In this interview, we meet Constance, a resident of Connecticut who has traveled around the world and has participated in the Couchsurfing community.
Constance in Barcelona
What are some tips you have for being a great Couch Surfer?
I think great Couchsurfers are those who join for the love of travel and cultural exchange. Those who generally like to meet new people, learn about new cultures, and broaden their horizons through the exploration of foreign places.
Great couchsurfers thoroughly research their hosts and the place to which they are traveling. They are respectful of their hosts’ time and schedule, and they do what they can make their stay as seamless as possible.
One thing surfers must remember is that just because you are on vacation does not mean your host is on vacation so just be cognizant of that. All hosts are different, so just respect those differences. You can typically get a vibe from their profile that could help you understand what type of person your host is. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to have conversations with your host. You can learn so much from your hosts and surfers alike.
Be open, be present, make connections and have fun! That’s what it’s all about.
Constance in Paris
What has been your best Couchsurfing experience?
It is very hard to decide what has been my best Couchsurfing experience because I have had SO MANY amazing encounters with both hosts and surfers. At the risk of sounding cliche, I say with 100% honesty that I do not have a favorite experience.
One very notable experience that I had was in Italy 2013. I was doing a solo European backpacking trip during the summer. I was traveling from Milan to Florence and I had yet to hear from anyone who was willing to host me that evening. Then I received a message from a 26-year old woman named, Aquesha who offered her spare bed for the evening. We exchanged a few messages and then I met her at her rustic yet charming flat in the city center. She was a vibrant, spunky Bajan woman who was studying interior design in the city. Upon arrival, she walked me to the nearby market where we chatted about her experience as a black woman living in Italy, and bought some food for a CouchSurfing camping meetup that we would be attending later that evening. When we returned to her flat, she gave me a map of the city and basically sent me off. She had Italian lessons that day so I took the map and left to explore the city. I walked around the city for about 30 minutes and then I ran into a bus stop. I decided to just hop on the first bus that I saw and ride around. The bus was crowded but the view was beautiful. We rode through the city and then ended up in the Santa Maria Novella district. I walked around the city, tried different foods, pretended to do some shopping, and then hopped on another bus and hoped it would take me back to the city center. Once I returned to Aquesha’s apartment, we packed up wine, prosciutto, melon, and pasta salad and took a cab to her Couchsurfing friend’s apartment. He was waiting for us outside by his car when we pulled up. He was an Italian man, probably in his early 40s, very attractive, and with his Couchsurfer who was from somewhere in South America. We were headed to a Couchsurfing meetup in the hills of Fiesole. While traveling up the mountain, it looked as though I were in a movie. I looked out and I could see the entire Tuscan region. The sun was beginning to set and the sky was a mixture of orange, yellow, and red. We stopped a few times on the way up to take pictures, then we finally made it to the camp site. It was a huge open green space enclosed with trees and a great view of Tuscany. There were dozens of tents set up around the perimeter and plenty of individual blankets and sleeping bags on the ground. The picnic table was set up with a ton of food and drinks, there was a fire and an abundance of meat. I was with Aquesha who was definitely the life of the party. She knew a lot of people there and introduced me to other Couchsurfers. The men there were looking super fine and some even made attempts to take us back to their tents for the night. They were unsuccessful. There was one guy from Israel, Tom, who caught my attention. He had long, beautiful dark hair with piercing blue eyes. He was charming, intelligent, and enthusiastic about traveling. I spoke with him for hours and found myself in love for the night. We sat around the campfire, ate delicious food, had drinks, sang songs, and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a perfect night.
What has been your worst Couchsurfing experience?
I actually haven’t had any bad experiences with Couchsurfing. There was one experience that made me a bit uncomfortable while I was in France. There was a guy whose name escapes me. He met me at the Fontaine Saint-Michel in the afternoon then we caught the train to his apartment which was a little ways outside of Paris proper. He was very personable and we got along very well. When we got to his apartment and he ran out to get drinks and food to cook. When he came back, he stripped down to his shirt and his shorts, which was actually kind of sexy, but I was confused. I wasn’t really sure if he was just making himself comfortable in his own house or trying to show off his huge bulge.I was in a relationship at the time so I wasn’t trying to look to hard and get tempted. He made a delicious egg pancake with onions and we enjoyed bread with cheese and olive oil over a candle lit table and wine. We sat and talked for a few hours before it was time for us to go to sleep. He had to work the next morning and I had an 8am to Barcelona so I needed my rest. Then he came in the living room and sat on the sofa bed on which I was lying. I opened my eyes and gasped, nervously. “Hi.” He said. My heart skipped a beat. “Ugh, hi….” I replied. He put his hand on my leg and I stopped breathing for a second. “Do you want to talk?” He asked. “Not really. I need to sleep.” I responded. Then he looked at me for a few seconds and I was a bit uncomfortable. Then he stood up and said, “Okay, get some rest. If I don’t see you in the morning, have a great time in Barcelona.” He walked back to his room and that was that. That was a very awkward moment and the only experience during Couchsurfing that I had that made me feel uncomfortable. I still wouldn’t classify it as a bad experience because everything else was great and honestly, if I was single, that conversation may have been a bit different.
What kind of presents do you recommend giving to your CS host?
I recommend always traveling with gifts from your country when you are planning to Couchsurf. I live in New Haven, Connecticut so I usually bring ‘Thank You’ cards and gifts from the Yale bookstore.
I think buying your host dinner is a nice gesture also. Be creative! I have received shot glasses, keychains, magnets, t-shirts, dinner, drinks, and stickers. Gifts are always nice mementos.
When choosing a host, what are some things to be aware of?
Always thoroughly read the profile of a potential host. Think about if they are a good match for you and if you think you would be a good match for them. Think about what type of experience you are trying to have on the trip and find the people who you think would most likely be able to help you achieve that.
I would look out for empty profiles for sure. If you get a weird vibe from a profile just keep it moving. Don’t try and stay with someone you don’t think you have anything in common with just for accommodation.
Lastly, CHECK OUT THE REFERENCES. Read them thoroughly. You can get some great information from the references and if there are any red flags, they will likely be in the references. Communicate with your host beforehand and you can get a better vibe from them. Use your senses when choosing a host.
Constance in Paris
What advice would you give to people who are afraid of participating in CS?
If you are afraid of Couchsurfing and willing to try it, I would say do your research.
Thousands of people worldwide have participated in Couchsurfing and have had amazing experiences, and I am confident that with proper research and sensibility, anyone can have a great time with Couchsurfing.
You get a totally different experience of a city when you Couchsurf because you are in a residential area and you get information about a city and its hot spots that are not readily available to other tourists. If you love meeting people and authentically experiencing different places, try CouchSurfing!
If you’re still wary, go to the local meetups in your city or join the website and meetup with the local Couchsurfers. Don’t be afraid to reach out! If you are afraid of participating in Couchsurfing and have no interest in participating that’s fine. A few things that are better left unsaid are:
- “I’m not trying to get killed or kidnapped!”
- “You’re crazy for doing that. That’s so dangerous.”
- “As a woman, you should not put yourself in those types of situations.”
- “If you can’t afford a hotel or hostel, you can’t afford to travel.”
Just be supportive. We are all adults and we know what we are doing. And if you’re not trying to help, please have a seat.
Couchsurding Event in Italy
Final Thoughts on Couch Surfing
Through Couchsurfing I have met some incredible people who have changed my perspective on the world and human nature.
I have had experiences in places from Barcelona to Salt Lake City that I would not have been able to have otherwise. I am grateful for my experiences and I am grateful for the ways my experiences have shaped me. I am eagerly looking forward to my future travels and my future CouchSurfing adventures!
Have you ever surfed before? Would you?
Interested in finding out more about Couchsurfing? Check out my post about How Couchsurfing Changed My Life.