Today, we would like to introduce you to The Guy- the author and creator of Flights And Frustration. He is going to share with us his opinion on Couchsurfing– the world’s largest social travel network, connecting a global community of travelers. We find this guest post extremely interesting and honest. The Guy has recently released his new book “A Brief Introduction To Airline Frequent Flyer Schemes And Which Ones You Should Join” which is available now on Kindle. Hope you will enjoy reading it and if you want to follow his travel adventure, find him on Twitter or read his blog.
All photos in the article have been provided by eTramping.com and their choice and order is random.
Couchsurfing is not for me
Couchsurfing is not for me. There I’ve said it can I sit down now? Shock, horror as I hear you gasp reading this. Who is this travel blogger who dismisses the very concept of couchsurfing? Well sorry to disappoint you. And no I am not saying people shouldn’t go couchsurfing, it is just that I don’t want to.
For those of you who don’t know me I’m a traveller. A very frequent traveller. Since May 2000 there has hardly been a month since when I haven’t got on a plane and flew off to some foreign land. In 1993 I went inter-railing around Europe for a month so I’ve experience of backpacking too.
I’ll be honest with you as well, I’ve never tried couchsurfing! That’s right, I’ve never tried it and nor am I keen to in the near future. So let me put this in context for you as to why I’m not keen, even though over 10 million couches were “surfed” in 2012.
The concept involves staying in people’s houses. Now that can be a good thing or a bad thing. On the plus side if it is an amazing house, with lots of room, a pool, a jacuzzi and spa treatments then yes I’m interested. But lets face it, you are relying on the luck of the draw here. You might be in a real pigsty of a place. A real hell hole. Dirty laundry lying everywhere, unwashed dishes clutter the sink. Razor blades at the bottom of the shower (yes I’ve seen it) and so on.
I’ve been there, done that. I was a student and loved my life as a student. I didn’t like it though when I was visiting friends and seeing the mess they and their house mates made. I could get lucky and stay with someone who has a beautiful home. Then again they may have OCD about cleanliness and if I so much as drop a crumb that could send them into the loony zone.
Couchsurfing sells itself with the phrase of “friends you haven’t met yet”. All very good, I might make some great friends. I truly believe in mixing with different cultures and it is the way to learn about them. However you risk being stuck overnight, or even worse many nights in a house/flat/bedsit with some complete delinquent.
They may be an alcoholic. Don’t get me wrong, I like a drink or two but I’m not a big drinker. If I go months without a drink I don’t even notice it. However what if my host is keen on a tipple. What if they can’t control themselves when they are drunk? Do they have a temper? Will they shout? Will they get angry or violent? Will they run down the street naked and upset the neighbors? Who knows, because with couchsurfing these are people I haven’t met yet.
Not only is there the potential for drug or alcohol problems, what about personal issues when couchsurfing? What if you just don’t get on Maybe they are creepy, really dull and boring? Maybe they are these people who just talk and talk and talk. People who talk and talk are not a bad thing; unless they are boring. Imagine being stuck couchsurfing with a host who tires you out because you have to listen to them all the time. No time to send that text, call a loved one or check your e-mails. No time because your couchsurfing host just won’t shut up! Either that or they may have bi-polar disorder.
Couchsurfing or sex-surfing
Readers of Etramping will be familiar with Agness’ excellent and some what controversial article on Couchsurfing or Sexsurfing. She shared her experiences of how she noticed some people use (abuse) the great concept of couchsurfing to get laid. Then, if you read the responses in the comments section of the article you actually see people admit to it. It goes on. You are left asking “Is couchsurfing safe?”
Now Agness is a beautiful, blonde, young Polish girl. Little wonder she gets advances. I am a middle aged old fart. Even still it doesn’t mean that the morals of the host may not be under question. I’m also recently married so my days of looking for a partner have now concluded.
You could take the supposed safe route and look to stay with people of the same sex or people in a couple already. I’m sure that in 99% of cases with couchsurfing this is all honest and fair. Yet what of a maybe 1% where things are not quite as they seem. Do I want to take that risk?
How much privacy will you get with couchsurfing? I’m a relatively reserved Englishman. I’m not loud, brash or overly outgoing. I like company I’m comfortable with and I also like time alone. With couchsurfing will I get my own room so I can close the door and spend time alone? Will I feel really awkward and rude? Here are these very kind people offering me a place to stay, for free in their home. Yet I’m really tired, it was a very long flight. I’m also not feeling well and just want a rest. Is it rude of me to say goodnight so early to my couchsurfing host?
Or even worse, what if I don’t get my own room? What if I really am surfing on the sofa. I can’t sleep until everyone else leaves the room and goes to bed. What if my host or their flat mate wants to stay up all night? Maybe I’m in Thailand and they want to watch English Premier League at 3 o’clock in the morning? Maybe I’m in Australia and they want to watch an NFL match live on TV?
Okay I’ve addressed some of the issues above. What if you mix them all together? Let’s say that you agreed to couchsurf with your host for three nights. Within an hour of arrival you both realise that you just don’t get on. You know what I mean. There is a tension brewing under the surface where you are each thinking “You’re a freak” or “I hate you”.Truth is you just want to get out of there. Can you? You agreed to stay the 3 nights. Maybe I’m missing reading the signals? Is it rude of me to leave? Where should I go? I haven’t booked anything.
Couchsurfing is not for comfort
So you are going couchsurfing, great. What do you think of the couch? If it is a brand new sofa bed then you’ve done well, luxury in the making. But let’s say it is a 15 year old, all springs broken, flea infested cesspit of a piece of cloth. To make it worse it is only a two seater so you can’t even lie flat. You have to curl up into the fetal position. I’d rather have a decent bed thank you very much.
Whilst I was aware of couchsurfing for a long time, the article from Agness really perked my interest. I read a lot of comments and reviews from fellow surfers. The theme that came out is that not all reviews are honest or reliable. Sometimes people admit to having a bad experience, or even a sexsurfing encounter and then leave no comment. Or maybe they say the experience was fine. It is a two way street with the host and the surfer commenting on each other. Dare they be honest and risk an ungrateful negative review from the other person in return. This is even if they are the victim in the bad couchsurfing experience.
So what are the positives of couchsurfing?
It is only fair that I acknowledge the good things about couchsurfing. Firstly it is at my favourite all time price! Yes it is FREE. What a perfect way to make travel affordable and accessible to so many. I agree that this is a marvellous thing.
Also, as the motto goes it is a chance to meet “friends you haven’t met yet”. Couchsurfing is an amazing opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals of your destination. You can live like a local, taste their culture. You might get the best advice on what to do, what to see and at a fair price. It was only a few months ago that through a local I was able to see Mickey Mouse for free! Yes, I went to Disney World for free thanks to a kind local I met.
Okay, I know that many of you are backpackers and you just love the concept of couchsurfing, it opens doors for you. I think that is a great thing and I genuinely wish you well on your travels.
As for me, well I’ve done all the backpacking thing. It was amazing, I loved it and it got me into travel beyond familiar territory. I’m not young any more, as I write this I am 40. Hey hold on, 40 is the new 30 don’t you know? I’ve reached a point in life where I want some privacy, some downtime. I love meeting interesting people but I want choices. I am now used to staying in hotels. I even stayed in a hostel quite recently. I do still use hostels, very occasionally. I like my comforts and I travel, a lot. Admittedly most of it is with work so I’m grateful that I am given the comfort I need to rest and explore. When I travel for leisure I will always look for a hotel or a Bed & Breakfast to stay. I want my home comforts and I want to travel with my wife.
So couchsurfers, I wish you well. I credit you for what you do and the community which you’ve created. Maybe I’ll see you at couchsurfing “Event” so I can meet some of you fantastic travelers out there. That’s easy, if we don’t quite hit it off there’s no problem, just walk away, you don’t have to stay the night.
All in all I think couchsurfing is a very exciting concept, it is just not for me.
Is Couchsurfing for everyone? What’s your experience?