Couchsurfing is one of the best ways to meet locals, make friends for life and just experience a new destination in the best possible manner. However, it can be both good and bad. So I collated few stories from the Couchsurfing community to make you aware of what could go wrong and why, if you are careful, it can be the best travel experience ever.
So here, I bring to you 7 Couchsurfing stories from expert surfers.
You will find them to be a mix of hospitable as well as downright horrific experiences. Before I ruin the suspense for you, here goes –
#1 – Brenda Mejia of Traveleira
I have been using Couchsurfing for more than 4 years and it has been one of the most useful resources when it comes to traveling or getting to know the world better. I have used it as a host, as a guest and also as a tool to
meet people while traveling. I have made dear friends from everywhere with whom I always keep in touch.
My best experiences beyond just that providing or receiving a couch comes more by getting to know the people. Every time I travel to a new place I get to meet amazing travelers with whom I share experiences and life interests.
Some of them have actually become more than just friends, and I am glad that I have met so many mature people with whom I have been able to develop deeper relationships.
Thanks to Couchsurfing I was able to know one of my best friends, Diana, even though we are far from each other. Diana first came to Puerto Rico and we just met and I helped her finding her way around San Juan. We are that close because we can talk about many topics, even about those on which we don’t agree that much.
A few months later after her visit to Puerto Rico I was able to return the visit and we met in Stockholm. She showed me around the city and she took me to a Swedish picnic in the park. Last November, I went back to Sweden and definitely surfed Diana’s couch. I am so glad that I have a friend like her in my life.
I always tell people that they should use Couchsurfing every time they travel. Even though if you are one of those who are not open to the idea of staying in a “stranger’s” house, you should use it to meet someone you can actually go out and drink in a café with.
#2 – Vicky Carter of VickyBlueEyes
I believe Couchsurfing is fundamentally a fantastic concept and is wonderfully useful and a fantastic way to travel when used well and appropriately. Unfortunately, a large number of Couchsurfing users think Couchsurfing is a way to hook up with locals, or a free sofa. Couchsurfing is a cultural exchange between two people from different areas of the world, and has nothing sexual to do with it.
The reason that I emphasize on this point is that I have had some encounters with this, the one that sticks out the most is when I hosted two different pairs of guys, (both who immediately told me their ambition in wanting to sleep with a British woman) one from Germany and one from France stay with me. They spent their days exploring Manchester and when darkness flooded the city of Manchester, I became their tour guide (I was a student at the time and loved to go out). The first evening I only had the German pair stay with me, who at the venue I brought them to with a male mate of mine, spent the whole night searching for women together, leaving me to dance with strangers. The second night when the French pair than stayed with us, who were now sleeping on the sofas as the spare room was taken and complained about it- ermmm it’s called couchsurfing for a reason?! I brought out a female friend on the second night and we went to a few bars.
Finding out she was single one of the French guys spent the whole night chatting her up, much to her own amusement, She was polite and friendly with him but didn’t suggest anything at all. Taking a taxi home, the French man left with her, saying he wanted to walk her to her door (which in fact she told me he tried to kiss her and she ran into her house and slammed the door in his face). He then turned up at my house rejected, drunk and disappointed and started to chat me up whilst I began to take off my make up complimenting me on my natural face and asking if I wanted a foot massage! The bloody cheek! I locked my room that night!)
Not only have I hosted, but also surfed at people’s houses all over the world and on the whole I have had positive experiences, like being wined and dined because a British businessman was lonely in Nepal, driven around KL like a VIP, given a historical tour of Melakka and made close friends with a woman who moved to Manchester and needed a place to stay. But I have also the above experience happen, had a father in New Zealand want me to come to some local naked baths, I’ve stayed under the stairs in a cupboard, and also been forgotten about and left to find my own way to some accommodation in the middle of the night arriving into the country in Sri Lanka. When using Couchsurfing always be clear with your purpose, follow your gut instinct, and have addresses of accommodation prepared in advance.
#3 – Bianca Jade of The Altruistic Traveller
The thing I love the most about couchsurfing is that it really is a wonderful act of kindness. Inviting another into your home free of charge to let them experience your country and your culture just because you, as a traveller, understand that travelling is such an important part of understanding our world. The other thing I love about couchsurfing is that it breaks down cultural barriers and has no room for prejudice. It’s just two people from different countries exchanging kindness and sharing common interests.
My first couchsurfing experience was with a Muslim girl from Kuala Lumpur. She invited me into her home, took me to her favourite places, shared with me her favourite foods and stories about her life, her culture, her successes, her challenges. I won’t sugar coat things and say we don’t live in a world full of prejudice and stereotype because unfortunately we do, but spending time with Ira really helped me to break down any stereotypes and misconceptions I had and helped me to connect and understand a person not only from a different culture, but from a different religion as well. I can only speak positively about the opportunities that couchsurfing has opened for people around the world to easily connect with each other and learn about the world we live in. For the few that don’t use it as a platform for this, at least the app’s reviews and ratings can aid our decisions.
#4 – Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across the World
During my last trip to South America, I was on my way to Mendoza, Argentina from San Pedro de Atacama, in Chile. I decided to break the journey in Santiago for a few days, to recharge my batteries after spending 24 hours on a bus. I had been looking for couch surf hosts for a while and I settled on Francisco’s: he seemed like a nice guy, we had been talking for a month via email and facebook and I thought it would work out. Yet, once I arrived there, he didn’t show up at the bus station as he had said he would. I tried calling him but his phone was off. I decided to make my way to his place by taxi (I was exhausted after the long bus ride) and once there, he wouldn’t even open the door. I had to insist till he did: he was still asleep. He apologized for not showing up saying that, as he had supposedly told me, he had some sleeping issues – but he hadn’t.
I looked around his place and saying it was filthy is a understatement. The bathroom looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a year; the living room and the kitchen were covered in garbage and dirty dishes (even on the couch where I was supposed to sleep). I wasn’t too happy with that, but I decided to stay anyways. I thought it may still be a good way to experience Santiago.
I showered and went out, and Francisco went to work. He promised we’d go somewhere for dinner that night. I was hoping for something quiet as I was so tired, but when I got back I found a full blown party was going on, and the only dinner we’d have were some french fries. That’s when I decided to leave. I got my bags and checked in at the nearest hostel.
#5 – Penny Sadler of Adventures Of a Carryon
One of my best vacation memories is my first and only couch surfing experience in a small town in northern Italy.
This trip came at a time in my life when I was under quite a lot of stress and really needed to get away. Only Italy would do. That’s another story.
I didn’t think I could get a host for more than a day or two at a time and was trying to sort out how I could afford to pay for accommodations and airfare. Then, miraculously, Angelo offered to host me for an entire week. With accommodations taken care of, I booked my airfare immediately.
Angelo was an experienced couch surfing host and made me comfortable immediately. He picked me up at the train station, showed me around his town, which wasn’t too big but big enough to be interesting, and he knew a lot about the history so he was a really great tour guide. He worked during the day but we would meet in the evening for dinner or go out for a gelato and a walk, a typical Italian pastime. I met his friends, took the train and explored a new city every day, and just generally had this incredibly relaxing stress-free week, which was exactly what I needed. Exploring an area of Italy that I had never experienced before was the perfect way to forget myself completely.
Many people have asked me if I felt nervous about staying with a stranger. The answer is no, because a friend of mine had already stayed with Angelo so I knew that I’d be safe with him. But he also had many good references on his couch surfing profile and knowing what I know now I probably would’ve stayed with him anyway. Couch surfing is a great way to immerse yourself in a culture or just to get to know an area more intimately, as if you live there.
I’m still in touch with Angelo today and saw him just last year for a few days. I feel that I have made a lifelong friend in Italy.
#6 – Aleah Taboclaon of Solitary Wanderer
I have a lot of memorable Couchsurfing stories (I’ve been a member since 2007), but this will always remain a favorite.
In 2012, I backpacked solo in Europe for 70 days. A couple of days before I was to arrive in Budapest, my host emailed me and told me that she would be out of town on the day I was to arrive, because her mother had died.
I thought she meant that I couldn’t stay with her anymore, and of course, I totally understood. However, I was floored when she said that I could still stay in her apartment even if she wasn’t there. A friend of hers would meet me at the train station and give me the keys to her place.
I was speechless. This woman hadn’t met me in person; she only knew me through Couchsurfing and we had only exchanged messages twice. And yet, she trusted me completely to take care of her house and her cat.
Needless to say, I accepted her offer and spent several days alone in her apartment with her cat, meeting her only on the last day of my stay there when she came back to the city.
That happened four years ago, but her gift of trust still remains with me, reminding me all the time of the goodness of people around me and keeping my faith in humanity despite everything.
Related reading from my Couchsurfing 101 series –
CouchSurfing 101 – It’s not Just a Free Couch !
CouchSurfing 101 – How to be a Good Guest
Couchsurfing 101 – How to Send a Proper Couch Request