CouchSurfing is a social-welfare network that aims to bring together members who offer accommodation, with those who currently need, where both are members of site.
The story begins far back in 2010, at the time when, while I was learning Spanish, I’ve fell in love with Latino culture and their world. While I was surfing the internet, I came across a large Hispanic festival to be held in Vienna, with many famous artists that I listen to, and which should begin in about a month. I’ve never thought that I’ll go, but still I was only seeking an excuse to go somewhere, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. But looking at the price of the hotel, I realized that everything was so expensive, terribly expensive.
How I learned to Couchsurfing
That same evening, in a conversation with a friend who travels a lot, I’ve mentioned to him that I would love to go to the festival, but the accommodation is very expensive and I do not know what to do.
“Have you heard of Couchsurfing?” – he asked. “No, I did not.” – I answered him.
So then he told me that there is one site that people who live in a city are receiving other people completely free.
“Free?” – I asked him.
“Yes, absolutely free”
That sounded interesting. Not interesting, it sounded amazing, but again I was a little bit skeptical. It can´t be that simple. There must be a catch in all of this. In my mind, several issues were passing by; “How to go to people that I have never seen?”, “How to spend the night for free at someone´s place, If I do not know them?”. These were just some of the thoughts that ran through my mind, but I knew that if I want to go to this festival, this is the only option.
How does Couchsurfing work?
Couchsurfing is a web page, a bit like a Facebook. Make your own profile, put some pictures, write something about yourself, what do you like, what you don’t like, what kind of music do you listen to, which movies you like to watch, where you have been, how many friends you have, how many people recommended you.. There are several ways of participating in it.
First one is for you to host someone. Second option is to “surf”, i.e. to be guest. If you don’t want to host someone, or you rather like to be more comfortable while traveling, the third option is to show someone your city, and have a coffee with them, thus make a new international friendship. The same thing that person can offer to you, when you come to their city.
Either way, after each visit, you would left references to that person as well as those of you with a few sentences about what you liked, what you didn’t like and why would you recommend that person. In this way, everything is very transparent and secure, and in anytime you’ll know who was at that person, how was it, their experiences, where the person lives, and basically know what to expect.
How to apply the CS?
- Create a profile and put your picture – no matter if you are a traveler who needs accommodation or you are in your city and do not travel so far, but would like to have your guests come from all over the world, create your free profile. Put some pictures, my advice is to put a couple of pictures where you are and a few where you have a company, because if you put a lot of pictures where you are all alone, you will not make an impression of a social person, and it could seemed as you have made a profile for self-promotion. It is important to write more about yourself and fill out all fields in the form of what you love, what kind of music do you listen, what makes you happy, what you do and so on. It is important to contact the people you like, for example, maybe someone is coming to your town on a Rammstein concert, and they need an accommodation or just company for the concert, and you love that band, then you will be the person likely to occur , and you’ll meet people of similar affinities.
- Clearly state if you have a sofa or you do not – you do not have to have a couch, bed or room to sign up on this site. You can place an option that you can´t receive visitors, but that you’re available for a drink / walk / tour of the city, so you will not receive requests from passengers to stay with you, but people will still write in the Inbox and look for advice, ask to meet with them and so on. There is an option, “Maybe”, but if you really do not want to receive guests, you better write that you do not have a couch because “Maybe” people could interpreted as “Yes” and you will be swamped with requests.
- Sending and receiving requests and messages – if you specify that you have a sofa, you will receive the requirements of the special section “Couch Requests”. There you will continue to communicate with guests, and there are people who will contact you in Inbox to ask if you have a space for them. Some do not even request the sofa, already have sleeping bags, and even if you do not have the space, you will be asked if they could sleep on the floor. Whether it suits you or not, resolve it by yourself. For example, I have no room to receive guests, and it is embarrassing for me if someone sleeps on the floor, as if I were already a guest at the house, I want to offer quality accommodation. Simply, if you do not have at least decent conditions for someone to offer, I’ll put that I do not have a couch. They told me that this is the wrong attitude, and that many of visitors of this site offer only accommodation on the floor, and that for the others it is acceptable to sleep on the floor, but I somehow don’t like it.
- Be open and clear about what your offer and what you want – Some people write on their profile that they have to work all day and do not have time to socialize with guests, so guests have to leave the apartment at the same time as the hosts, while others want to spend more time with guests. Someone has to provide a separate room, or just a sofa in the living room, someone lives alone, with a roommate, someone in the city center, and some far from the city … you have a variety of options, and it is up to you to see what suits you. Also on your profile, specify what you want and what you hope to, to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Reference and friends – read references of people who come in your house or where you are going. These references are written by people who have already welcomed via CS or people where they were. Here you can see how other people have spent their time, what that person likes to (and that they were not wrote it by theirself) and you can get a little more realistic insight. See if this person has friends and where they are, whether they really socialize with people from all over the world.
- Find out about local holidays and days off – for example, when I asked the hosts for the two of us in Sicily this year in the first half of August, I did not even take a note about the fact that the Italians then have a collective vacations or simply not there! Only when I saw that almost nobody answers, I wondered what’s the problem, and then few people told me that this is a period of annual leave and that they then travel abroad and can´t receive visitors. Then I realized that this is just a period in which it is difficult to find a host in the country. I also noticed how the foreigners “whine” when they arrive in Belgrade around May 1st and constantly ask, “Is there anyone that stays in the city in this time of a year?”
My first experience
Let’s go back now to my trip to Vienna. Guided by this written above, I made a profile, wrote something about myself and sent a couple of requests. After a few days, I received a positive answer from a Mexican studying in Vienna. Not only that he has found the host, but the girl is speaking Spanish, it couldn’t be better.
I remember that she said that she is going to pick me up at the bus station. It was strange that someone who does not know me and who receives free in their apartment, still wants to meet me at the station. In the two days I spent at Corine, it was awesome. Not only that I was able to spend two nights in Vienna without having to pay anything, but I met many of her friends, had my own guide and generally spent a great little vacation.
Since that day, CouchSurfing has become a part of my life and where ever I’d traveled, usually would go on this way. Through my apartment have passed people from over 15 countries, and I’ve had the opportunity to be a guest in as many cities.
Some of the best people I’ve ever met, I’ve found via the CouchSurfing. When someone asked me what was my best Couchsurfing experience, I would find it difficult to answer. Maybe it was six days in Istanbul in the house with my now good friend Mehmet, hosting Nathan Brazil, Gabriela from Argentina, King and Ewelina from Polish or great time with Manuel Valencia and Laurens in Malta. Simply, there were too many good moments and moments in my career at CouchSurfing, so couldn’t single out the best one.