Couchsurfing and Volunteering @ Seedstars Summit: the Unforgettable Experience

I knew it will be something special, this whole Lausanne trip with the couchsurfing experience and the Seedstars Summit of 2017 for entrepreneurship in the emerging markets. And indeed it was…

I’m now in the bus on my way back to Stuttgart. I have a funny look as I am wearing my sleeping shorts -you will know later why, so some people were looking at me and trying to hide their smiles, as if I cared :-) Weather is just gorgeous and I had the right to watch some breath-taking Swiss nature scenes with that original composition: Alps, lakes and cows hanging around on the so-green grass. Inspiring environment, which means one thing: I flipped out my laptop and started writing.

It’s been a crazy week, litterally. The idea of volunteering at Summit expectedly came up to my mind because it combined all what I am fan of: discover a new country, a new city, entrepreneurship event, super crazy organizing team, meet and network with special people from all over the world and hangout with great couch surfing hosts.

And not only. As I arrived to Lausanne, I could also catch up with a dear friend from that unique Rio2016 Olympics volunteering experience, who -it happened- was nearby in Bern at the same weekend (Isabel I miss you already buddy) and remember the old good days in Brazil. I could not have been luckier with this coincidence.

I still remember that first night with my first host Imran, having raquelette for dinner and talking about any and everything, sharing our experiences in this life and discussing future plans. Imran is living with a super kind and lovely Romanian old lady in her awesomely decorated house. It was rather a travel-museum with photos, magnets and decoration from definetely all over the world. She travelled a lot, really a lot. Her story was interesting and sad at the same time. She came to Switzerland working as Biologist like 30 years ago. Daniella is so warm and welcoming, although she lost her husband a couple of years ago and suddenly her only son lately. When you hear her talking and listen to her story, you can only respect, admire and think…

On the following day, the Summit organization started. As a volunteer I tried to help with everything. I was supposed to help with content and social media but I somehow ended up receiving the guests at the central station, doing logistics, hotel bookings, catering during the coffee and lunch breaks, registering people at reception desk, running through the different sessions and making sure all one-to-one meetings with startup members, mentors and investors run smoothly and according to the timeplan. Seedstars calls this role a Runner. Makes sense :-)

Meanwhile, I landed at my second couch surfing host, a super helpful and cool guy who even decided to leave me the keys of his house before meeting me as he was travelling the first two days. Sriously, how many people do that ? David is just great. He came home during the week and we could make it -with the crazy rythm of the Summit schedule- to spend some time together. I even got the chance to know his kind girlfirned who is a school teacher near Fribourg. The weather was just perfect the whole week (normally I’m not that lucky) so we had a great walk all together along the huge lake of Lausanne which separates Switzerland and France and at sunset time. It was spring time, so Tulipes were everywhere and we had a clear view on the french Alps and especially the Mont Blan on one side, and the Jura on the other side. Lausanne ist just a magic place. David works as an engineer at EPFL (École Polytechniqe Fédérale de Lausanne) near which the Entrepreneurship Summit was taking place. So I once had the right to enjoy a cool ride with David’s great motorbike. It was my first experience on such a big motorbike. Riding along the lake was just breath-taking.

I devoted all my time, energy and efforts to the summit, and it was worth it. It could bring together more than 90 startup members from more than 60 countries and who have been selected during a local event in each country. A hell of a work. The idea is to help them meet mentors and investors and have a chance to create some business opportunities and work on partnerships so that they go forward with their promising ideas and baby-companies. Many prices have been also attributed to the best startup idea, the most popular and most innovative ones on several fields such as education, financial inclusion and technology. Seedstars has one objective: changing people’s life in emerging countries through entreprneurship and technology.

The summit ended after 5 days of hard work and full commitment. And as in every similar event, I was sad it was over because that means saying goodbye to a lot of great people I met and which I developed a special relationship with during the whole week. I hate goodbyes but at least we turned it in “see you soon somewhere else on this world” as we were sure we would meet again.

Again meanwhile, my third and last host, which I will spend my last night with, came up with the great idea of hiking somewhere beautiful on Saturday. My feet were litterally suffring after an exhausting week but I said of course I’m in. I am a nature addict and I know it. He rented a car, organized everything and even picked me up from David’s house. Bastien, I am so thankful! We went together to a place called Les Paccots, did a 7-hour hike up to 2000m. The way up was not that easy because of the snow and the mud and I even fell several times on the way down. Of course I didn’t have my hiking clothes with me as this was not planned. So I was there with jeans. Thank God Bastien had spare sneakers in his car and guess what ? We have the same size :-) We stayed at the top for a while enjoying the view and relaxing in the sun.

That was exactly what I needed after such a week: get lost in the mountains and reconnect with nature. And there was no better place to do it by that perfect weather near the alps in Lausanne. Bastien is an adventerous half-Thai half-Swiss guy, he walked from Switerland to Spain during 3,5 months and volunteered at an NGO in Nepal. He inspired me with his organized way of life and his original ideas and I wished I could stay with him longer. But it was, as usual, time to say goodbye…

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2 hours later, I’m -of course- still sitting in the bus. It’s a 9-hour trip back home but at least I’m enjoying it with Habib, a Startup member from Bengladesh who also was invited to the summit as he made it with his startup in the local event. It happened that he took the same bus as me because he is heading to his sales office in Frankfurt :-)

As usual and as long as it will take me a while until the post-summit depression goes away, I’m glad I had this special experience and especially that dose of motivation I was thursty for. I learned something new, I witnessed something special and I knew great people. There is always this feeling I can’t express, event if I try to immortalize this experience through those words…

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Bastien says:

    That was an amazing hike indeed! Looking forward for your pictures! See you soon and congrats for all the job done this week 🙂

    Like

    1. Achraf says:

      A hike and a view to remember ;-) thanks for everything my friend !

      Like

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