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“I can recommend couch surfing to everyone”

“I can recommend couch surfing to everyone” “I can recommend couch surfing to everyone”

Mariëtte van Loon (30), a Dutch PhD student at the department of Educational Research and Development (FHML) who has seen 14 per cent of the world

By now it has been eight years ago that Mariëtte van Loon left to do a research internship in Tromsø, a city in the north of Norway. “I went for eight months, but I enjoyed myself so much that I stayed for two years.” According to Van Loon, life in Tromsø is very different than it is in the Netherlands. “It stays dark in the winter, the sky is a dusky blue all day long. The first year, I found it terribly difficult to find my rhythm. But there is something beautiful about it as well. I love snow and I was able to ski to the university every day in the winter. I lived on top of a hill and when I looked down, I could see the city’s lights. The aurora borealis was clearly visible too.” Still, everyone is glad when the sun rises again in January. “The summers are fantastic. The island is really beautiful and there is lots going on, there are many festivals et cetera.”

The Tromsø area is similar to the landscape in the south of Argentina Van Loon claims. “There is a lot of sun in the north, as we expect in South America, but in the south the weather is unpredictable and the countryside is rough.” Van Loon travelled the country alone initially, but she soon met a fellow-traveller at her couch-surfing host. Couch surfing is a huge international online network. Members can sleep free of charge at other people’s houses and often also offer their own homes to others to sleep. “I can recommend it to everyone. You have to be a little selective. I always read the profile carefully first. About once every two months, someone stays at my place.”

Besides this trip, Van Loon has also hitch-hiked through Europe, travelled across the US, did voluntary work in Mexico and Belize and lived in Canada for a year. “When you travel, you are really free, you have no schedule. You can truly live by the moment. Also, I love being outdoors in nature, snorkelling, hiking, skiing. I have never had a terrible trip; everything turns out well in the end. I always find it horrible to see real poverty, because you can’t do anything about it, but on the other hand, such countries often have a beautiful countryside, delicious food and lovely people.”

High on her list of future trips are Russia and Indonesia. “But first I have to finish my PhD. I have just returned from Spain and before that I was in Morocco, so I won’t be booking anything for a while. Okay, weekends away, but that doesn’t really count.”

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