We both were aware of Couchsurfing for a while now, although we didn’t know too much about it besides its existence and basic function. However, last summer after we decided to take a trip around the world, we both began to research more about it. We signed up, got verified and decided to invite some surfers into our homes. After all, it only makes sense to host other travelers in need, especially when we will be in their situation down the road. Pay it forward as they say.
What I didn’t realize when I signed up was how amazing of a community Couchsurfing brought together. I also didn’t realize that it wasn’t simply just a mechanism for connecting surfers and hosts. In fact, my very first experience did not involve me being a surfer or a host at all. I attended a CS Event in my home city of New York. Six months later and the events have been my favorite feature of the site, although I do enjoy all of the other features they provide.
I didn’t know what to expect at my first event. I showed up to Pier 45 along the Hudson River with a bag of chips to share and make some friends. I found the organizer with his balloons to help identify himself to the group. Within about a half hour there were over 50 people congregating in circles and sharing food, drinks and stories with complete strangers. What I’ve learned about Couchsurfing is that a stranger is just a friend you have not met yet. If you love to travel, most members of the community will probably have a decent amount in common with you. It truly is a community of friendly people who just want to learn, share, teach, travel and meet new people.
My first experience hosting was similar in that I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous about letting a random stranger hailing from India into my home on a Monday night after work. Once again, all my nerves, fears and concerns quickly went away upon meeting my surfer. We had a great deal in common, including enjoying cold beers, a love for photography and travel, and a close bond with our respective families. We attended one of the Couchsurfing Events and met a great group of travelers from all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, Germany among many others.
I have become a regular at the CS events in NYC. It gives me the feeling that I am traveling while being in my own city, and hearing support from the great people who I meet just encourages me to keep following my dream. I now have a great deal of friends from all across the globe, and many have told me that they will be awaiting my arrival and will have a place to sleep ready for me. The kindness of this community is unbelievable, and it makes you want to open your doors and help others and keep the good vibes flowing. For example, one of my friends I met through Couchsurfing invited myself and about 30 other CS members to a New Year’s Eve party at his Upper West Side apartment, which overlooked Central Park and the Times Square ball drop. This was a memorable night meeting some amazing people. It was probably the best New Year’s Eve of my life, and it never would have happened if I hadn’t joined the Couchsurfing community.
A lot of people will not understand why you would ever consider opening your home to a complete stranger. “How much are you charging them to stay?…Nothing??…I don’t get it, what’s the catch?…Why would you do that?” That’s pretty much how a lot of these conversations go. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but if you are open to meeting new people and being introduced to new cultures, you will most likely fit right in. Even if you don’t want to or cannot travel, Couchsurfing can open the world right to you in your own home. If you are uncomfortable hosting, attend an event in your city and meet some travelers and locals who will attend.
As long as you are respectful of your hosts, treat them with respect and offer to buy some drinks or cook a meal, or do the dishes, then you are doing your part. Couchsurfing is not for just trying to score free places to stay. CS is about being a member of the community, and doing your part to contribute to what makes the community so great. Offer to host a traveler in need. Treat your host to a home cooked dinner from your country. Bring your host a souvenir from your hometown as a token of your appreciation. Meet some friends at a CS event in your city, and offer to show them around if they are going to be around for a few days. Whatever you contribute will most likely come back to you, and the circle goes on and on and on. We are both trying to contribute to the community as much as we can, and we hope the love comes our way once our journey begins.
*We are not affiliated or sponsored by Couchsurfing in any way, shape or form, nor are we being paid for this post. We are simply members of Couchsurfing, and we support the site and its community.