My friend and I had an unforgettable time in the popular island Palawan, Philippines, largely thanks to our wonderful couch surfing (CS) host Lia. This young woman is nothing short of incredible and gave a lot of her time to show travelers around her home island.
We spent six days couch surfing in Palawan and we were fortunate to see her almost every day. I admire Lia for pushing herself beyond her comfort zone to meet people from different cultures, which, as she explained, made her quite nervous at first.
Among her many other talents, Lia has her own business called Clia Fix and Wear Variety Shoppe, selling custom made products. She has also spent a lot of her time volunteering for environmental conservation projects and also founded the organization Aklat Para Sa Kabataan, which means ”books for youth” in English. At the organization, her team taught children in remote and coastal areas on topics that included health and environment.
Oh yes, and she is also a university graduate who studied petroleum engineering.
I chatted with Lia about her experience as a couch surfing host.
Why did you want to be a CS host?
Four years ago, my friend was a couch surfing host for locals and international travelers and he often invited me to dinners with his couch surfing friends. I found it interesting when they shared their stories, culture and different traveling experiences. But because I didn’t like speaking in English, I just usually stared and listened to their conversation. Despite of my interest, I didn’t continue to be involved couch surfing.
But after a year, I decided to make an account after my amazing trip in Cebu and Bohol (island provinces in the PHilippines). We met some local couch surfers and it was really fun, especially since I didn’t have to worry about my grammar or having to think about English words. The Cebu locals showed us around and ate with us. But even though I had a great time with them, I still didn’t want to be a CS host.
Then last December, my friend who introduced me to CS spoke about his job interview in one of the prominent companies in the oil and gas industry. I asked him how was his job interview went and he said his interview was not stressful. He said being a couch surfing host really helped him a lot and he became more comfortable speaking to foreign people.
At that moment I realized that I had to try to be a host to improve my English and to gain confidence in speaking with other people from other countries. I also love learning about world history and other people’s social life and culture.
This past year, my mission in couch surfing was to answer everyone’s questions about Puerto Princesa (city in Palawan island) and show them the beauty of my place and the people.
Have you had any challenges while being a couch surfing host?
Every traveller I’ve met has their own unique story and left me with a unique experience. I guess the challenging experience I had was meeting people who forgot the real meaning or essence of couch surfing and used couch surfing as a dating site.
But of all the people I’ve met, there has only one really challenging couch surfer I hosted and it was my first time hosting. I thought I should not give up and believed not all couch surfers are like the challenging person.
It got easier because I’m much more open and much more confident to talk to people. I realized because there is no difference between Filipino people and people from other countries. Sometimes I felt nervous because I thought some people would feel superior since we are from the developing world.
I believe you should respect others and they will respect you.
You’ve hosted six couch surfers for full days this past week. Where do you get all of your energy from?
I guess my past work helps me as I used to work in research where I had to gather data and talk to people late at night for a week straight. When I was 17 I worked in Dunken Donuts and sometimes had double shifts from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.
My colleagues asked me, “You are so energetic, how can you still smile? How can you still walk?” I just answered “I just make myself happy and enjoy what I’m doing.”
What inspired your business?
Maybe it’s in my blood because my family has been running a small business since I was young. We selI daily commodities like vinegar, soy sauce, oil and sugar in small stores in town. I usually do the delivery and customer orders.
When I was in college my brother gave me some money to finance my first business. I choose a lending business but stopped it after two years when I realized that this kind of business is not for me.
Then I started my online and garments business when someone asked for a customized shirts supplier. I tried to be the middle person during that time and organized the orders and it was successful. So I continued to cater a variety of costumized products such as IDs, button, pins, bracelets, lanyards, organizationl shirts, and uniforms and this because my full-time business.
What is your goal for 2014?
I was planning to build an eco travel lodge for travelers in my lot. I want to showcase the real life and culture of indigenous people in Palawan. I want travelers to experience a memorable vacation with the locals at the same time. It will be one of the greatest fulfillment of my life.
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