Local Couchsurfers Share Memorable Stories and Insights
Sep 01, 2015 10:30AM
● By Lee Walker
Bill VanArsdale (right) with couchsurfers from France
Naples resident Bill Van Arsdale subscribes to the couchsurfing mantra, “Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.” A member of the global community of couchsurfers—now 10 million strong—his intention, like that of his compatriots, is to create meaningful connections across cultures. For his numerous hosting efforts in Naples he’s been rewarded with fun, personal fulfillment, continuing email friendships and positive testimonials regarding his character and hospitality. “I may not be able to travel as much as I want, but I can bring the world to me through couchsurfing,” he quips.
Van Arsdale has successfully couchsurfed in Asheville, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and twice during a tour through Scotland. “Frequently, it’s difficult to find a host. People don’t always have the time, and it does require an effort. I had a delightful experience in Scotland with a night nurse who offered me her bed while she slept on the sofa to avoid disturbing me with her nocturnal activities. She took a day off from work to guide me around the coast near Saint Andrews. I reciprocated by taking her out to lunch and dinner. I also stayed with a real outdoor Scotsman who took me hiking. For him, it was a casual four-hour stroll. For me, it was an arduous adventure up a mountain through rocky bogs and cold, rainswept Scottish highlands. It was unforgettable,” recalls Van Arsdale.Diego Dealava has been a member of the couchsurfing community since 2009. He juggles three roommates and hosting with earning a degree in sports science at the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College, working as a waiter at the Isle of Capri Fish House.
Dealava hosted nearly 400 surfers while living in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. “I’ve had five wonderful experiences in Naples that included kayaking and camping for several days with a German guy and a Hungarian girl, hosting a Ukrainian girl who lived with me for two weeks and immersed me and my roommates in Eastern European cuisine. In Naples I’ve also hosted a French surfer that I met and hosted in Prague. We biked Naples,” says Dealava, who has been hosted in Hungary, Austria, Germany and Poland.Naples Realtor Karen Beatty recalls a pleasant surfing experience in Bavaria during a visit with her daughter Bianca, who was living there at the time. “I wanted to go to the Oktoberfest in Munich, two hours away by train. Bianca was working and suggested couchsurfing because it would have been difficult to find suitable lodging since the city was so crowded. I had not previously tried couchsurfing. I contacted several hosts and lucked out with the only couple I heard from. They were native Bavarians and incredibly hospitable. The husband took the time to explain how to use the train system and greeted me at the train station in his lederhosen. He was gracious and made reservations for us at Vintage Ocktoberfest, which was then a new aspect of the festival. After a daylong celebration, he even gave me a tour of Munich in his convertible. The following morning, he and his wife made me a splendid breakfast. They continue to benefit from my stay because they learned about Airbnb from me. Now the bedroom where I stayed earns them an income. We stay in touch via email,” shares Beatty.
While Van Arsdale and Beatty have taken a hiatus from hosting, they occasionally have time for showing first-timers around Naples and giving them pointers on what to see and do. Dealava and Van Arsdale agree that the combination of a more extensive profile that indicates similar interests, numerous positive testimonials and referrals and photos of surfing experiences is likely to get a surfer a bed, air mattress, futon or sofa to sleep on. “I prefer to email or Skype with people before I agree to host them. Out of nearly 400 surfers, I’ve had few negatives. The majority have have left me with a lot of great memories, insights into other cultures and lots of stories to tell,” says Dealava, who notes that he also relies heavily on his intuition.