In 2012, I signed up on a website called CouchSurfing. However, it wasn’t until four years later that my actual CouchSurfing adventure began.
“Couchsurfing International Inc. is a hospitality exchange and social networking website. The website provides a platform for members to “surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home, host travelers, or join an event.” – Wikipedia
It all started a few months ago when I made a 2-day trip to NYC for a jaw surgery consultation.
(Most of you don’t know this, but my jaw problems have been the bane of my existence since I got my braces off. I’m not going to bore you with details of my jaw troubles, though.)
As I was already shelling out quite a bit of money for this consultation, I wanted to spend as little money as I could on my actual stay. This gave me three options:
- Air BnB
Of the three, CouchSurfing is the cheapest option because it’s free. I figured I would see if I could score a place to crash on CouchSurfing before resorting to my other options.
The easiest way to find a host on CouchSurfing is to create a public trip so other members can see your travel plans.
After updating my travel plans to reflect my NYC trip, the stream of messages started coming in. I had a total of 31 people contact me, either offering their couch for me to sleep on or to show me around the city during my stay. Unfortunately, the majority of these offers were from men much older than me.
Since I had never couch surfed before, and also because I was in a relationship at that time, I didn’t think it’d be a good idea for me to couch surf at any guy’s place.
I politely declined all of the offers and started searching for a female CouchSurfing host. After finding a girl in her mid-twenties who had some good references, I sent her this message:
She then responded:
Because she was going out of town, she arranged for her friend to meet up with me to give me the keys to her place. Not only did she give me the keys to her place, she also gave me her WiFi password and told me I could drink anything I wanted from her fridge (except for a few special beers she received as gifts).
I’m honestly still surprised she trusted me that much considering I had no reviews on CouchSurfing at that time…I’ve heard of other CouchSurfers who have had similar experiences, where their host gave them keys so they could come and go as they please.
So my first CouchSurfing experience, although rather sketchy-sounding, actually went pretty well. Not only did I get an awesome place to crash for free, I also ended up with a new friend (a.k.a. her friend who gave me the keys).
Since my NYC trip, I’ve used CouchSurfing a few more times. I’ve had a good experience with it so far. If you’re prudent and have enough common sense, couch surfing is a great way to travel on a budget while meeting the locals.
CouchSurfing isn’t for everyone. But if you’re feeling a little adventurous, I’d definitely recommend it.
Tips for CouchSurfing:
- Read references before making a decision.
- The beauty of CouchSurfing is that members can leave references for each other.
- Leave a reference after couch surfing.
- Your reference could help other members make informed decisions.
- Bring a small gift/share something with your host.
- For my host in NYC, I left her a thank-you note on a postcard along with an Oklahoma-themed shot glass. It’s always nice to give your host something small to show appreciation.
- Spend time with your host.
- Some hosts may not expect you to spend any time with them, but some will. I wouldn’t just show up, crash on their couch, and peace out without getting to know your host at all. I’ve met some pretty neat people through CouchSurfing whom I’m still friends with.
- Be considerate of their space.
- If your host has specific house rules, follow them. For example, my Asian host in Seattle requested we leave our shoes at the door.
- Trust your instincts.
- If something doesn’t feel right, then remove yourself from the situation. Better safe than sorry.
- Be aware some hosts may be proposing you to “bed surf” with them instead of “couch surf”.
- One of the guys who offered to host me in NYC had no couch…he only had one bed that he offered to share. Thanks BUT NO THANKS.
Have you had any interesting experiences through CouchSurfing? If so, drop a comment below. I’d love to hear about it!
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