First, what is Couchsurfing? As one friend said:
“I know the term, but I don’t know what it is.”
Some backstory: I messaged my friend to tell her about a Couchsurfing meet-up that I just had. This was our conversation:
“He wanted to meet because he had questions on Spain.”
“I’ve never heard of it”
“Couchsurfing? It’s a travel thing”
“I know the term, but the way you worded it sounded like an app or something. How did you meet him?”
“It’s a website”
“Ahh, why do you use it?”
“For travel, you can stay with people for free. And meet new people. Some use it for a dating thing, but it’s real purpose is travel cheaply.”
“Lol. Interesting. Kinda sketchy though”
“I’ve used it three times, the first time I made a good friend who then came to visit me later. I’ve also hosted 2 girls and have 3 coming throughout the Summer.”
“I don’t think I would do it in general haha.”
“It’s not for everyone haha.”
Our conversation made me realize that some of these “travel things” that I find common and normal day to day conversations, are not so common.
As my friend said, it does sound a bit sketchy and there have been negative stories online as well as those I have heard from my friends. But this shouldn’t stop you from trying it out!
Like most social media websites, you create an account online- post some photos of you and your home if you wish and write a description of you. Once you stay with people or host people they can leave reviews. There is always an option for a personal review. You can even have friends on it.
If you are hosting people, simply mark your profile as accepting or maybe and people will message you. If you are looking to stay at someone’s place, search for the city of your choice and the dates you are traveling and message hosts to stay with them. Preferably a personal message of something from their profile.
Reading someone’s profile is quite big. Some people have secret keywords they want you to mention to them when you request to stay. Personally, I find this a bit ridiculous. Within all your “About Me” text there is one sentence that says, “Write me Peanut Butter, or your favorite color, or what’s 4+4.”
Yes, the goal of Couchsurfing is to meet new people and break barriers between cultures and languages, but it is also a cheap lodging arrangement. I don’t say free because buying your host a beer or a cupcake is nice or washing the dishes from dinner, etc.
This all being said, I did receive a request to stay with me and he said “If I could crash on you and your husband’s couch…”
I am a single woman…..aka, no husband. I mention my roommate, but also mention how we have different rooms. This bugged me a bit as it showed he must have copied and pasted that message from someone who did have a husband and didn’t check.
As we are two single females, I don’t accept male requests anyways. I am sure they are all wonderful men, but one can never be too safe with that.
I also don’t request to stay with men for this reason. However, my last experience staying with someone, I was traveling with a male friend of mine and he made the arrangements. We ended up staying with this young man, who was the most lovely individual- he was very sweet and talkative haha. I had no qualms about this arrangement since my friend was there.
Now, I am not the biggest expert on Couchsurfing as I was only accepted twice, by myself, on my travels. Partly, I think, due to it being winter time and down season so people were away from their profile or studying for finals.
As I am now settled in Prague for a bit, I set my preference to maybe accepting guest and now that it is Summer, I am receiving a lot of requests! I had to change my position to not accepting as I have several guests coming now throughout the Summer with little time to myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new people. And for those that I had to decline their request, I normally suggest grabbing a drink with them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
I declined one man, but offered to get a drink with him and he accepted. One the day of our meeting he told me he didn’t have any money. As I feel bad if this is true, my gut was telling me that there was something weird about the situation. I sent a polite message and didn’t meet him.
Maybe I was mean, but as a single female, you can’t be too careful especially with money scams out there. Back to my friend from earlier, you have to follow your gut. If a person doesn’t feel right then don’t host or don’t stay with them.
My second experience didn’t start off that well. She had recently broken up with her boyfriend and was really sad. We all have experienced heartbreak and I did feel for her, but her apartment was a disaster. I was tempted to get a hostel after all, but she assured me it would be ok and I believed it. My instincts weren’t telling me anything. After a few hours of sightseeing on my own, when I returned she had cleaned it all up and we had a pleasant stay. She was an incredible hostess.
Point being, follow your instincts.
I was talking with another friend about Couchsurfing. She had been getting a lot of requests as she lives in New York City and, as most people know, it’s really expensive to get accommodation for a traveler or really anyone. She wasn’t sure if she should host someone.
“I just don’t know. Do you watch them all the time? I just don’t want to host someone and they run off with my TV.”
This is a fair question. The past two ladies I have hosted were great and I trusted them with my things, leaving for work while they were still in my apartment. However, some people have mentioned on their website or through stories I have heard that there are house rules such as the guest is in the home when the host is and when the host leaves, the guest also leaves.
My first host, who became my friend, told me,
“Well, if you steal anything….there’s not much to take. I mean I guess some money, but I have nothing already.”
She said it as a joke and we laughed about it as she left for the day before I was ready to leave. As I don’t have a TV or anything expensive in my apartment, I guess that is also my same attitude.
Use this website as you will. Use it solely to meet people for drinks or at events and never host or stay with anyone. Or use it just to stay with people. Or host someone every day. Up to you.