Ever since I started using the Couchsurfing website folks have been asking me about it. “Why are you staying with folks you’ve never met?” or “who are the awesome people staying at your house?” or “so…how does couchsurfing work?”.
Recently, in response to my comment on wayfarerkate’s awesome blog, she said “I have never tried couchsurfing but have always wanted to!” and I think that probably sums it up for a lot of people.
So for everyone out their who’s never been Couchsurfing, here’s how it works…
Couchsurfing is a website and organization that was launched around 2004, and has since grown into an enormous community with (according to their site) 10 million members in 200,000 cities.
When you join Couchsurfing you create an online profile, then when you are traveling and looking for a place to stay you search for hosts in that area, Singapore for example has over 33,000 hosts, and Reykjavik Iceland has just over 5,000. You search through hosts profiles, find people who seem cool, and take a look at their references.
When you find someone you like you send them a “Couch Request”. You let them know when you will be there, a little about yourself or your trip or why you want to stay with them in particular, and (hopefully) they respond with in a few days or a week. If they accept your request then you message back and forth through the site (or swap emails/phone numbers) and figure out what the plan is, when you’re arriving, where they live, what you need to bring, sleeping arrangements, whatever.
Some hosts want to swap a lot of stories and share meals with you and then show you around town or take you for a hike, others just give you a place to sleep, and are busy or gone at work or whatever. Some times there are other housemates around and sometimes not. Some really cool people might leave for work and then you’re stuck with their really not so cool housemates…just a heads up, if all the housemates have their own CS profiles that’s a really good sign! Any way, each experience is unique and requires a little good communication…sort of like life.
What if you’re not ready to sleep on someones couch though? Or you’re only in town for the day? Maybe you’d like to meet up for coffee, or a hike, or ice cream? Couchsurfing is great for this too, some folks set their status to “wants to meet up” meaning they can’t host but would still love to meet travelers passing through, but you can also message anyone and see if they want to connect.
And then there’s hosting! You can meet people from all over the world without leaving your own house, it’s great. Folks will request to stay with you, but you can also search for people who are traveling in your area, or check the public requests for your area, or post a message on your areas discussion page.
Try it out! Make a profile, send a friend request to someone you already know, get a friend to write you a review…then on your next trip see who the Couchsurfers are in the area you’re going to…I bet there’s someone cool you’ll want to meet, even if it’s just for tea.
Remember too that people have been doing this forever, around the world there have always been strangers opening their doors to traveling folks. People can be amazingly kind, people are amazingly kind, and they will continue to be long after the Couchsurfing site has gone out of style. It’s not the site, it’s the people, and it always has been.
Notes: credit to the internet for the couch picture. Credit to Fernando for being such an awesome introduction to the Couchsurfing world. Credit to the Couchsurfing community for being awesome!
Also, I had to cut a ton to make this piece as short as it is…and it’s still pretty long! I’ll be writing more about Couchsurfing so if there’s anything particular you’d like to hear on this subject let me know!