Not long ago, I happened to stumble upon a blog post of a blogger I normally enjoy following. In that post, she talks about how she was able to “save thousands of $” and “got numerous free tour guides” thanks to CouchSurfing. I was quite disappointed with this post as I have been a CouchSurfing member for almost 10 years now. And using CouchSurfing to “save thousands of $” and “get a free tour guide” is exactly the mindset that destroys the CouchSurfing community 🙁
Wait a second… what is that “CouchSurfing” thing ?
It’s a website whose basic idea is simple : it connects travelers and locals with an empty couch. You can request to “surf” someone’s couch (aka stay at their place for free for a few nights) if you like their profile. If they like your profile, they will answer positively to your request and send you their address. Getting started is pretty easy :
- Fill in your profile with as many info about yourself/pics you are willing to make public
- Get your address verified through the website
- A few days later, you can welcome your new friends from Mexico/South Africa/Korea/that town 100kms south of your place ! They stay one, two, three or even more nights (if you agreed to it, of course !) and you share laughter, meals, travel stories, sometimes a few beers and when they leave, you know you just gained new awesome friends
- On the other hand, if you travel, you can look up any couch close to wherever you are traveling to, review your potential host’s profiles and references carefully, write a nice request to your potential host and voilà ! you’ll stay at a local’s place for a few nights.
Still unsure how all of this works ? Check out this page !
So why did you get all upset ? It IS free, isn’t it ?
Yes, CouchSurfing is a free platform but its purpose is NOT to help you save some bucks while traveling. Sharing your culture and your experiences with your host/surfer is what this is all about. It is a way to connect to people and to start awesome friendships. You want to experience the cities you travel through like a local. I made so many wonderful friendships through CouchSurfing that I still use it to meet cool people every time I set down my laptop in a new country.
Some of my best friends were met on CouchSurfing through group meetings and I experienced some truly magical moments thanks to all my awesome surfers/hosts. Like that one time I saw the sun come up from the top of a volcano in Costa Rica after a night of partying or when I stayed in the middle of a natural reserve in the mountains or that time I… You get the idea 😉
The reason I got so upset with that blog article I told you about is because the CS community has changed these last few years. You tend to meet more and more people that are just using the platform to get a free place to stay or even a hook-up (?!). And it’s never nice to see that your surfer only sees you as some kind of free hostel they can crash at. Publishing articles like the one mentioned above only makes things worse in that matter, which is really a shame. It is NOT the CS spirit and that has, unfortunately, led me to deny more and more requests over the last years.
Sounds like a cool thing : Any advice on how to be a good CouchSurfer ?
- Fill in your profile with as many details as possible ! Don’t forget a nice profile picture
- Write a personalized request to every potential host and actually READ each of your potential host’s/surfer’s profile
- Bring your host a little present or do something nice for them : bake cookies, invite them for a drink, …
- Be considerate : don’t leave your stuff lying around, clean up after yourself, respect your host’s curfew, …
- Leave a reference for your host/surfer : they are what make the community safe !!
- Communicate over the website (so there will be a transcript of any communication between you and your host/surfer should anything go wrong) and always, ALWAYS have a back-up plan (the address of the nearest hotel in your waller is enough but will be oh ! so appreciated if anything goes wrong)
- Hit on your surfer/host : CouchSurfing is NOT, I repeat, it is NOT a dating site !!
- Expect your host to be a travel agent : you can ask them what places they recommend you but don’t expect them to plan your stay in the city
- Use your host as a free hotel : CouchSurfing is about exchanging knowledge, travel stories, cultures, languages and what not… not about having a free place to crash because you are broke
Interested and now looking for you first friend on CouchSurfing ? Just add me as a friend !