I don’t know about you, but on a trip, I so much prefer to get hosted by a local rather than a hotel!
Do you know about Couchsurfing? If you don’t, you have to try it!
[Also, read this article in French or Italian]
Surfing on the sofa, a great concept.
The principle is simple: we want to go to Paris -I’m promoting my hometown here 🙂 – we go on www.couchsurfing.com, we create a profile and ask the couchsurfers who host in Paris if they can accommodate. We usually ask to stay for an average of two days, but sometimes more, sometimes less.
Not necessarily a comfortable experience
Surf on the couch, the message is clear: do not expect more than a pillow on the couch of our host. But, from all my experiences, I have rarely slept anywhere other than in a private room.
An experience with Couchsurfing
September 2012: As I entered this perfect stranger’s place, I noticed the disproportionality of this big house for a single woman. She quickly explained to me that her children left, so she had the room to host people. Why was this person so welcoming? She was a retired truck driver. During her longer trips, she would knock on the doors asking if she could take a simple shower. Rare were the people who accepted. Couchsurfing was her chance to show her example.
“It’s beautiful here, so beautifully decorated.” Going around the living room, I notice two large framed photos: “Are these your children? They are beautiful.”
With great kindness, she explains to me that her son has joined the army and that her daughter has died in a terrible accident on the road. Couchsurfing is a way for her to keep her heart open and move forward.
Say yes to life!
That night we talked, laughed and sang around a barbecue where she summoned all her friends under the pretext of meeting the “Frenchy”.
The next day, when I hit the road and I asked her what I could do to give back what she had offered to me, she said:
- First: from this day, say yes to any adventure that unfolds itself to you. To say yes in life is to say yes to life.
- Second, pass the favour to your neighbor: you can not give back what you’ve been given”.
Our roads never crossed again, in nomads of modern times we shared a real moment, honest and ephemeral. I want to dedicate this article to this extraordinary lady and her two pieces of advice that I want to follow to the letter!
And now with ten tips for future Couchsurfers!
10 tips to any future couchsurfer:
- Check carefully the profile of the people to whom you’re asking for their hospitality.
- It is better to write a personal and personalized request than a general request to several couchsurfers.
- Target the suburbs or even the small towns to increase your chances.
- Read the references carefully and read ‘between the lines’, because rare are the people that will leave host a negative reference for fear of reprisals.
- Girls alone, be careful, at the end of the day you are sleeping at the home of a stranger. Read the comments. When I travel alone, I target couples or single women.
- Planning several weeks in advance is important. A few people are able to find a Couch at the last moment.
- The fashion of the dating sites has unfortunately corrupted this website a little. For my part, I do not want to go to a stranger who has intentions other than let me sleep on his couch, alone. Again, read the profiles and comments.
- Each couchsurfer has his style. I visited the city with my hosts, I went to the restaurant with them and share unforgettable moments. But on the other extreme, I sometimes slept with busy people who only spoke to me for 5 minutes a day.
- I often bring a gift: a breakfast or a small bottle of wine for the evening, for the people that invite me. I like to make sure that my coming is not a cost for my host, so I adapt and participate accordingly.
- You will never be able to give back what you have been given, so give to others. The easiest way to do this is to become a host when you are not traveling. And as you all know now, you would just need a couch to do that!
Nomad of modern times