Why Couchsurfing Is The Cheapest Way to Travel And The Best Way To Meet People!
COUCHSURFING!!!! You, yes you need to couchsurf!
Let me preface this with I am a black female who travels solo. I travel the world by myself and thoroughly relish being alone while I conquer the world. I love to travel internationally and visit as many countries as possible. To do this I need to travel as cheap as possible and that is where Couchsurfing comes into play. I had vaguely heard about Couchsurfing years ago, but wasn't sure what it was and not sure if it interested me. Fast forward to 2015 when I was planning my 10-day trip during the holidays to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland and I did not want to spend a lot of money on lodging. It was then I decided to look into Couchsurfing. I perused the website which was pretty easy to manage. The website expects a few things out of you to make the experience safe and secure for everyone involved which are:
1. $20 yearly fee for identity verification
2. Government ID verification
3. Address verification (if you host)
4. Phone number verification
These things are all very important to me because it helps me know that the people who are on this site are who they say they are.
This site's main page allows you to look at biographical information, pictures, home information, but most importantly- references. The references part is what I live and die by, and you should as well. These references give you the information about the person or people you will be staying with that doesn't come from directly them, it comes from those who have stayed with them. The references give you an idea of what other people think about them as a host or someone who has been hosted.
The references show you the type of people they host; are they hosting both genders, people of color, singles, couples, and etc. Do they host everyone and have great reviews from everyone. Do they cancel at the last minute and force people to have to hunt for a place to stay. Are they nudists and expect you to be nude as well? Do they take people at the last minute? What do the references say about their personality? Were they adaptable, patient, willing to work with your schedule (both as host or hosted)?
Once you have looked at the person, their references, their availability, and bio the next thing you would do is message them a request to stay and why you want to stay with them. This is important for both of you to determine if it is a match. You want to make sure it is a match as you will be staying with them and want to make sure it will work out.
After you have received an answer you can confirm or cancel. Please make sure you are respectful in whatever you do. Just as you do not want someone to no-show, please do not do that to someone else.
I started Couchsurfing in 2015 as a way to save money, but now I do it to meet awesome people around the world and hear their views of their country. I also have hosted surfers as well and met amazing people I was lucky enough to help out.
If you are a beginner surfer please make sure you have your bio completely filled out, have an adequate amount of pictures of yourself and your property, and lastly an understanding that it is a risk for someone to stay or host you those first few times if you have no references. When messaging people make it clear you understand their concerns.
Now comes the fun stuff! I have been hosted about 10 times and have hosted as well, and let me tell you I have met the coolest people! To give you a rundown I have only stayed with a few women. The rest have been men, and polite, respectful, and considerate.
Some who I have stayed with are:
Scotland- James, who I was the first person he hosted and he wanted to host to go on a jazz tour of the US.
Sweden- Helen, who owned her own art gallery, was an amazing artist, and so kind.
Northern Ireland- Ricki, who I stayed with over Christmas break and taught me about Belfast and its history.
Dallas, TX- Joel who let me stay with him, his sister, and brother-in-law which were all really cool people.
Barcelona, Spain- Laura, who gave me the history of Catalonia and was a great conversationalist.
Helsinki, Finland- Ari who was kind enough to let me stay with him at literally the very last minute.
There are more people that were awesome, and kind, who let me stay in their house, fed me, and took care of me as their own. They would take time out of their schedule to walk me around and talk to me about their city. They would pick me up or drop me off. They would buy me a drink and chat for hours even though they had work in the morning. More importantly, they were really kind and treated me as a friend. Many of them I still keep in touch with!
Many I have stayed with has been white and male, with maybe three hosts being people of color, and I have stayed with a few women who have been great. I know some of you ask why race or gender is even mentioned, but as a person of color, it is very important, and truly can be life or death. Along with being a woman, I have to worry if I can be safe staying somewhere because of the color of my skin. At the end of the day I have to be safe, and might not request someone or let someone stay with me if I am not sure if they would be a good host to someone who looks like me. If I don't see people of color leaving references then that is a red flag for me.
Whenever you stay with someone think of a few things:
1. How long do you want to stay that is comfortable for both yourself and the host. As a host, I do not want someone more than three nights. After that my style is cramped.
2. How close is the place to local transportation? You do not to have to taxi to their place or walk for a long distance.
3. Are they looking for someone to hang out with all the time or do they want to just chill with you and occasionally chat?
4. Where will you be sleeping? I don't care if it is a bed, an air mattress or couch. Some people care.
5. Lastly, ask them how they want you to leave the room when you leave. Do they want you to remake the bed or do they want you to strip it and leave it in the corner for them to wash. I made one mistake thinking the girl was going to strip the bed for the next person. Wrong, she wanted to bed to be fully made, which confused me. Don't let this happen to you, just ask what they want you to do with the linens, especially if they aren't there when you leave. Make sure you put all garbage and recycling where it needs to go. Do not treat this as your house, treat it better. Because if you do not, too many negative reviews will make you unhostable.
Always bring a thank you gift. I like to bring things only from North Carolina so that I am giving them a thoughtful gift. There was one woman I hosted during Christmas time who drew me an amazing picture of my cat that I had framed.
With all of that said, go make a profile and get to couchsurfing!
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