My Couchsurfing Discovery: How To Find Opportunity In Every Setback


Christina Canters

This is a follow up to my last post on how to deal with your negative emotions (long story short: I had booked a flight to visit and stay with a good friend in London, and then found out they no longer wanted to be friends).

When my original plans for London fell in a heap, I was left pondering my accommodation options. Not wanting to fork out outrageous amounts of cash for a hostel, I messaged a few other friends to see if I could crash with them.

Unfortunately, everyone I contacted either had no space or already had guests. Each “Sorry, no” response was disheartening. I knew it wasn’t personal, but my brain was subconsciously screaming “Doesn’t anyone love me?!” Ahh yes, it’s times like these you realize your ‘fear of rejection’ is very much alive and kicking.

Anyway, someone suggested I join Couchsurfing, an online community consisting of ‘hosts’ who let travelers (‘surfers’) crash on their couches for free, in exchange for travel stories and good company (yes it may sound weird to you. Hear me out!).  To me, it sounded like an interesting (plus most budget-friendly) option, so I signed up as a surfer to see what was on offer.

As part of the sign up process, they ask you to fill out your itinerary. Prior to London, I had planned to spend a week in Iceland. My original intention was to book a hostel, but I thought what the hell, added in ‘Reykjavik – 6 nights’, and then thought nothing of it.

A few days later, this message popped up in my inbox:

Hey Christina! I was browsing thru requests and bumped into yours and I find you quite fascinating. I’m quite into self-development side of life myself and love to study the behavior of the mind and people around me…Anyways, you are welcome to stay at my place if you want. All the best, Snorri Páll

Hmm, that’s nice, I thought. Maybe I could couchsurf in Iceland? I figured it would be a great way to hang out with a local! I checked out Snorri’s profile – he had good reviews from other surfers, seemed pretty normal and not a psycho or sex fiend or nudist – so I hit “Accept”.

And guess what happened?

I had a BLAST in Iceland! Snorri turned out to be an awesome guy and made the whole experience super fun. I learned so much about the Icelandic culture, people and their way of life which would not have happened had I stayed at a hostel. After that, I stayed with Manolito in Holland, who took me cycling around the local markets, parks and cafes of Eindhoven. In a few weeks, I’ll be surfing in Amsterdam, which I am also very excited about.

Yes, couch surfing is a great way to get free accommodation. But it’s not just about that – I’ve discovered an entire community of people who are passionate about travel, experiencing other cultures and learning about the world. And that’s priceless.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.

Within setbacks and failures are opportunities that lead to bigger and better things. I didn’t realize this at the time, but if I hadn’t been ‘unfriended’ in London, I would have not discovered couch surfing and the whole new world of possibility it has now opened up for me.

So if brilliant plan turns to shit, or a friend lets you down, or you lose your phone, or you break your leg…just remember that something positive will come out of it. You may only realize it in hindsight (as I did), and that’s ok.

But if you can focus on the positives and say “well, at least I learned something” or “something better is probably just around the corner” or “I’m now free to do ___”, then you will get much better at dealing with setbacks, you’ll discover new things, and hey – you may just achieve something you never thought possible.

So find those opportunities. And don’t forget to take them!

Need a bit of inspiration? Here’s a favourite song of mine from Pete Murray: