How To Experience The World From Your Couch: A Guide To Hosting Couchsurfers
By Joyce Wolf
When I first signed up to couchsurfing.com five years ago, I had no idea that I would actually get the chance to use it. I signed up for fun because I really liked the thought of potentially hosting and meeting new people from around the world. At the time I was finishing up an undergrad degree and had no idea how much use I would actually get out of the account. Flash-forward to 2015, where I have accommodated a hundred surfers to date, including those I hosting while living abroad in Albania serving with the Peace Corps (which is a whole different story, to be told another time).
I have seen the world through the eyes of my visitors. I’ve met surfers who have allowed to me live briefly in New Zealand, Australia, England, Israel and various US states. I have learned how to cook an authentic French dish, listened and attempted to learn many new languages and gained life experience from my wonderful guests. Since I have full control of who stays at my place, I have been blessed to accept amazing and astonishing people who make my life feel fuller. So keep reading if you’re still interested in seeing the world for free right from your couch.
Five tips and insights for beginners hosting Couchsurfers.
1) Figure Out Your Style
If you are nervous, scared or harbor any negative thoughts about inviting strangers into your abode, then Couchsurfing (CS) isn’t for you. A common trait shared amongst all CSers is that it takes a certain type of person to get involved with the community. Don’t force it. Only participate in CS if you know you can freely and openly welcome people. It’s also wise to think about the number of visitors you would like to host at a time. Some prefer one while others like me have no set maximum.
2) Look Out For The Creepers
Couchsurfing.com recently did a major site makeover, which was much needed. It is now clearer and easier to use which means it’ll take even less effort for you to accept or reject someone. As a single female host, I have certain qualifications that a person must pass and it all starts with the request. I appreciate requests that are heartfelt, well written and personable. (I let grammar slide.)
First I cull users based on mass copied requests and being referred to by the wrong name, these are not appreciated for obvious reasons. Next, I check their profile for bios, reviews and photos. Judging a person just based on one of these is not enough, so they need to pass at least two out of three in order to receive an invite. When reading bios I look for a sense of personality while for reviews I look to see what feedback they’ve received as guests or hosts. Photos are great because it definitely helps paint a picture about how they enjoy life and what pictures they’ve selected to showcase that. I personally like to plant little eggs in my profile like “Be sure to tell me a fun fact when you request”. It’s a great way to see if they really read your profile and an extra way to filter people.
3) Focus In On The References
One downside to CS is the weight that a negative review can have. People want and need positive reviews since acceptance from a CSer is based on how people rate you. Unfortunately, no system is perfect and you’ll always have those people out there who are spiteful and will grasp at anything to take you down if you give them a negative review. Neutral reviews should be met with caution as they are a tell tale sign that something is off as that reviewer was either not impressed or afraid to write the whole truth about their experience. Content is key when it comes to reviews and those with lengthy positive ones tend to be the crème of the crop.
4) Sell Yourself
It’s also important to attract the right crowd which is why you should put a lot of effort into your profile. Profile content is dependent on personality so only you know how to best paint yourself in the right light. Keep it simple, classy and straight to the point. If you’re just starting out, don’t be shy about adding multiple pictures of yourself and filling up your bio. If puns are your thing through in a couple, if you have a good network of non-CS friends, ask them to write a review and vice versa. Since I first opened my account, I’ve cut back on my personal bio and instead choose to let my reviews speak for me.
5) Set An Agenda
Every traveler is different so I make sure to plan accordingly based on what my couch surfers would like to get out of their experience. I’ve hosted a few where they just need a night to crash and then they’re out. Although those encounters have been short and pleasant, my favorite kind of surfer is the one who’s down to go out and see my little part of the world.
I’ve introduced my surfers to locals in town, students in my course and close friends. We’ve gone hiking, to the beach, visited historic sites and more. We tend to end our days with homemade meals made together or we dine out. And best of all, we each create fond memories that we can reflect back on and cherish. This does tend to lead to my least favorite thing about hosting CSers. Each and every chapter ends far too quickly and I feel like they’re gone before I know it.
That’s why it would also be wise to set an agenda for yourself. What do you want to get out of the experience? What have you not done yet but would like to do? Use your next CSer as a way to do something worthwhile in your city.
Like I mentioned before, hosting isn’t for everyone. Meeting and inviting strangers off the Internet isn’t for everyone. But for those who do enjoy it, it’s a rewarding and unique experience that lasts a lifetime. Hopefully my tips help make your hosting CSers all that easier.
Check my profile below to see what my CSers see.
HQ note: Have experience with couchsurfing? We’d love to hear another globelle gal’s perspective!