Couchsurfing – its perks and downsides + how to surf successfully

When you do something – do it right.  Unless you want to treat Couchsurfing like a pair of old socks you pretend to want to wear but really plan on chucking into the darkest recesses of your messy closet… then successful and enjoyable surfing is going to take a bit of time and effort on your part.

These are the tradeoffs:

PERKS:

when travelling: you are hosted by locals allowing you to get to know the place where you are, and its people, more profoundly + you save $$ on accommodation

when at home: access to your local CS network; groups of people who organize fun get-togethers of every type: from language exchanges to x-country skiing trips. Highly culture, location and population dependant, obviously.

– in both scenarios:  an increased probability of meeting bosom buddies and life-long friends

in general: being part of a world-wide movement that is reclaiming our belief in each other as people and in our capacity to aid one another

DOWNSIDES

– searching for the right host and then writing them a good couchrequest, the kind that will actually get you hosted, takes time, practice and perseverance

– building up your profile, meeting people, gaining positive references and leaving them for others also (you guessed it!) take time

– it’s never a sure thing – even if you are travelling somewhere where there are potentially many CSers who could host you, you may not get a positive reply from anyone.  Having a plan B (hostel, B&B or a park bench, depending on your style) is smart

– you need to know what you want and what kind of traveler you are, (only a downside if you think getting to know yourself is a pain).  Establishing ground “rules” like how much time you want to spend with your host and what you want to do and visit is important.  In my experience as a host, assertive CSers with an itinerary and plans and who don’t expect to be baby-sat for the duration of the stay are the ones that you are sad to see go

TIPS FOR WRITING A GOOD COUCHREQUEST

1. read your potential hosts profile and make links with their interests/experiences and your own.   Tying things together gives both host and hosted the feeling that you will actually get along and have something to talk about (ie. “wow, looks like we both back-packed through Iceland last summer!” or “I love that you are interested in French films; Spanish cinema tends to be more my thing, but maybe you could recommend a good French one?”)

2. send more than one couchrequest – depending on where you are in the world, some CS members get back to you within a few hours and others you may hear back from next year…

3. make it personal – nothing stinks more of “please – I just want a free couch to crash on!” than a generic message that has obviously been sent to every single CSer within a 20 mile radius.  Don’t do it.  EVEN if you are just surfing to save money, make some effort with your requests.

Happy surfing!

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