I wrote this before on my Path account:
I do really love #Couchsurfing!!! It is not a matter of cheap accommodation, but it is a matter of feeling the city with those people who know it, talking with them, enjoying the place like locals, somehow, those conversations & many silly things I did with both my guests and hosts have changed the perspective of how I see the world or how to not judge things easily.
I strongly recommend you to try CS. It is challenging because u’ll host stranger or surf at complete stranger’s place, but you will be amazed of how many lessons and things you get from this hospitality community.
I admit, the first reason why I started joining CouchSurfing (CS) was because of my limited amount of money for traveling.
My first CS experience was in Vienna, Austria. It was my first experience in looking for a host, I sent an open request to all possible CS members in Vienna. Luckily, Nicole sent me an invitation to crash on her couch. I was so excited back then. Yeay! I got my first host. Honestly speaking, I was so nervous before meeting Nicole. I was like, “ok, this person I will meet is a stranger, I never met her before, only communicating through CS website.” I read Nicole’s profile before accepting her invitation so I assumed that I knew a bit about her. Nicole was super nice and she was working in a Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace – Schloß Schönbrunn on the day I came. She asked her flatmate, Yohanna from the US, to pick me up. Yohanna brought me to Nicole’s workplace then. Although I was so nervous beforehand, everything went really well. We talked about many things, we strolled around other Christmas Market in town, and Nicole even taught me some of her tea secret recipes!
What I didn’t expect from CS was: I got addicted to CS! Not because of its “free” hospitality, but more to the people on its community. I learned a lot through this journey with CS.
One of the reasons why I traveled during Christmas was because I missed my family. I love being around warm and nice people that make me like I am in the middle of a family. During Christmas when my friends went back to their house for Christmas and family gathering, I stayed with my CS hosts in Amsterdam, the Netherlands– I think I should call them “family”– and enjoyed Christmas atmosphere with them. Complete story in here.
CS also makes me feel like the world is super small. Yes it is already small enough. There is no such words like “thousand miles away”. During my holiday in Paris, I had the chance to meet my Parisian CS guests again and we enjoyed the evening together with French pancakes! (Complete story in here). Mommy, I have friends in all around the world!!! *yaaaay*
CS is not only about hosting and surfing but also meeting. There is a regular weekly CS meeting in Porto. I also have met some surfers who came to town but only want to have a coffee together. I met Anna, a surfer from Italy, a day before I went to Milan. She gave me many local insider suggestions of interesting places in Milan. She even advised me to go to Bergamo, which I didn’t plan at first but then I ended up falling in love with Bergamo, 1h from Milan.
Hamburg, Germany, is known for its night life in the famous Reeperbahn Street. I was so lucky to spend my Saturday night at Reeperbahn with Judith, my host in Hamburg, and her friends at the super mega crowded Reeperbahn. We enjoyed the night and I felt like a local Hamburger, how natives of Hamburg call themselves.
I asked my host in Odolena Voda, a small village near Prague, Czech Republic, what was her reason to join CS. She was a housewife and a mother of three little kiddos. She said, “I want my kids to see the world. I want them to know people from all around the world. It is interesting to have so many nationalities coming to our house and my kids are curious why those guests are different from them. It is also a way for my kids to learn to be open minded.” (Complete story in here).
I got inspired from her answer. When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me not to talk to strangers. Even though she told me that, she always talk to stranger she meets at the market. Always! She even has some new “housewife” friends because of that and they exchanged tips and tricks of getting cheap groceries. So does my father. He usually get new friends during a flight, even new business opportunities. My parents love to host people in our house but they are not strangers. Mostly are friends of mine or my siblings’. That’s why my siblings and I do enjoy hosting people and make them feel like they are in home.
And through CS, I learned that it is not only opening my door to strangers (which I’ll call them “friends” afterward), but also opening my heart and mind. As we already known, this world is so colourful. I learned that I cannot generalise people. In my country, I often heard how bad the Westernisation effects are to my country. imho, it is too generalised especially from those Hollywood movies. I learned to be more open minded and not to judge things based on looks or what I saw and heard on the media. I knew more of my guests and hosts after I spent days with them. Mostly, based on our conversation, my perspective on seeing the world has changed. Somehow, it even demystified those false issues I heard and vice versa, some people I met also asked me about those “bad” issues they heard about Islam.
CS is about mutual lifelong learning for both sides, to understand how beautiful and colourful the world and the world citizens are.
I am not a pro in CS. I am still learning. There are some tips that I might advise you based on my experiences so far:
1. Start joining CS and learn how it works in here.
2. Write the truth on your profile.
I know people want to look good outside. But in CS, I hereby advise you to tell the truth about you. I wrote that I prefer to host female guest and I also mentioned that I am not allowed to drink alcohol and eat pork. So far, it worked well for me! Both my guests and hosts understood and some hosts even helped to find non-pork food for me during my stay.
3. Read your host’s profile before asking them to host you
I often got requests in Portuguese just because I live in Porto right now. Well, if they read my profile, they will know that I am Indonesian. Sorry to say, but I usually ignored and didn’t try to translate that request. I met also some surfers who appreciate people who read their profile first before asking them a personal couch request.
4. Similar to previous point, read your surfer’s profile before accepting them
You know the reasons why you want to spend days with them.
5. Do not bother to tell your host about your itineraries
Some people might be shy about that because they just met their host. But don’t worry, this is how we learn to be open minded. Tell your host about your itinerary, what are you going to do in the city, and you can adjust it with your host. Some hosts are might be able to accompany or show you around, some are not.
6. And vice versa, do not bother to tell your guest about your condition
One of my hosts told me that he didn’t have a job at that time so he couldn’t pay me for food. I accepted that and I offered to cook. Well, CS is about mutual relationship, isn’t it? In the meantime, I was happy to cook as well😉
7. Open request VS personal couch request
It depends on person. As time goes by, I prefer to send a personal couch request. Some requests are accepted, some are not. or even worse, some are not replied. If I have tried to send many personal couch request but none are positive, I usually send an open request to possible hosts in that city.
8. Do not forget: sometimes unwanted thing happen
One of my requests got a YES answer so I didnt book any room for that city. Unfortunately, that person didn’t inform me again and I ended up without any host in that city. Luckily, a friend of mine saved my life by offering her couch.
9. and most importantly, taken from CS’s Value: Leave It Better Than You Found It
See you in another corner of the world!