is a photo documentary project by malte jäger

the exhibition - starting on 26th of April ‘13 in Hamburg


 “couchsurfin’ the world” will be exhibited this month.

The exhibition showing parts of the book of the same title in large size will be opened on the 26th of April from 2 pm at “Verdüsungsgebäude” within “Internationale Gartenschau 2013” in Hamburg Wilhelmsburg.

Of course I will be present during the opening. I am looking foreward to meet you there!

The project:

The idea is convincing: Offer strangers the chance to stay on your couch and in return allowing you to crash for free on couches anywhere in world. The system is called “couchsurfing” and it currently counts for almost 6 million members worldwide. For his photography project Malte Jäger accompanied different couchsurfers on their journeys through the living rooms of strangers in five very different regions of the world (Africa, Central Asia, Brazil, India and the USA). People who are only looking for a free place to stay are on the wrong track among couchsurfers, the idea of couchsurfing is a cultural exchange and an opportunity to get to know new cultures and people. The sightseeing that is typical of mass tourism is revolutionised here and instead becomes “life-seeing”. The most important thing over all, is to have lots of fun whilst “surfing”. This is visualized in Malte Jägers images shown in the exhibition “couchsurfin’ the world” at Internationale Gartenschau 2013 in Hamburg.

The exhibition will be opened on the 26th of April 2013 from 2 pm in “Verdüsungsgebäude” at IGS 2013, entrance “west”. Duration will be from the 26th of April to 26th of May 2013. Opening hours are daily from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.

The book “couchsurfin’ the world” with texts and images by Malte Jäger is published by Edition Braus Berlin. It contains 400 images on 208 pages for 24,95 Euro.

Get your copy here:

or at the exhibition in this place:


For directions check:

This is how it looks a day before the opening:


the book - out now!


couchsurfin’ the world is ready to be shown to the world! The best form to do this will be a book with almost 400 images on about 200 pages. What you see here is only a dummy version. The real book produced by EDITION BRAUS BERLIN in a slightly different format is available now in your local bookstore or following this link:

Additionally, for those of you who really love photography, there will be a second stage of getting in touch with the pictures I took: An exhibition to be shown in major towns of this small world full of couchsurfers.

The first show will be opened on the 5th of January in Aufbau Gallery @ Moritzplatz, Berlin, next to “Modulors” first floor.







couchsurfin’ the world - the project

couchsurfin’ the world” is a photodocumentary project about web- based hospitality communities

Internet communication has grown rapidly in the last decade with increase in the use of social network applications such as These networks have changed the fundamental ways individuals interact with the world, both on and off line. The exchange of personal information by users in web based networks create a feeling of participation in a large community, something akin to the world. However these profiled networks are limited to the virtual space and do not attempt to engage members in real-life or global connection. Web-based hospitality communities, such as “” or “” take a significant step further. These networks provide an easy connection between the world wide web and the analog world, their goal is to facilitate in the meeting of members face to face with the hopes of fostering cultural understanding. The developers of hospitality communities believe that traditional modes of visiting new places, using hotels, hostels, or guided tours, yields only a surface understanding of the places visited and that the spirit of travel seeks to know more. In general contacts between travelers and the inhabitants of a destination are minimal and superficial. The users of said hospitality networks are traveling to learn about place, people, custom and culture in addition to experiencing the spectacles of tourism.

The hospitality networks try to solve this problem by bringing residents and travelers together via offering free places to stay at private homes. Travelers are walking off the beaten tracks of tourism by leaving hotel rooms behind. This move offers an opportunity to observe the private life of an unfamiliar culture. Hospitality networks claim to be providing an important step in international understanding. These networks operate with profiles so that members browse and select communication with potential hosts, it is against the rules of the community to ask for money in exchange for hospitality. The interest of either side is not financial, but cultural. It is based on mutual curiosity and intended to be a “cultural flow” instead of a “cash flow”, a “life-seeing” rather than the “sight-seeing” of typical tourism industries. This new type of traveling appeals everywhere in the world, boasts a membership of well over two million members globally and a growth of 1,500 new users everyday.

To understand the reality of hospitality networks I made five separate journeys documenting the differing motivations and uses of hospitality networks by my protagonists. All of my navigators differing in social and personal backgrounds as they explored lands foreign to themselves, following both individuals and friends traveling together, each journey in a different part of the world, and in a different mode of travel.

the press

Stuttgarter Zeitung

Badische Zeitung

Bonner Neueste Nachrichten

Badische Neueste Nachrichten


GEO Special Weltreise

Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung



Berliner Zeitung

Kölner Express

Financial Times

the author

Hi folks its me, Malte Jäger. I am a Berlin / Germany based photographer.
In my work I am mainly searching for the human nature. What drives people to live their life the way they do?
That’s what I try to find out, understand and share with others. I started taking photos neither for technical reasons, nor because photography was my hobby ever since. I am using the medium photography for getting the chance to look behind curtains which wouldn’t be opened for me if I wasn’t using my camera. And of course, I love to meet and learn to know people. Because human behavior is what I am interested in, you will certainly find faces in almost all of my images. In general I am working under real life conditions for journalistic purposes. The people I work with are almost always captured in the conditions they live in.

But see for yourself, browse through the stories I did so far at:

If you would like to know more about myself you will even find a cv there.


the journeys

Berlin - Benin by car


The first couchsurfing journey took me by car from Berlin, Germany to Cotonou, Benin following half Egyptian, half German Amin on his trip through foreign living rooms. From Germany to Morocco Amins female, German friends Mareike and Ines were sharing car and couches with us. Across the distance of about 12.000 Km driven in five weeks we crossed the borders of Germany, France, Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Burkina-Faso and Benin. On this trip we visited 14 regular members of hospitality networks. At least one in every country we crossed.


Hitchhiking across the USA


In the USA I followed the hitchhiking couchsurfers Amandine from France and her friend Carrie from California. We met in New York City to cross the Country by extended thumbs all the way to Los Angeles, California. In New York we had company of Amandines French friend Laetitia. Across the distance of about 7.000 Km we visited 6 members of hospitality networks in New York City, Washington D.C. , Chicago, Memphis, Elgin near Austin / Texas, El Morro / New Mexico and Los Angeles.


Marshrutka riding in Central Asia


Kirin, a Sikh with Indian roots from New Zealand helped me to find my way to the mostly invisible bus stops of the more or less informal system of private owned public transportation called “Marshrutkas” in Central Asia. With this shared taxi like mini busses we started in the really high Pamir mountains in Tajikistan, to cross Kyrgyzstan for ending up in southern Kazakhstan. In 5 weeks and across the distance of about 3.000 Km we stayed with 9 full members of hospitality networks. In Tajikistan we enjoyed the company of Ben and Tom from England.


Crossing Brazil by Bus and Plane


Through the enormous country of Brazil I spend plenty of time sitting in Bus chairs next to my couchsurfing navigator Camillo from Italy. On this classical Backpacking trip across the distance of about 12.000 Km in around 4 weeks we stopped over in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Sao Sebastiao, Blumenau, Cuiabá, Goianía, Pirinopolis, Brasilia and Sao Luiz. In total we stayed with 8 hosts we have never heard about before.


Trainhopping in India


No worries, Jieun from Korea, Algerian Fouzia from France and me respected the crazy Indian bureaucracy and bought our train tickets legally, waiting for it in incredible cues. We didn’t have to spend too much on them anyways, because our trip was only about 2.000 Km long. We started it in Mumbai, continued to Pune, Hampi, Sirsi / Karnataka, Calangute and Patnem / Goa. Because we where in no hurry and we only had 4 weeks to go we only saw a very tiny part of incredible India guided by 6 strangers that rapidly turned into new friends.


the travellers


Amin Mehanna

Age: 34

Journey: Roadtrip from Germany to Benin, Western Africa

Job: Freelance worker in booth construction

Nationality: Half German, half Egyptian

Religion: Non practicing muslim

Member of Hospitality networks since: 2009

Couchsurfers visited on this journey: 14

Couchsurfers hosted in his own home: 0


Carrie McIlwain

Age: 24

Amandine Aman

Age: 23

Journey: Hitchhiking trip across the USA

Job: Glas Artist, student of marketing

Nationality: American, French

Religion: Agnostic

Members of hospitality networks since: 2009, 2010

Couchsurfers visited on this journey: 6

Couchsurfers hosted in their own homes: 3


Kirin Singh

Age: 43

Journey: Roadtrip from Khorog Tajikistan to Almaty, Kazakhstan

Job: Commercial Lawyer

Nationality: New Zealander with Indian roots

Religion: Sikh

Member of hospitality networks since: 2008

Couchsurfers visited on this journey: 9

Couchsurfers hosted in his own home: 52


Camillo Micelli

Age: 28

Journey: Roundtrip across Brazil from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Luis

Job: Art historian and language teacher

Nationality: Italian

Religion: Agnostic

Member of hospitality networks since: 2007

Couchsurfers visited on his journey: 8

Couchsurfers hosted in his own home: 3


Jieun Lee

Age: 23

Fouzia Mághraoui

Age: 24

Journey: Roundtrip from Mumbai through Goa back to Mumbai

Job: Student of economics
Alumnus of business and finance

Nationality: South Korean
French with Algerian roots

Religion: Straight Catholic

Members of hospitality networks since: 2009

Couchsurfers visited on his journey: 6

Couchsurfers hosted in their own homes: 0

radio interview about “couchsurfin’ the world” in german made by funkhaus europa, berlin.