This post is long overdue as I have been Couchsurfing now for about two and a half years. I have been asked numerous times about Couchsurfing and the dangers of traveling alone and choosing to surf. I am going to attempt to address numerous questions I have received and explain why I believe Couchsurfing is a great option when traveling.
For those who have never Couchsurfed before, the idea might seem foreign, scary, bizarre, or even insane. When explaining what Couchsurfing is to people who have never heard of it before, I often get looks of confusion and questions asking why I would choose to do such a thing.
When I first decided to Couchsurf in 2011, I was on my way to the Philippines from my home in South Korea. Before I moved to South Korea, I had never heard of Couchsurfing. I was introduced to the website while living in Korea and decided I wanted to try it out for myself. I liked the idea of getting to a know a place locally through the eyes of someone who lives in a particular place rather than staying in a hotel or hostel and fending for myself to escape from the tourists.
My first Couchsurfing host was a man named Japs, who lived right outside of Manila in the Philippines. I chose him based on what his references said about him and the information he had listed on his profile. I contacted Japs and asked him if I could stay with him during my upcoming trip to Manila. He accepted my request and for weeks we stayed in contact prior to my arrival. My experience with Japs was excellent. He explained how to travel around the Philippines, he gave me invaluable advice, and he even took me diving with his friends. It was a priceless experience I never would have had if I had gone the route of staying in a hotel or crashing at a hostel. It also opened me up to the amazingness of Couchsurfing and to new and interesting experiences.
Since 2011, I have surfed with over ten individuals and couples in six countries (South Korea, Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Spain). I have also traveled with individuals who happened to be in the same country as me at the same time, and I have also participated in numerous Couchsurfing outings and events. Some of my favorite memories in a country have been CS related.
Benefits of Couchsurfing
While many people see Couchsurfing as a way to save costs when traveling (it is free), I see it more as an opportunity to meet new people, learn about new cultures, discover new foods and places, and create lifelong friendships along the way (the free part is just an added bonus).
What do hosts get out of it?
I have been asked this question time and time again: why would someone let you stay in their home for free? What do they get out of it? Hosts and surfers get the same benefits: creating meaningful experiences with people around the world and hopefully creating bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime.
Is Couchsurfing safe?
I would say CS is as safe as any accommodation you choose to stay in during your journeys. My advice is ALWAYS do your research. There are instances where you might get yourself in a sticky situation if you are not careful, so it is best to always check someone’s references, make sure they have (at least) a couple of clear images, make sure they have information on their profile, and go with your gut. Remember: you are not just staying with a stranger, a stranger is opening up their home to you as well.
I’m interested. How do I begin?
There have been numerous posts written on Couchsurfing, so I will not beat the topic to death. Instead, I will direct you to the website of travel blogger IcedChai and their post ‘How to Use Couchsurfing‘. For any further questions, please feel free to ask them below!
*Side Note: Couchsurfing is now operating (for-profit), which I do not completely agree with. A lot of talk in the CS community by outraged surfers has led them to a new (not-for-profit) site called BeWelcome. Same concept as the old CS, more community-minded people, just so you know that you have options.
Have you participated in Couchsurfing before?
– This post was part of the Sunday Traveler Series –