Imagine having the possibility to become immersed in new cultures, befriend trans-ocean friends, and make everlasting memories, and not breaking your bank…
With Couchsurfing, it could ALL be possible. We’re talking long before Airbnb. Members of the Couchsurfing site set up a profile on the site, then choose to either host a Couch surfer, or become one. Either way, it seems sure to be an unforgettable experience.
I have only been Couchsurfing twice, and they have been two of my most unforgettable experiences abroad. Before I go, my friends always worry; “Don’t die” and “Don’t get raped” are two common imperatives I often hear before I go off. Despite the danger of coming across a psychotic, rapist drug dealer, I, in my three weeks total of couch surfing, haven’t yet come across anything like this. Hell it’s free, fun and you meet like minded travellers that you could stay in touch with for life!
Before deciding to venture off on your own couch surfing, disclaimer: you need to be one of these people below:
The Radical Adventurer: You love embracing new cultures and experiencing cities in ways typical tourists do not.
(Me) The Student Globetrotter: You long for a change of scenery and are craving a new adventure.
The Simple Traveler: You seek more meaning and experience out of your day-to-day life.
The Spontaneity Hound: You have enough fire and boldness to explore the unknowns and seek the great perhaps.
Right, now we have got that out the way let’s begin…
My first step, when I learned I was going to be Couchsurfing, was to fill out my profile. As a new Couchsurfer, I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t have references from previous hosts and surfers. I only had basic information on my profile, so I went through and added some more detail. I wanted my potential hosts to have a good picture of my personality from reading my profile.
If you know you’re going to be Couchsurfing well in advance, it’s a good idea to host a few Couch surfers or attend some events. This is a great way to get to know the Couchsurfing community and add some references to your profile, I unfortunately couldn’t do this as I do not live near couch surfers events, nor do I have a spare couch to host out, Nevertheless, I have heard this is a great way to get involved in the community.
Even if you can’t host or get to Couchsurfing events, you should still get some Personal references from your friends! With over 12 million Couchsurfing members worldwide, chances are you have some friends in our network already. If you connect your Facebook account to your Couchsurfing account, you’ll be able to see which of your Facebook friends are already on Couchsurfing, so you can add them as a Couchsurfing friend. Afterwards, send them a message to ask them to write you a Personal friend reference.
Planning out your trip
Once I bought my tickets in and out of Spain, I was ready to plan out more of my vacation! Since this is a Couchsurfing trip, I didn’t want to be too attached to going to a particular place. Remember, some places have more hosts than others. If you’re traveling to rural places, it’s good to keep in mind that you may not be able to find a host everywhere you go.
Based on this, I planned to spend the majority of time in Bilbao, and then made a list of other places to explore. I wanted to research the hosts in each place, choose my favorite hosts to send requests to, and then plan those days around who was available to host me.
Finding a compatible host is the most time consuming part of your trip, and something that is worth doing right. Here is my strategy: Write Couchrequests to a few hosts that stood out, and then make a Public Trip in the area. Of course, I make sure to read each host’s profiles, any house rules listed in the My Home section, and all of their references (or most… some had well over 40 positive references!) before sending them a Couchrequest.
I wanted to make a public trip because there was no way I could read through hundreds of profiles! What if there was an awesome host that I didn’t see in Host Search? I realised in some ways, it might be more efficient to see who responded to my Public Trip, and then check out their profile and references to see if they’d be someone I wanted to stay with.
Planning for the worst
I’m 19, I’m a girl, and am probably the most vulnerable stereotype of a traveler out there. I may be a little overzealous in my planning, but better to be too prepared than be stuck in a foreign country.
I didn’t do this, but it is probably best to look up the closest hostels to each of your host’s homes, just in case. I wouldn’t expect to use them, but I suppose it’s nice to know where they are. I’ve worked with members who have stranded their surfers due to unforeseen circumstances. In one case, their house burned down the night before they had a surfer arriving, so they had to cancel the request last minute. It was a stressful, horrible situation for both parties, and one that you want to make sure you are prepared for!
Student Journalist, Creative Writer, Poet, Traveller, Eco Warrior