People from over 100,000 different cities over the world have already joined the ‘Couchsurfing’ community. From Tokyo to Madrid, Buenos Aires to Paris, there are now nearly 7 million members.
‘Travel like a local, stay in someone’s home and experience the world in a way which money can’t buy.’ This is the slogan for the couchsurfing concept. Based on the simple principle of hospitality, someone can host a traveller at home and be hosted by a local whenever they travel themselves.
IMPACT asked Nottingham students about their weird and wonderful couchsurfing experiences.
I decided to try couchsurfing last september. With the world at my fingertips, I left for a solo trip around the Northwest of England. I admit I was starting small, but I wanted to give the experience a go on a smaller scale.
After having sent some random requests to Mancunian couch owners, I received a message from Jenny who agreed to host me for two days. Jenny was a fifty year old unemployed ex-soldier who spent most of her days watching TV and smoking. She was rather distant from the host I had pictured.
But the best encounters are often the unexpected ones. While chatting with Jenny, she told me: ‘I don’t see why people would have to pay hotel fees in order to travel. I’ve had the best time ever hosting lots of different people with different nationalities and personalities.’
And I agree with her. Why travel any other way? Couchsurfing is a precious opportunity for travellers to experience different places from a local perspective, and give you a genuine view of a city and its inhabitants. It helps us to create first-hand worldwide connections — a welcome development in a world which sometimes seems way too vast.
I couchsurfed in Brussels with a friend as part of a trip around Europe. I was apprehensive but didn’t really have another choice as I was pretty broke.
Our host’s flat was on the top floor with an amazing view overlooking Brussels. Inside the flat, model penises lined the shelves alongside photos of previous guests.
Although the decor may have been surreal, our host was kind enough; he cooked us a huge dinner and gave us loads of nice local beer, but asked for nothing in return.
We were given air beds to sleep on, whilst the three other couchsurfers were in his bed and on the sofa. Our host slept on the floor on a little mattress in the dining room.
Our host told us that one couchsurfer had stolen his laptop while he was out. Yet he still lets anyone come and stay, even those without reviews.
I went hitchhiking around Europe last year and did plan on going couchsurfing, but it didn’t really work out.
Having to plan ahead was challenging… Given the nature of trip we didn’t always have easy access to the Internet, which made it difficult.
Response time were also unpredictable, which made it hard to plan ahead.