Austrian filmmaker Christoph Pehofer travelled through North America and Asia, crashing in strangers' homes for free and joining them for beers, birthday parties and even family weddings.

Travel News - Couch Connections
Christoph Pehofer travelled the world for a year, sleeping in strangers' homes.

We might feel like the world is getting smaller as we're exposed to the lives of others in far-flung locations through the internet, social media and television. But how much do we really know about other individuals? What distinguishes them from us? What connects them to us? These were the questions that had been bugging 26-year-old Austrian filmmaker Christoph when he quit his job as a video editor in Vienna in summer 2017 and bought a one-way ticket to Canada.

He intended to crash in strangers' homes for free through the website Couchsurfing.com as he moved through North America and Asia for nine months (staying on 53 couches along the way). It would ease the financial burden of the trip but it would also allow him to experience life as a local, drinking with a local in their local and taking in a culture in its own terms.

Travel News - Couch Connections
Christoph pictured with his hosts in LA.

"I have used the Couchsurfing platform since 2012 and hosted more than 20 'strangers' in my apartment. Every single one of my guests inspired me with their amazing stories about travelling the world, so I decided to undertake my own journey where it would be my turn to be the guest," Christoph told Lonely Planet.

While he was slightly apprehensive, the lure of the unknown was too enticing to resist and Christoph set off for nine months, hitchhiking where possible and sleeping in strangers' homes where he captured some of his experience on camera for his new documentary, Couch Connections.

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Christoph in Canada at the start of his adventure.

"It will be hard to forget the kindness and friendliness that my hosts showed me. Most times, after talking for a while, it felt like I had known them my whole life," he said of his trip. "There are all types of hosts, including families with up to three generations interacting with travellers. This means children, parents and even grandparents. I got invited to birthday parties, three Indian weddings, family gatherings and trips — they really made me feel like I was part of the family."

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Christoph with two of his new travel buddies.

Authenticity has become an increasingly improbable venture when travelling but it's still a popular aspiration. While most of us would be wary of sleeping in strangers' homes and making small talk with them over breakfast, Christoph's experience was positive overall. He was invited to peek into personal lives, dive deep into cultures and subcultures and shared much of himself and his own culture in return. Strangers became friends and promises have been made to meet again.

"You can learn something from every person on this planet, and people, in general, are friendlier and way more similar than we may think. Everyone wants to sleep, eat, be happy and repeat," said Christoph. "The best gift couchsurfing has given me are all the friends I have made... I feel like I now have a bunch of new homes around the world."

Christoph's experience is captured in his documentary Couch Connections. He's raising funds for the final stages of editing and music for the documentary and you can support the Kickstarter here.

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