Welcome. I hope your day (or night) is going well. I want to talk about a topic, a style of travel that many consider… unconventional. But nonetheless, many are still utterly curious about.
To begin with, Couchsurfing is an app/website, where people can join as travelers and either host, or be traveling. You put in what dates you’re traveling and a list of hosts appear that are taking in travelers during that period. You read their bios and see if you connect. Some offer rooms, other offer a bed or couch, maybe the floor, or even pitching a tent in their backyard. Regardless, it’s a free place to stay, which is a perk to the budget backpacker.
The host gets free cultural exchange, conversation and learning from a stranger. It’s a really personal and unique experience to share your home with someone who is completely foreign and unknown to you. Even if they’re from the other side of the country… you don’t know their life or experiences. And you want them to feel safe and comfortable in your place of course.
I’ve only hosted a couch surfer. Many times I think where people might dislike it or get creeped by it, is that yes, they are strangers. And the reliability in which they have also varies. Whether or not the host will fall through, or whether or not the traveller will fall through. It all depends. It’s kind of weird to think about I know. But the traveller gets a free personal tour guide and the host gets a cultural exchange unlike any other.
It’s a great experience as you have someone that you can learn all about, especially if you are unable to travel. One of the best parts about traveling is meeting new people from different walks of life. So if you’re unable to take a trip or backpack anytime soon, this is a great way to get that feeling and live vicariously. Some couch surfers don’t/can’t spend as much time with their hosts, but that’s a discussion between the host and them.
My personal experience was when I hosted this Australian chick. She was 18 years old and went on this backpacking trip alone staying in New York then moving on to Mexico. She was a vegetarian/vegan and coincidentally inspired me to become one (that’s for another post) which lasted nearly two years. She was worldly and knowledgable and introduced me to new foods and art museums. Basically I felt like I had a little sister staying with me. It worked because we were close in age. She felt more comfortable because we are the same gender. Her next couch surfing experience would be in Harlem which got me a tiny bit worried because, IDK, Harlem. She told me the first night she stayed at a hostel in the city and her phone was stolen (tldr; she did end up getting it back later). With me, she ended up extending her stay though so she did enjoy my company, and of course I enjoyed hers! She experienced a true Greek Easter. After she went to Mexico for about 4? Maybe 5? Months she had to come back through New York to go back to Australia, so she stayed with me for 2 days then as well, but I couldn’t spend much time with her then since I had school.
To this day we have each other on Social medias and keep in touch, which is pretty amazing. Of course I still have couch surfing and would love to do it myself once I get the opportunity to backpack one day, although of course as a female it is important to be cautious. There were stories floating in one of the hostels I stayed at in Poland that sometimes men could be creepy so it’s important to verify and check your hosts out first!!
What makes this so worth it is there are people from different walks of life, loving this passion of travel, trying to remain evermore connected and indulging in different cultures while keeping an open mind and providing a free way to travel- truly travel, as you get to hang with the locals.