When people think of travelling, they may dream of soaking up sun for hours in the day relaxing, swimming in waterfalls, eating amazing food, and enjoying culture and architecture. Everyone has a vision for what travel is, and no one is right or wrong. Travel to many is something meant to make you feel free and away from the burdens of day to day life.
When I began travelling, I felt the same, I was stressed with school and life, this was a way to free myself. I climbed mountains, trekked to waterfalls, dove with the fishes, you name it. Yet, those experiences aren’t the most memorable.
People are why I travel. People are what made each trip memorable, and a lot of that was thanks to couch surfing.
As a college student when I traveled, I was on a budget of no more than $30 – $50 on average a day. So, I didn’t stay in fancy hotels or eat fancy food, but I did get creative with what I had. My friend Google taught me about hostels, cheap eating and more importantly, a platform called Couchsurfing. The easiest way to explain this platform is to actually use its definition.
What is couchsurfing? This platform is a community, where people host and are hosted all over the world. So, this platform is like Yelp or Facebook in some ways. Each person has a profile with reviews and pictures. As you build up reviews, by meeting people and hosting and being hosted, it becomes easier and easier to find places to stay. Why? Well, its like you are being vouched by your friend to join his other friends. But instead you are being vouched by other people in this global community. Essentially building your reputation.
For the budget traveler this is great because you don’t have to pay for housing. More importantly, you get to meet someone local. The perks to this are that locals normally know all the hidden and cool spots that most tourists don’t get to visit. So far, I have been hosted by some amazing people, seen above are some low quality photos but high quality people. Here is a small list of some of their stories #couchsurfingstories:
- Malaysia: A guy was just starting a hostel, so there I was in a building with only 2 beds and materials everywhere, though I am sure this place could have more than 30 beds once completed.
- Japan: I was hosted by a masseuse. She was able to get me and my friend discounted tickets for the Japanese bathhouse she worked for, which was amazing. We stayed up late with her and her friends, drinking beer and hanging out!
- Indonesia: In the room of about the size of a closet, this host graciously still shared his space. It was an adventure to say the least. We explored the city and he showed me some cool places to eat, like a meal of fried chicken and rice for $1.
There are many more stories of kind people like this. I hope you are all able to one day experience this. Don’t forget you can host people in your home too! The more you give, the more you get from this community.
Most people you meet will be kind and adventurous. However, there will always be the few who use this platform like a dating site. Maybe that’s the type of adventure you are looking for, and that’s okay! But for the others, this is just a cautionary tale, one that can be avoided. So do your research! It may be a red flag for you if a guy only has girl reviews and vice versa, but I may hold a different opinion than other travelers.
Of course, you are a guest and are expected to follow house rules. Most rules are common, like not coming in too late, or taking off your shoes. But some are more bizarre and may make some feel uncomfortable. For example, I have seen offers from nudists who also require you to also be nude if you are to stay in their home. So, to ensure there isn’t any miscommunication, read the entirety of someone’s profile. I know many will gloss over details, and copy-paste messages to hosts. This is a surefire way to not get hosted and get into some awkward . Like being stuck in a closet sized room with someone with no air conditioning.
IS THIS FOR YOU?
Is couchsurfing safe? Everyone’s experience is different, so I push you to just give it a try. Ultimately, this platform is great for backpackers, and people who don’t mind being in less than lavish housing. You may be sleeping in an extra guest room, a couch, or even the floor. This platform is rewarding because you get to meet open minded people who can give you a safe place to sleep, great tips as a local, and shared experiences. Some hosts love to show people around and will join you on adventures. Others simply want to share their free space with other travelers. You will meet people from different walks of life, which makes this opportunity an amazing way to understand others.
Is couchsurfing free?
Couchsurfing used to be free but after the pandemic, they started charging a fee. But its still well worth it! Find it here!