Having gained popularity in recent years, many people enjoy couch surfing as a way to enjoy free accommodation and allow them to travel on a low budget. Travel enthusiast Miri shares with us her experience of cloud surfing and tips on how to stay safe.
“Couch Surfing is the best way to meet and integrate with amazing locals and make lifelong friends while you travel.”
What the hell is Couch Surfing?
There is a website called www.couchsurfing.com where you can find hosts who offer free accommodation for travellers, anywhere in the world. It’s the online hub and premier social site for helping budget travelers and backpackers meet potential hosts all over the world.
Some hosts are often travellers themselves, or former travellers, or even expatriates who moved to another country and want to stay in touch with the travel world. On the other hand, many hosts are locals who are interested in making friends from other countries or practicing English. They all have one thing in common: they all open their homes with a warm heart to strangers for free.
What is your experience with couch surfing to date?
I’ve travelled all over the U.S. staying at Couch Surfer’s homes everywhere. I spent 5 weeks in Hawaii without spending a dime on accommodation by utilising Couch Surfing and am currently travelling across Mexico, doing the same thing.
I really love this way of travelling, because besides saving a lot of money on accommodation, I have met so many interesting, great and generous people, who would never have crossed my path had I been staying in hotels. I like sharing stories and life experiences with them and listening to their stories, because you can always learn something from everybody.
On the other hand, they can show you the real face of the place you visit. I don’t like being a real tourist as much as I love hanging out with locals, going to places where they go and doing things what they do. In my opinion this is how you can have a real picture of foreign places. When I was in Maui for example, my host took me to lots of places which are not even marked on the map or in guide books, they are only known by locals who have lived there for ages. Sometimes there were just the two of us hiking in the middle of the rainforest, surrounded by nature, beautiful birds and waterfalls, without meeting anybody during the entire hike. It was wonderful!! And I wouldn’t have seen those places if I didn’t stayed with him.
Is Couch Surfing safe?
So far I have only had good experiences. All my hosts were really awesome and I have made so many friendships through Couch Surfing already. I still keep in touch with many of the people I have met, meaning I have friends all over the planet and always have people to meet up with when I am travelling!
Having shared all the amazing experiences I have had from couch surfing, I know there are also horror stories that people tell and still a lot of fears surrounding cloud surfing. How can you make sure your host is a good person when you have never met them? I think the number one way to stay safe is to spend time reading all the reviews about the hosts written by other couch surfers, who stayed with them already. You can then try to ensure the reviewers are genuine people with genuine experiences. A little research before hand can go a long way to safe guard your experience.
Useful tips I use to stay safe:
I only write to hosts who have reviews on their page already. I always make sure to read all the reviews in full and also spend time checking these reviewers are genuine. I know this makes it hard for new people to build up on the site but for me as a woman travelling alone I found it very important to ensure my safety.
I also monitor the language and try to read into the deeper meaning behind reviews. For example if someone has quite a few good reviews but they only say they ‘liked the host” or “Everything was good”, it gives me the feeling that they just didn’t want to give a bad review. I feel if someone really enjoyed staying with someone, they would more likely write a long explanation including specific reasons as to why it was so memorable to them.
Last but not least most hosts are boys for some reason. Travelling as a young girl, you have to make sure that they are not on couch surfing only because they want to hook up with somebody. One way to try and ensure this is to always check if they welcome only girls, or girls and boys (they have to set it up on their page which gender they prefer). If they only host girls, it makes me assume they are looking to hook up and I do not send them a request.
This isn’t a one sided issue and I actually met hosts who had the same problem with travellers trying to hook up with them. My host in Maui for example didn’t want to host me when I sent him a request, because he said he had some troubles with single girls already who had stayed at his place. When I shared my story with him and explained that I am recently divorced and I’m going to Hawaii to clear my mind and enjoy my life, he accepted my request. It turned out he could totally relate to my story and despite only planning to stay for 5 days I ended up staying there for 3 weeks since we became such good friends and had so much fun together. We still keep in touch and he is planning to visit me soon.
Where are you travelling now/next?
Currently I’m in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and I have such blast with my host. He is a 65 year old guy from Texas, who moved here 5 years ago. He is such an awesome person. He showed me around the city with his motorbike and took me to two different local markets, we had a great BBQ last night with great conversation.
He has a very cute home located a ten minute walk from the centre with lots of plants in the garden and a great rooftop terrace overlooking the city.
We are having a lot of fun together, I wish I could stay longer than 4 days, but I gotta keep going to see other places, too!
You can find her blog on steemit