Ok, so I may be a little biased since I’ve only been Couch Surfing once so far, but it was the best couch surfing experience… better than I could have ever imagined!
Here’s what happened:
My friend and I were going to Sydney for the weekend and didn’t want to pay the hostel prices (they’re expensive in Sydney!), so she did the legwork looking up couch surfing hosts for us to stay with. We had talked about trying this for awhile, but neither of us wanted to try it alone for the first time, and we hadn’t had a chance to try it together until Sydney. After some research, she told me that she found the perfect guys to stay with. I felt a little hesitant, but I knew we could always leave if it wasn’t working out.
It turns out, the reason she picked the people she did was because the main host specified on his profile that they were participating in couch surfing to meet new people, and they wanted fun guests who are up for hanging out. My friend thought sure, we’re fun! (It’s true!)
I met her in Sydney and she said they had texted asking if we like Rosé. As a wine girl, that to me was a GREAT sign. I liked these guys already.
We went to Bondi to find their apartment which was A BLOCK FROM THE BEACH, and they came downstairs to meet us (giving two cheek kisses each as Europeans do) and helped us carry our bags (including my 23 kilo suitcase) up the stairs to their apartment.
When we got inside, the apartment was spotless. This to me was one of the biggest surprises. Have you seen the apartment of single men in their twenties?!? Typically GROSS, right?
Anyway, they put our bags to the side, gave us a tour, and offered us wine as we sat down in their living room. They explained that the couch pulled out into a sofa bed and that they had pillows, blankets, towels, and basically everything we could possibly need available. We were both thrilled at the situation! They were so nice and treated us like proper guests when all we did was sign up to sleep on a couch.
That first night, we had some drinks together, went out for a little while, and made plans for the next day. We got up at eight o’clock in the morning and went on a coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee (HIGHLY recommended) and spent a lot of the day relaxing on the beach. That night they had a small party at their house. They spent all day cooking and preparing for the party and had such nice friends who we met later that night. The next day, we spent some time on our own, but then we met up with the guys at a bar at night. On our last day, we all went out to a big lunch, spent time on the beach, and went out to dinner together.
How am I supposed to ever go couch surfing again?! I realize that my expectations cannot be for another experience like the one I had, but I still think everything else will be disappointing. I had heard of other couch surfing experiences to be like what I would expect: here are the keys, here is the couch, see ya! Or maybe some friendly chitchat, but I never thought it would turn out the way it did!
I think Couch Surfing is a fantastic service! What a way to travel… for free! And someday, when I actually live somewhere permanently again, I will definitely be a host to fellow travelers.
If you’re going to use couch surfing, follow my advice: be wise when choosing your couch surfing hosts. Have a backup plan just in case it doesn’t work out (like a nearby hostel), and be aware of what your host expects of you. If they don’t want to be bothered, you are simply getting a free place to stay, but if you get lucky like we did, then enjoy your time with your new friends!
This also works in reverse: if you have specific plans, don’t sign up to stay with a host who’s interested in spending time with you. Be clear about what everyone expects before agreeing to stay. Yes, it’s a free service, but you are still a guest in someone’s home, and if you want to couch surf again in the future, you need to make sure you are respectful of the host’s wishes so that you don’t get bad reviews on your profile.
Also, don’t be dumb. I’ve read so many stories about sketchy couch surfing situations which is why I wanted to try it with a friend for the first time. If you’re a woman traveling alone and a man’s profile seems shady, don’t put yourself in that position!
Have you ever tried couch surfing? What type of experiences have you had?