We live in a world of what-ifs. How safe is to stay at a seaside bungalow in Thailand? Common sense, rule number 1 in a range of decisions, might apply when trying to experience Couchsurfing too.
Although A World to Travel editors have diverse ideas about Couchsurfing, I particularly have been in love with it for a long time. Though it is not what it used to be (unfortunately, business has corrupted a bit the first idea and now it is more about a huge social network where people look for sex and money more often than it should be), it remains as an awesome resource when traveling. In my experience, if you are careful enough, you should not face dangers.
Are you sociable and want to share your travel experiences with others like you? You are welcome to join! No money is required to set up your account and in less time than you imagine, you could be changing the way you travel forever.
I started using CS back in 2008. Many CS friends in Lisbon, Berlin, Toronto, Lanzarote and other places later, I feel it was one of the best decisions I have ever done about traveling and I am still using it these days. Whether you offer/are offered some land to pitch a tent, an old couch or a whole bedroom; the main idea is to let someone stay for free overnight. Mainly two nights is better than one (when you barely have time to get to know each other or share quality time). More than three or four nights might also be too much. No rules apply here and you will have to discuss it with your guest/host.
Some of you may wonder if the free accommodation is what made me start using it. It is not. Perhaps, in the beginning, I was more aware of how short my budget was but definitely, I chose it because, as a solo traveler, you are never alone if you do not want to!
FIRST STEPS TO BE HOSTED
- Register, take your time to build an interesting profile and look for some people you already know (Facebook for instance) to get some worthy references.
- Interact with the community. There are endless groups where activities, gatherings and more are discussed daily. Socialize!
- Be responsive. If someone contacts you with a genuine interest (beware of spam!), please ensure you answer them back. Especially if you have a couch request. Those numbers are likely to be shown in your profile and you do not want to be the guy who just answered a 10% of requests.
- If you are in need of a couch, research and do your homework in advance. For those future hosts consideration, read their profiles and references. See if you could get along before sending a massive request to everyone in Kathmandu. Make your request unique, honest and personal.
- If accepted, let someone else know where are you going and keep a backup plan just in case.
- Remember you are going to someone else’s home and behave like that. Open your mind (if you are not ready for different ideas, you better stay home) and do not misuse or take advantage of your situation (ask for things if needed, do not take food from the fridge unless it is offered to you, be polite..)
- Give something back. Karma fan or not, you should offer something to your host in exchange. They took the time to answer your request, getting ready a place for you to sleep and probably spend some of their valuable time with you while visiting their hometown so, although it is not mandatory, there is a non-written rule in CS saying you should share something. Cook dinner, bring something to drink or eat, teach, help them with the practice of your language, sing, play an instrument, dance, whatever! Do yourself a favor and do not just rest all day long on their sofa like a useless freeloader. There is nothing worse, believe us.
- Leave everything as you found it or better. Easy, isn’t it?
- Write a fair reference in their Couchsurfing wall after you leave their place. Chances are you will also get one!
- Host if you have the chance to. If not, change your status and offer yourself as a local who travelers can contact whenever they are near you. There is much more CS than sleeping!
FIRST STEPS TO HOST
- If you want to welcome somebody, pretty much you should follow all the steps above. Plus..
- Make an effort to offer a nice place to sleep. You are not asking for anything in exchange, we know, but cleaning and tidying up a bit will not hurt.
- Contact details are important in case something goes wrong. Almost in every CS experience I had, a phone was used beforehand.
- If you are able to, take out your guest(s). Spending money is not necessary, neither are activities out of your routine. You would probably enjoy something like that too. I was invited to electronic music festivals in Berlin, discover the surroundings in Nova Scotia, party in Canary islands, gardening in France and endless Couchsurfing gatherings among many others!
Are you part of Couchsurfing? Is Couchsurfing safe in your opinion? How have your experiences been so far? Let us know in the comments below!