Yeah dude, and I did it without a wetsuit! No, this Couchsurfing thing doesn’t actually involve riding waves on that free sofa you got off Craigslist. It does, however, involve meeting awesome people in new cities across the world and crashing at their places…for free. Now if you’re a skeptic like me and had a father who taught you from infancy that nothing in this world is free, well I guess there is a slight catch. You have to be willing to someday reciprocate the gesture of being a kind, awesome host. However, I’ve somehow come out ahead on this deal, as none of the people I’ve stayed with in New Zealand, Singapore, or Thailand have seemed to be intrigued by my offer of staying at my place in Wisconsin. Weird.
So how do you go about trusting a complete stranger and make sure you don’t end up as inspiration for the sequel to Wolf Creek? Well, common sense is definitely key here. For example, when my friend and I were looking for a place in New Zealand, we stayed away from the guy whose only interests included “hot chicks”. I tend to lean more towards those with 20+ references, which include previous surfers’ comments like “best host ever!”
Besides the financial benefits of this method of accommodation, it also lends hand to getting a local tour guide to show you the best places in town, without feeling too touristy. Hosts are usually more than excited to show off their city, or at least give you a list of the must-see places to check out. Best part of Couchsurfing besides that it’s great for a study abroad student’s budget? You open the door to new friendships around the world, either through your host or even their friends!
Basically, the Golden Rule is the underlying philosophy of the Couchsurfing community, and as fellow travelers know, not much is worse than getting your life as you know it (aka your backpack) stolen from someone you thought you could trust. I have asked all my hosts if they ever had any negative experiences through Couchsurfing, and was surprised and relieved to hear not one of them had…and one guy hosted over a hundred people!
So jump on board and get surfing with the 3 million strong community of trusting and trustworthy travelers! You’ll soon find yourself meeting new people, saving tons of cash, and forgetting what a hotel even looks like.