Couchsurfing is not my idea. It is however a great passion of mine. Simply, couchsurfing is the best way to experience life and the many cultures, people, and vibrant backgrounds of this crazy space rock (earth, for those not thinking outside the tube) we all live on.
Couchsurfing is simple and easy. Anyone can do it anytime, even if your not traveling! Basically, the internet and the millions of people on it are all now your friends who will be happy to put you up and let you sleep on their spare couch, bed, floor, or whatever room you may have. In return you agree to let other people from the couchsurfing community come into your home and you can return the favor. It's sort of like having friends all over the world while also having guests all over the world. It's the most wonderful experience and I would recommend it to everyone!
Not only is couchsurfing free, but it's also traveling green. Think about how much energy is consumed by the entire hospitality business. Save the world and enjoy it at the same time!!
There are other websites but primarily I use couchsurfing.com
Sometimes it can be a little difficult to get started, but there are some steps that will help you get out into that big world and get Couchsurfing!!!
Step 1: It's So Easy!!!
Log on to www.couchsurfing.com
Simply register your username and password and then build your personal webpage. Your webpage is sort of like facebook or myspace. Make sure to fill in plenty of information about yourself and be honest. People will look at your profile and determine whether or not they want you staying in their home.
Now search for a couch. Where are you traveling this summer? Look around, there are open couches just about everywhere in the world. It's as easy as sending another couchsurfing member an email to say hello and I'd like to surf your couch. Remember to say please : )
If your not traveling, just post your information on your personal page and make sure to include your location and what kind of accommodation you could possibly offer. Then just wait for an email to come. If your in a large city, an email will come very quickly and they will come often. If your in a rural ara your not likely to get a lot of people heading your way but a few certainly trickle off the beaten path.
Also, if your not traveling you can jsut couchsurf your own city!! It's a fun way to experience your own culture and meet some people witha differnt perspectives of your own little world!! TRY IT!!!
Here is the most Important step: HAVE FUN AND ENJOY LIFE!! Couchsurfing allows you to see many differnt cultures form the comfort of your own home or to experience a culture like a local. No more being a tourist! You are officially a citizen of the world and know every little nook and cranny that offers the best place to eat, best clubs to go to, best museums that are free, etc. etc. the list goes on!!! The tools couchsurfing gives you allows you to to much more than just surf someones couch. There are also people that get together with potlucks, meetings in your area, etc. The list jsut keeps going on!! I love it!! Just good people looking for a good time to experience a good life (and from my experience it's spam free...well mostly, spam seems to be a part of life no matter where you are).
The best part is that all of this is totally free!! You don't pay a dime for anything! You can however donate to the site which I think is a great way to support the program
Step 2: Some Tips and Suggestions
These tips are by no means a fool proof way to get someone to let you surf their couch but they have certainly helped me.
1. Plan in advance. Often you can couchsurf at a moments notice but it really helps to give people some heads up. The further in advance the better.
2. Be Honest and forthright! No one likes a liar!
3. Be creative! I lived in NYC for a time and got literally thousands of requests to surf my couch. If you've ever seen a NYC apartment you'll know space is a valuable commodity. Most of the emails were the basic "Hi, my name is _. i will be in town _. Can you host me?" Have fun and tell people something interesting about yourself. Everyone is interesting so share yourself. Most of all, stand apart from the crowd of people just looking for a free place to stay and nothing else. It's pretty easy to spot when someone sends out a mass email that is bland and boring. This is a community of people seeking to enjoy other cultures, perspectives, and viewpoints from wonderful people. So simply, be a wonderful person!! Tell them about instructables.comwww.instructables.com and how you will bring them something you built from the information you learned on this sweet website!
4. Don't get discouraged if you don't get a reply. Like I said, i lived in NYC and had thousands of requests. Could I answer all of them. No way!
5. Increase your chances of securing a host by emailing multiple people. it may take quite a few emails but if your creative and stand out you should get a couch.
6. Build your "resume" by hosting other people and making friends in the community that will vouch for you. Once you explore the site a bit you will understand how important it is to network and the best way to to do this is to host people.
7. Verify your membership!! This site is about trust and ultimately the idea that human beings are good. Never meet a stranger is an idealistic way to live but often hard for fear of what could happen. trust people, but be smart and take steps like verification to ensure that your trust and the community isn't being taken advantage of.
8. If you get accepted by a host then make sure to do something special so they appreciate having you in their life, not just their home. Do the dishes, cook a pizza, play a game, build them something, tell them stories, whatever it is that makes you special. Everyone has some sort of gift so share it with your new found friends. Make a good impression and make friends, you never know what kind of relationships you'll establish or when you'll need to surf their couch again.
9. MAKE SURE TO CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF!!! Be respectful of your host's home. They opened their lives to you so you should respect that and honor that by leaving the place a little better than when you came in. Pick some flowers and leave a nice note saying thank you and to keep in touch.
10. Leave feedback for otehr people and ask them to boost your profile by leaving feedback as well. It's sort of like ebay.
There are infinite ways to couchsurf, but mostly its all a big experiment and you never know what your gonna get so sit back and enjoy the ride!
For everyone's safety, especially females traveling alone, life can be dangerous. It's not cool that that's the reality but that is the reality. I'd say you shouldn't have a problem with the people on this site but you just never know. A few good rules to follow is this. Trust in people. Most are good. Trust in yourself. If you feel uncomfortable with a situation then get out of the situation anyway you can. Shoot first and ask questions later. Go with your Gut. Whatever it is in the back of your head that keeps you safe at the end of the day. Travel in small groups, females only couchsurf with female hosts, or try and call your host and express concerns over saftey, all great ways to ensure safety.
Also, I suggest you take alot of pictures, be active in the community, have faith in people and the courage to trust strangers, write a jornal to remember it all, and love as much as you can!!
If you have any other tips, suggestions, comments, or experiences with couch surfing please post below, i'd love to hear about it.
For now I bid you farewell.
Peace Love and Chickenwings
Check out my couchsurfing profile by searching for the username: parkerwoodward (tricky username huh?)