and asked if I wanted to stay with a local, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to fully engage with the Balinese culture. So, through Couchsurfing, Reena arranged for us to stay with Sana in Ubud. This was my first Couchsurfing experience and I didn’t know what to expect.
When Reena and I arrived at Sana’s house, he showed us where we would be staying. The room looked like it was his storage room and was really dirty. There was a mattress on the floor (which in all fairness probably wasn’t out of the norm for the area) with a fitted sheet that didn’t fit and two pillows that looked extremely old and dirty. The walls of the room were supposed to be light blue but there was so much dirt and grime stuck to them that everything was darker. Above us, there was no ceiling and we clearly saw the beams of wood holding up the roof. I sincerely hoped there were no heavy rains while we were at Sana’s place as I was afraid there might be leaks in the roof.
But, when I saw the state of the bathroom, my concerns over the bedroom vanished and were quickly replaced. A squat toilet and two ceramic tiled tubs were in the bathroom. The tubs could be filled with water, but only the smaller one was in use. This tub was next to the squat toilet, and you used the plastic bowl floating inside tub as a ladle to flush the toilet as well as wash yourself clean. You also used the same tub and bowl for water when you showered or brushed your teeth!
Well, I’ve been traveling for a while now but I have not been confronted with anything like this before. Over time I’ve learned to adapt to new situations, but this one just floored me. On one hand, I know living as a local is an amazing way to truly experience the culture and society in which you visit. But this experience really went beyond my comfort zone. I was ill at ease with how unsanitary things were but not sure how to react to it. In the end, Reena and I decide to continue staying with Sana for the rest of the days because we felt it would be rude to leave.
While we were at Sana’s home, we met Caroline, a French Couchsurfer who was traveling through Asia. I didn’t see what type of accommodation she had, but I’m sure her room was cleaner and she had a proper bed to sleep in. Caroline even asked to extend her stay with Sana while Reena and I couldn’t wait to leave.
All in all, my first Couchsurfing host really created some unforgettable experiences for me. I wouldn’t say they were pleasant experiences but they were definitely memorable. I’m not sure if I’ll try Couchsurfing again any time soon though as I really think I need a bit of time to recover from the shock of it all.