This is the first in a five-part series on couchsurfing by Cherie Foo.
I can’t remember how I discovered couchsurfing, exactly.
But let’s not pretend for a second that I decided to try it out because I was enamoured by the promises of friendship, camaraderie and unforgettable experiences – I have to admit, its main attraction lay in the fact that it provided the young and perpetually broke (hands up!) with a way to travel the world on a tight budget. But as I experienced it for myself, cheesy as it sounds, I felt the magic.
And I never looked back.
What is couchsurfing, you say? It’s a platform where hosts from all over the world offer travellers their places to stay (this can range from a spare bedroom to a bed in a shared room, to even a couch), and travellers can look for hosts and request to surf at their places whilst they’re in these respective countries.
My first time couchsurfing was in Hanoi, Vietnam in January 2013. Since then, I’ve couchsurfed in quite a few different countries, and I’m always actively championing it and recommending it to anyone who will listen.
Q: You’re staying with a stranger?! That sounds dangerous!
A: My favourite way to answer this would be by saying, strangers are friends waiting to be met! ;)
But that aside, I do acknowledge that there’s a certain amount of danger, as there is with anything we choose to do, really – including crossing the road! You can however take steps to minimize the danger, such as looking through your host’s testimonials, and checking to see if he/she is a verified member of the couchsurfing community. (More on that in a subsequent article!)
Q: Does it really cost nothing?
A: Technically yes, but I always try to be a gracious guest by bringing something for my host, and also for getting groceries for them if we’re cooking at home together. If not, I’ll buy them a meal outside!
Q: Do you have to host people in return?
A: No, not necessarily. Some people do both surfing and hosting, some just host, and some just surf. Because I’m still staying with my parents (and because they’re really old-school), I can’t really host, but I meet travellers in Singapore to show them around. I definitely want to host people when I have a place of my own, though!
Q: Do you need to interact heavily with my host?
A: This depends on your host’s schedule, but generally, the community frowns upon people who are surfing just to get free accommodation, and have no interest in getting to know their host(s). Do not be one of those people! If your host has the time, make it a point to hang out with him/her – you’ll find that it gives you a much better experience than you would have if you just do typical tourist things.
Q: Sounds awesome! Where do I sign up?
Visit the site here, and check back next week for more articles on how to make the best of your couchsurfing experience.