If you have never heard of Couchsurfing before, check out their website. Does the concept sound weird and even a little skeptical to you? I had my reservations when I first discovered it, however, I decided to keep an open mind and find out for myself what it was like. Couchsurfing is a large and trusted community with thousands of users that offer strangers a ‘free’ place to sleep (a cozy couch, air mattress or even a spare bed) in their homes in exchange for meeting travelers that are seeking an alternative means of accommodation to meet interesting locals and save some money.
This is a great resource to use especially for solo travelers to meet locals and experience the culture and environment in a different perspective. It provides a change of pace from staying in hostels or hotels and being surrounded by other travelers alike. From my few stays while in Dublin, London, Paris and Munich, I had wonderful hosts that played the role of my tour guide, kept me company with interesting conversations while getting to know each other, shared restaurant and neighbourhood recommendations that tourists would be unaware of, and invited me to their regular outings. If it were not for Couchsurfing, I likely would not have left the city center of Dublin to discover the cute suburbs, venture into Clapham North; London’s young professional neighbourhood, attend a house party in a very posh building, experience first-hand the tiny yet efficient and expensive Parisian apartments, try authentic veal schnitzel in a local restaurant hidden somewhere in Munich, and meet some very down to earth locals.
Many hosts offer their couch to strangers because they have had either positive experiences staying with a host in the past and decided to extend the gesture to others or they are just looking for ways to meet new people that share similar interests and share some stories. It is an awesome way to make new friends from all over the globe.
Sounds too good to be true? Not necessarily. It is what you make of it. Couchsurfing is not a resource to use if you are just looking for a free place to stay, and that is why I put free in quotations earlier. Hosts are generously opening up their homes to a stranger, so gratitude is always appreciated. An openness to meeting new people, common courtesies, being respectful and following any house rules is important. Follow these tips and you’ll be golden.
However, it is not without its flaws. There are many genuinely kind people in the world, but there are also people you should be wary of. As a female traveler, I definitely had some qualms. There were instances where I had males contact me first to offer their place to stay at along with messages that seemed questionable. I avoided them for that reason and also since they had no reviews posted. I highly recommend contacting a host with a profile that has been verified, includes photos of themselves and has positive reviews. Exercise caution and use your judgement when deciding who you stay with. This is coming from someone who can be a bit cynical at times, however I gave it a chance and as a result, my faith in humanity has only increased. Other than that, more often than not, Couchsurfing has provided an excellent experience for many and a sense of adventure for your travels.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions about Couchsurfing or would like to share your experience.