32 responses

  1. Kerri
    September 20, 2013

    Hey Talon,

    Thanks for sharing your post. I have been toying with the idea of couchsurfing for a while as a way of connecting with others while we travel. It sounds like it can be very positive, but has the potential to not be so great.

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      September 20, 2013

      Like anything else it can both ways, but usually it’s very positive. In fact, we’re preparing for Romania, and with very little effort we have an invite to stay with someone, they’re picking us up at the airport, and they’re planning on introducing us to their other friends with kids. We have another family interested in meeting up as well. So, I’d say largely positive. 😉

      Reply

  2. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    August 5, 2013

    We followed a similar CS trajectory to you: we signed up for the service before we left on our trip and figured we should host a few people before we left to see if it was even something we liked doing, and also to build up some karma points because we would be away for so long. We enjoyed hosting quite a lot, but for us CS really clicked once we were out there in the world being hosted by others. Our 1st experience wasn’t so positive as the person who was supposed to host us just never got back to us after accepting our request and we were left scrambling the day of to find a hotel where we could stay instead… but ever since then, we’ve just felt so lucky to meet really incredible, wonderful people, many of whom we have kept in touch with ever since. It definitely has added an extra dimension to our travels and made our experiences all the richer.

    That said, we haven’t been using the service as much since we have reached the cheaper parts of Asia. It’s not that we don’t want to surf, but I am an introvert, so I need to space out our Surfing with private stays and because we are so picky about who we’ll even send requests to (we rarely send out more than 3 requests for a given location), it takes a lot of time and effort to set something up. We always like to interact with our hosts and make time for them, so when I am feeling selfish and just want to do my own thing, I know I need to find my own lodgings rather than look for a host.

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 7, 2013

      Yes, definitely. I’ve had some of those moments, too, where I just don’t feel like I want to socialize and share my space. Those are the times when having my own room or place are essential.

      Reply

  3. kami
    August 5, 2013

    I’m an old-school couchsurfer, started my adventure with it back in 2005 and had nothing but great to awesome experiences, many of which turned into amazing friendships. However these days I prefer to stay in the hostels and just meet with local CSers to hang out and get a real sense of the city I visit. For few years now it’s getting harder and harder to find a decent host, there are too many people on the website who registered for wrong reasons (either to find love or to steal from others – I heard so many of these stories…) that it lost all the greatness. I always trust my intuition when I look for a host or when someone contacts me, even if the person has 100 positive reviews but I feel we wouldn’t click I don’t go for it. I’m so sorry you had such a bad experiences, among all the good ones, I’m not surprised you’re losing your faith in CS. But I’m afraid such situations like yours will happen more and more often as CS owners don’t seem to care their project turned in a wrong direction…

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 7, 2013

      It’s truly a shame because it’s a great cultural exercise. But looking for hosts in Christchurch has brought me back to thinking I’ll probably not be using it much in the future. Most of the hosts respond to requests about 60% of the time. Why be listed as a host if you aren’t going to bother responding? Just change your status to available for meetups only or something.

      Reply

  4. Gran Canaria Local
    August 4, 2013

    Very balanced article, Talon. Love how you highlight the cons as well as the pros. Couchsurfing hasn’t really taken off on Gran Canaria yet. We’re only just establishing ourselves as a backpackers’ destination. Hopefully, though, this development will arrive sooner rather than later.

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 4, 2013

      I think it’s always important to show both sides of anything. 😉

      Reply

  5. Anna
    August 4, 2013

    Great read. always thought about trying it but a bit hesitant but thanks for the great info! Happy Travels!

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 4, 2013

      I was hesitant as well, but I’m glad I went through with it. Even if I did have a few less choice experiences.

      Reply

  6. Freya
    August 4, 2013

    Great post and wow what a lot of different experiences. Seems like you had some awesome ones and some bad ones. I never tried couchsurfing and I’m not sure I ever will. Like some others here, I quite like my privacy but maybe I will give it a try once just to have had the experience, I surely hope it will be a good one then 🙂

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 4, 2013

      There is also the option of just meeting people for coffee. That way you get the benefit of meeting a local without the awkwardness of sleeping in their home.

      Reply

  7. Heidi Wagoner
    August 3, 2013

    I looked into this, but just wasn’t comfy with the idea. I don’t think a family of 4 would be overly appealing to the hosts either. Thanks for sharing all of your stories. Gives me a little hope that it is possible.

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      Harder but doable. In fact there’s a CS community for families and those open to hosting them.

      Reply

  8. Franca
    August 3, 2013

    Wow Talon, you really had a mixture of interesting and not experiences with CS. We’ve been couchsurfing for more or less 100 days so far during our trip and we’ve been lucky enough to never have horrible experiences. It did happen sometimes that we didn’t feel 100% comfortable or that we didn’t click with our hosts enough to become friends, but overall it has been amazing! We made some friends for life of which we are still in touch and we’d like to think we’ll always be.
    We heard of very nasty stories too, so your advice of being very careful with who to host or surf with is more than valid. One day we’d like to host too, whenever we’ll manage to stop somewhere for a bit longer 🙂

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      We’ve had some where we didn’t click that strongly as well. Our Bogota one was a bit lukewarm and seemed quite happy to see us leave even though she was never really unfriendly. She just seemed to have more in common with the younger couple coming behind us.

      I look forward to hosting again as well. I really enjoyed that.

      Reply

  9. Dyanne@TravelnLass
    August 3, 2013

    “…really pay attention to their profile.”

    I’ve had a profile on CS since 2008 and hosted tons of CSers when I lived in Seattle (here in VN foreigners can’t do such) and have surfed quite a lot in my travels. I’ve had only good experiences with all and I believe that the key is “profile, profile, profile”. I only host/stay with those that have very robust, positive profiles. Shoot, I often know more about my CS guests/hosts before they arrive than some of my personal friends!

    I saved TONS of money CSing in Australia, and even “closed the CS circle” by staying with a lovely lass in Port Macquerie that 3 years previously had surfed w/ me in Seattle!

    That said, I do agree w/ Leigh that the CS site has gone “mainstream” these days so of course you’re going to get a lot more “fringe” folks who are only looking for a freebie stay and sadly, miss the whole (imho, brilliant) point of cultural exchange that is the hallmark of Couchsurfing.

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      I do hope it bounces back to the original purpose and mission more closely.

      Reply

  10. Leigh
    August 3, 2013

    We’ve couchsurfed a lot starting in 2007. I’d say of our three years traveling, we stayed with people through CS more than half the time when exclusively traveling. Other times we’d rent places or stay with family and friends.

    Europe and the US are fantastic. Never had a problem finding a place to stay and have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity more times than I can count. I’ve also been amazed at how quickly we’d get to know people. It’s like a well written profile does away the need for any small talk. It also underscores the need for fully filled out profiles.

    Many of the people I met are still good friends, and we continue to cross paths in various places around the world. We’ve also hosted many, many people at our place (including Erica and Shaun and other travel bloggers, too). 🙂 It used to be that anyone I met through CS was amazing, and every experience lead me to want more.

    I did not have the same experience in Central and South America. While yes, I did meet many wonderful people, , CS isn’t quite as strong, and not everyone is looking for travel and a community connection. What I tend to do now is find places to stay through people I already know through CS plus other travels.

    In the past few years, though, I’ve found CS has grown so big that many just don’t get it. They’re looking for a free place to stay. In which case, I say go to a hostel. Or they’re looking for someone to date. Thankfully, as a woman with a husband and daughter, those people stay away from me.

    I can’t tell if CS is going through growing pains or if it’s changed in a more permanent way. Either way, I haven’t given up on CS, though. I still go to meetings and get in touch with local communities whenever I travel.

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      I feel like a lot changed when they became a corporation as well. The whole tone seemed to change quite a bit. I hope it bounces back. It’s a great project and mission.

      Reply

  11. Laurel- Capturing la Vita
    August 3, 2013

    We have had two positive experiences hosting, but haven’t stayed with anyone yet. It’s a whole different game with kids. I think you’re right about paying really close attention to profiles.

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      Kids definitely do add another dimension.

      Reply

  12. Sam
    August 3, 2013

    I’ve been very lucky that I’ve only had positive experiences Couchsurfing, I guess. It can be easy to fall out of the habit of trying to find hosts, though, as we’re experiencing in South America. That first experience of yours sounds pretty unpleasant, and would have definitely left me with a bitter taste in my mouth; good for you for continuing to try it and give it a chance!

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      It is definitely harder in some places. Colombia was great, Ecuador wasn’t (and not just because of our Cuenca experience). Central America was really awful for finding hosts.

      Reply

  13. Patti
    August 3, 2013

    Not my cup of tea – I’ve never been good at walking in to cold situations where I feel vulnerable. And, as Natasha stated, I value my privacy to highly. But, I can certainly see where it would be a great option for those who are open to it!

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      I can certainly understand that. Another nice facet of couchsurfing is meeting people just for coffee. Many of the people on the CS don’t host but like to meet new people in the area. So you get some of the benefit without the pure weirdness.

      Reply

  14. Natasha
    August 3, 2013

    I’ve never tried it and don’t think I have the personality for it either as I love my privacy.
    Your experiences have sure been very colorful to say the least! Thank god for those that bring positive experiences to this couch surfing community !

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      I hear you about the privacy. Most of the places we’ve surfed have given us our own room which has been great.

      Yes, colorful is one word for some of them. LOL

      Reply

  15. Synke
    August 3, 2013

    Wow, that a whole range of experience. I am glad most of them were positive, still the view that weren’t are a bit scary.

    I hosted for the first time just two weeks ago. It was a woman around my age from Colombia and we immediately connected both having a passion for photography. In the evenings and at the weekend she joined me with my plans. It was definitely a enriching experience and I will host this weekend again.

    Great way to met people but I agree that picking your host/ surfer needs to be doe with caution!

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      Glad you had such a great experience, especially for your 1st time!

      Reply

  16. Beverley | Pack Your Passport
    August 3, 2013

    Wow, what a story! Glad to hear you had some good experiences with Couchsurfing but also sorry to hear you had some not so good experiences too. I think with the last incident it was definitely the right thing to do to just get out of there as quick as possible 🙂

    I’ve not tried couchsurfing yet but I might in the future – I considered it while I was in Australia but at that point I was also travelling as part of a couple. Now I’m a solo traveller I think it’d be a great way to meet people 🙂

    Reply

    • Talon Windwalker
      August 3, 2013

      It is a great way to meet people. For the most part we’ve enjoyed it.

      Reply

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