As a member for the last 4 years and experiencing Couchsurfing in all its faces and been part of all what it offers I would like to share my experience with you in hope that you can take advantage of it and hopefully I can help you learning how to use it.
When I first heard about Couchsurfing I was excited and skeptical at same time. As much as we like to be in people’s houses when we travel but it’s hard to trust people nowadays.
I still remember my first experience in CS. 24hours after I created a profile I received the first request from a person looking to go around town. He was coming with a ship to Tunisia for few hours layover and wanted to check out the city.I jumped into the occasion as I at that time I was not working and I had nothing to loose and not much risk to take.
I went I met this guy in his mid forty with his teenager son and another local Couchsurfer joined in to take him around. Here I am in no time I made new friends from abroad and locally. We had great time and both the local and traveler csers have been long enough in CS so they made me the greatest introduction ever about the concept. Since then I got hooked up to it.
In a second stage I started going to the local weeklies ( a meet up of local couchsurfers that happens once a week where traveler and local csers meet in town.) and I started meeting these travelers who are curious to know the culture, to learn new things and we all come together as kids who share same hobby: enjoying life while exploring the world. I started traveling around my country with travelers, seeing it from different angle.
After 6 months from using it locally, while I was getting ready for a trip with a friend of mine, I felt confident enough about the network and I thought I give it a try abroad. It was in Turkey when I first used it and it was an excellent experience. People were very welcoming, opening their houses to me like I was a member of the family. Gave me keys to their houses and gave me their time to show me around and teach me about their culture, their life stories and introduce me to their friends and family. It was a brilliant and amazing traveling experience.
Since my trip to Turkey I couldn’t see myself traveling other than by meeting couchsurfers wherever I go.
Why would I trust couchsurfing or how can I trust a couchsrufer?
The main question that everyone asks when you explain what couchsurfing is (if you only talk about the hospitality part).
The answer is very easy. The website was built with many features that would allow its members to find who is worth to trust and who is not. 3 main features you have to look for when you are looking at people’s profiles to know if they are worth to trust or not:
- Safety always matter the most: Couchsurfing has 2 main icons that are in the top of someone’s profile next to his picture: One is Identity Checked and the other Location Verified. What these 2 icons mean is that the person in that profile made a payment to CS with his of her credit card and allowed cs to send sort of post card to his or her house in order to confirm the address. These two are very important and as you use couchsurfing properly when requesting a couch you know that someone more than you and the host know where you would be. So you don’t have to worry about being kidnapped.
- If you never been there, someone else has been there:
Also helps you to identify if the place you are looking to stay in is safe or not. Reference are reference from people who stayed before in that person’s place. People try to be very fair and sometimes give more details than what you need about the person. My recommendation is that don’t get tired of reading all of them and if they are many look at this table below:
Don’t trust the person just because he does has 40 references and be happy to find that negative one in those references. Jump on it and read it, if no negative look at the neutral ones. Unfortunately people sometimes feel the obligation obligation not to leave a negative reference just because the person hosted them, which makes it sometimes difficult to know to what extent should you trust those references. So you your job is really to read those close to negative reference if no negative one to know to what extent you should trust that person.
At the end of the day negative reference doesn’t mean you can’t trust them, it might just be that both csers didn’t get along and the experience was negative for that particular person. But worth to consider as you might not like it neither.
- CSer must be trustworthy if he or she is vouched for: Vouching is a trust system established by Couchsurfing and members are responsible to keep it working. It is the highest trust degree in the website. Basically the builder of the website are the first members that were able to vouch for people. After that only the people who have been vouched for 3 times can vouch for others. I can tell you it is hard to be vouch for. Members who have it, really take it very seriously, and don’t give it to anyone. So if you see someone has been vouched for there are big chances that the person is worth the trust. So always look for it but don’t trust it by itself always look for more indication that the person is worth it.
Couchsurfing is more than surfing people’s couch
But couchsurfing doesn’t make the trip unique for only the hosting part it does have more than that into it.
Most definition even the one that is in couchsurfing itself it says it is hospital exchange website provides a platform for members to “surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home, host travelers, or join an event.
Couchsurfing is larger and bigger than just staying for free in people’s house. In fact, I think, what’s outside the hospitality part is much more important and richer and there is less risk involved for whoever still not dare to stay in other’s houses.
Couchsurfing become my travel guide:
As soon as I pick a country I want to visit, I join the country’s CS group, post my travel plan and start asking the locals about their recommendation about what to do and where to go, what to eat how to dress and check if any other traveler is going to be there. Any small or big question I had in my head I just needed to put it in the group and I would receive the most accurate answer. Neither Lonely Planet nor any other travel guide had the daily news about the country I was going to, it made my traveling very practical.
Couchsurfing become my hobby international club:
How fun it is to travel to a country I have never been in and find myself meeting people who share same hobby as me to tell me about the places I should go to or even meet up to share experience, stories or even going to same events. How fun it was for me to meet photographers in every country I have been in.
Couchsurfing become my everything-traveling source:
Every time I thought about anything that was related to traveling I just turned to CS as I knew I would know the answer. Be it finding volunteer job, recommendation of cheap flights, discussion about longterm traveling nomad life, visa issue and requirements…. anything and everything that is related to cs I knew I can find it there.
If you want to read more on CS: https://support.couchsurfing.org/categories/20085278-Using-Couchsurfing