Travel

What’s it like to have 104 couch surfers in a year?

How I got involved in couchsurfing:

I was first introduced to couchsurfing in September when I moved to Dublin for college. My housemate John had started using it in the house and I was greeted by an Australian girl that had been staying with him. I was intrigued by the idea and soon created my own couchsurfing profile so I could start hosting. John also had the idea of having a huge map of the world that surfers would put an arrow from where they were from and also put their name and the date they arrived. I must say it looks pretty cool at the moment with so many signatures.

How it all works:

On your couch surfing profile you post things like personal description, interests, location, occupation etc. and some photos of yourself. If you want to host you set your couch status to available then when travellers are coming to the location you are in they have a list of hosts from that location. Surfers start sending couch surfing requests which is a two part message: first giving a brief description about themselves and why there are traveling; second they outline why they would like to meet you in particular. As not every host is suited to each couch surfer as they could end up clashing; that’s why it’s good to put some effort into your profile so as to not attract people you may not get on with or see eye to eye. They must also put the date they arrive/depart and what form of transport they will arrive on.

As Dublin is such a popular tourist spot there were endless amount of requests coming in nearly every day since I started in September, so much it was quite hard to keep up with sometimes. And as you evolve into the couch surfing community you profile becomes stronger, past surfers will leave you references which tends to comfort new surfers that may want to stay with you as it shows that you are a legitimate couch surfing host. The more references you have the more requests you may tend to get, since I started I’ve estimated that I have had over 350 interactions with couch surfers. However not all are requests as you also have a list of people that are coming to Dublin and on that you can invite them to stay. There is even a local page for Dublin that is just for meeting up, going on day trips, sharing a ride somewhere, looking for long/short term accommodation. Each Friday there is a couch surfing meeting in Dublin at a different pub for everyone to meet up to share stories, socialize and, of course, have a few pints. There is quite a lot of different ways of meeting people on this website.

The weirdest thing that happened:

The most unusual experience happened not so long ago at the end of May when we had to move out of our house so we were trying to get as many surfers over as possible; I was just accepting everyone and inviting everyone. Madly enough there were these 4 French surfers that sent me a request and I accepted it. Then I didn’t hear anything back so I presumed maybe they found somewhere else or booked a hostel. We decided to go out that night and ended up in The Mezz one of my house mates got talking to these 3 French guys and we decided to invite them back to our house for some craic, one was clearly lost somewhere. They stayed the night then left early the next morning and a few hours later I got a reply saying “Hi it`s French guys from last night,thank you for the party, and what are songs that ye had played with guitar?’’ Nobody seemed to put two and two together and made the realisation that they were actually the couch surfers who I had accepted. It really proved Dublin is a small town!

Best memory:

I’d have to say out of all the crazy nostalgic experiences I have had this year with couch surfing the one that’s most vivid in my mind would have to be the week of St. Patrick’s Day. I must of tallied up over 40/50 requests for this date and some of them were months in advance. The abundance of people traveling to Dublin for Paddy’s day amazed me. The first surfers arrived on the 15th and we managed to accumulate 13 surfers for Paddy’s day the most we’ve ever had in one night. As there were some many people that needed a place and the majority of the hostels were booked we tried to accommodate as many as possible, so there were bodies everywhere; we even had 3 Australian guys in a camper van outside. My housemate Jamie came home that night to find five people sleeping in his room. We went out and enjoyed the festive celebrations 3 nights in a row and the craic just seem to be endless. For me anyways it was possibly the best St. Paddy’s Day I’ve had to date, so many different people with some many different cultures from all different sides of the world all jammed into Dublin to drink ourselves silly. This experience continued a week or so on as a Swedish guy and an Australian guy chose to stay on with us. The Aussie rented a car and we went on some amazing adventures around Ireland. That week or so was truly a magical experience that I will never forget.

My own couch surfing travels:

Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to go couch surfing yet, I have just been hosting so far but I do plan to go surfing very soon. I’m flying to Rome next week and from there I will get picked up by my friends and go to Naples> Tuscany>Venice> Vienna>Prague>Berlin>Amsterdam>Paris>Lyon>West Coast of Spain. I will travel with my two Italian friends I met in Dublin, one from Naples the other from Tuscany. I know it’s a very ambitious plan and I predict that we won’t make it past Amsterdam but who knows? I will have plenty of couches to stay on and a good profile behind me to find hosts that I haven’t met yet. Also I want to start using Workaway which is a website where people can work for food and accommodation. As for getting from place to place we hope to hitch hike and use Blah Blah Car, a website that you can pay people going your direction for petrol. I’m really looking forward to my travels and will make a documentary about it.

The ideal couch surfer:

There is not really an ideal couch surfer, everyone is different and everyone brings something new with them. It does happen sometimes that surfers come over and are not really interested in interacting with my housemates and me. They will be quite confined to themselves and just head of doing the typical touristic things which is fine, some people just see couch surfing as a website for free accommodation which it kind of is, but it’s nice to get to know each other and share some experiences together. This is pretty rare that this will happen.

Then you get some couch surfers that are just amazing, the surfers that from the moment you meet them you know you’re going to have a great time with them. We have had surfers stay for just one night that have been really cool, interesting and full of knowledge to share with us to having surfers that have stayed for around two weeks who have pretty much become a part of the family. At the end of the day there is to be nothing to be expected of these couch surfers except that they clean up after themselves and don’t cause havoc, but the majority really have been so helpful and generous. We have had so many surfers that will make a delicious meal from their country for everyone in the house, can’t complain about that. Some people bring us baked goods they have made before, sweets and chocolate from their country and of some very nice alcohol has been shared around (in particular I recall very tasty Finnish berries vodka). As well as all the kind generosity from these couch surfers a lot of them have been so helpful with doing the clean ups after a long night session; some have even cleaned up before my housemates and I have woken up which was so nice to be able to get up and all the work has been done. It’s very easy to get attached to some surfers and therefore become a bit sad when they leave but there is nothing stopping you from meeting up with surfers you’ve met in future travels.

Best thing about it:

I have stayed in touch with the majority of the surfers we have hosted; we have had 104 couch surfers since September so that is a lot of connections around the world. The great thing about hosting is that when my housemates or I go traveling we have pretty much 104 people around the world that are familiar with us and know we are all decent people that may welcome us on their couch and all it will take is a quick email or message on Facebook. They already know us so they don’t need to look for references on couchsurfing.org and we already know them so we don’t have to enter into a residence we are unfamiliar with. This is great as naturally there are some weirdos out there using this site.

The only downside:

Fortunately there actually hasn't been anything that I would call a bad experience, except someone may have got lost on a night out, lost their phone, chipped a tooth, getting too drunk but nothing major has ever happened. Nobody’s ever lost control and started fighting or anything crazy like that; overall it’s been an array of amazing experiences. One of the most frustrating things I would say about couch surfing is the people that send a request which I will accept. They’re all set for coming over to stay and then they cancel or you end up losing contact as a lot of surfers only can contact you when they have Wi-Fi. Sometime I would meet the surfers in city centre as I would already be in there doing something and I’ve been left waiting and they don’t show up, this can be very irritating indeed but these things happen.

How to get involved:

If you’re thinking of getting yourself into the couch surfing community it is quite fast and easy to set up, you can just click log in with Facebook and create a profile this way. The great thing is that you can just make a profile and try to go surfing the next day, you may not get many replies as you will have little experience but you might also get lucky. If you have a house or an apartment that is suited for visitors to stay I would definitely recommend being a host. Having all these different ethnicities and cultures in your home is a real eye opener; you may make some great friends, learn new ways of life and maybe get the occasional dinner or two.

Best thing about it:

There are so many aspects about couch surfing that I love. Couch surfing for me is about meeting new people, making connections, sharing ideas, partying, having the craic. It’s not just about the free accommodation although that is very beneficial for travellers to save money especially if you’re on a budget. It’s so amazing to be able to come into somebody’s residence all over the world get a place to lay your head and get the full experience of the locality that I don’t think any hostel or hotel will offer. And since the money is saved on accommodation there is plenty of money for booze!