The Art of Couchsurfing
We all love saving money so if there is an opportunity to lower the costs of accommodations our eyes start sparkling. Some smart people in the USA combined two genuine travelers’ dreams: free accommodation + integration and named it Couchsurfing. But I would love to enhance the second part of this miracle. It is all about the integration. It is all about connection.
I know you have heard it millions of times IT IS NOT A HOTEL, but somehow our travel mates still make the same mistake dragging the stereotypes with it – free-riders and selfish millennials.
So let’s analyze all the long but exciting path for getting into touch with couch surfers all around the world. I have been Couchsurfing for more than 3 years now, and have met people with amazingly different backgrounds.
1. Build your profile!
Is it that difficult to sit down and write some simple sentence like “My name is John and I live in London. London is the capital of Great Britain heh”. You don’t have to be Shakespeare to complete each chapter of your profile. 5 min and done!
Photos! Forget about getting a host without normal photos. Best is from your travels, with friends, jumping from the waterfall or swimming with sharks.
Here is my profile 🙂
2. Get 5 references!
At least 5, dude! How? If no one accepts you yet due to the lack of them. Have you heard about the Hang-outs and CS events? Go, connect, integrate, and ask people to leave you a comment.
After a good CS event, you can gather easily 10 references. Just don’t be lazy,
3. Plan it!
2 weeks before the trip go and make a proper research of hosts in the city you are going to. After you write a good self-presenting request send it to 10-15 hosts and wait 2-3 days, so they reply (or not reply). Later, send 10-15 more. Repeat an action till you get any confirmation.
If you are going to a highly popular city, ex. Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, start searching 3 weeks before the trip.
Nowadays, top hosts are a bit pampered. They love a bit more attention to their profile, so they hide a keyword on the profile page and ask you to add it to your request so they know you took a look at their page. As for me, it is ridiculous but accept and forgive!
Pay specific attention to ‘My Home’ section – you don’t want to have high expectation and then understand that a stepping bag is awaiting you. Just be prepared! No 5-star hotels this time
Go to References and read at least 5 of them! It is good to know if some travelers complain about the cleanliness of the bathroom or are amazed by the hospitality. Choose wisely!
Also, references will provide you with the real name of the host, cause sometimes they love to be Brad Pitts and Supermen.
“Hey. I am John and I am coming to Berlin with two m friends tomorrow. Can you host us”
A bench in the park will host you! Damn, seriously! I am still shocked such requests exist.
NEVER EVER DO IT!
Spend a bit of your golden time and write something normal! Write something worthy!
- Talk about your travel experience – is it your first time here, why you coming, what’s your plan for the days here.
- Talk about your background – where you were born, educated, taught to make money and to flirt with that blondie. Open your history!
- Ask if he can give you any recommendations for the city (before asking for the hosting)
- Ask if he wants to spend some time hanging out.
- Ask for the place to sleep (not king’s bed, Jacuzzi, x-box or shrimps for dinner), just a place to sleep couple hours. YOU ARE TRAVELER
- Confirm your stay! Say thank you! Feels like I am your mom 🙂
Here are some requests that I have sent once before my trips. They got confirmed and now I am a close friend with those hosts:)
5. 2 days before the trip
Ask your host for the details:
- Time of arrival to his place
- Phone number
- Even if a host mentioned on his page he doesn’t want any presents, bring something small that you can share.
I usually bring: traditional chocolate of Ukraine or Poland; Small typical Bavarian sausages (but check if he/she is not vegetarian ); Postcards with some sweet wishes; Some typical alcohol – 100ml bottle of Ukrainian vodka, Spanish wine, or German beer is always a good idea.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to be funny if you are serious and love talking about financial crises. That’s ok. We all are different.
- Help as much as you can!
- Engage your host in some activities: walk in the city or cooking dinner together won’t hurt anyone
- Be punctual and respectful.
- Try to shorten that invisible distance between you and your host. Imagine that you are old friends – it helps to break the ice 🙂
7. After your stay!
- Stay in touch, if you liked the host
- Don’t stay in touch, if you didn’t like the host
- Leave a reference – TRUTH! If it was uncomfortable experience say it out loud but RESPECTFULLY
- I always mention some crucial points such as friendliness, open-mindedness, cleanliness, punctuality.
Shit happens. If you are a guy, or even worse – two guys, it might be challenging. But I’ve got some solutions for you!
1. Create Public Trip on CS
There is such option – just copy-paste your request using non-personalized form and wait:) some people invite travelers by themselves when they are bored.
2. Publish your request on CS groups
There are multiple groups for specific destinations. Search and share your request there.
3. Connect with travelers on Hang-outs or Events
Couchsurfing is a giant network of people willing to help each other. So ask them for some help. Most of the times they have friends in other cities who also host
4. Go to FB groups “Couchsurfers in Paris”, “CS for Erasmus Students” and so on
Post your request there (add a nice photo:)