I have a new obsession. Couchsurfing.org. Most specifically, hosting couch surfers. Many of my friends know that I do and they think it’s crazy – at the rate I am hosting people, they might even set up an intervention for me. Many of them think that it’s unnecessary to be part of the community, that it’s dangerous and just simply don’t understand why I do it. I don’t blame them. Even until I had my first guest from couchsurfing.org ever, I was a bit skeptical of it myself. However, volunteering at a hostel, meeting hundreds of travelers in the last few months, I’ve realized that all these travelers really want is to see new things, experience and just have a great time.
Our German couch surfer cooking us dinner and learning how to play beer pong during Hurricane Sandy
The first thing that concerns people is the safety of the network. What if they are some weird, creepy person who have a problem with stealing. What if they just want to take advantage of your resources, what if you come home and everything in your house is completely gone – what if they kill you overnight (YIKES! Some of my friends are VERY pessimistic). Overall, I like to believe in the good of all people. We are constantly surrounded by the media telling us horror stories of weird and crazy people around the world. But does that mean that everyone in the world is just as psychotic as them? No. I’d like to believe that I’m a good person, and my friends are, my coworkers are and my family members are. There’s living proof that there are amazing people in this world, I’m constantly surrounded by them, so why do we automatically assume the evil in people before the good? Another thing they are worried about is that the guest could be rude, have different interests to you and are dirty. I’m sure there are people like that out there, but from my experience so far, guests are grateful for having a host that accepted them and make sure they keep their items tidy and even offer to do the dishes and clean the house!
So for people that are scared to host for the first time, here are 5 tips to host someone successfully:
- Check their profiles thoroughly: It’s so important to read their profiles carefully. See what they are interested in – that really helps to know if that guest has the same interest and life philosophy as you. I tend to look for people who are genuinely interested in meeting new people, exploring new cultures and love learning new things. Make sure to check their references to see what others say about them. Check their photos. If they have websites linked to the profile, check that as well. You can also take a step further and see if they are active on other forms of social media such as LinkedIn.
- Have a back and forth conversation without accepting them right away: Instead of accepting them right away, reply and ask them why they are coming to Boston, what specific dates, what they are interested in the most, etc. Check to see why they want to stay with YOU and just get all the details you can before you accept. Let them know specifically where they will be sleeping so that they have some idea of where they will be staying/sleeping. My couch is a little short (perfect length for me to sleep in) but some of my guests are super tall and won’t fit. I make sure to tell them that and some of them have slept on the floor voluntarily without any problems.
- Offer to pick them up from the station/meet them in a public setting first: My apartment is not the easiest to get to and Boston public transportation system is not the best to navigate through when you first arrive in the city. So I offer to pick them up from the station. That way I can teach my guests how to go back and forth from the station to my apartment and also, I can meet them in a public space beforehand. It’s safe since you are in public and the commute back to the apartment makes it a perfect time to get to know your guest a little more. I’ve had guests who I clicked with right away and by the time we got to the apartment, we were already making jokes and planning our night out.
- Go out for dinner/drinks or take them out to meet your friends: To make the first night less awkward, go out to a close by bar or gather some of your friends to hang out and invite your guest over. That way you don’t have to cook, eat alone together, or just sit on the couch staring at each other.. It’s also a great way to get to know your guest a bit more, share a couple of drinks and show them your ‘life’ since a lot of times people couch surf because they want to see those daily routines people have in other parts of the world.
- If you are not comfortable with them being in your house without you being there, make it clear in your message that they need to leave the house when you do: For me, it’s less about the security. It’s that we don’t have a spare key to give to our guests so it’s just easier if the guest left the house in the morning when I do and meet up with me after work. Of course if you are not comfortable with this, choose to host during the weekend where your schedule is a little more flexible. I make sure to tell the guests before hand what my schedule will be like while they are staying with me to make sure that it’s ok with them. Some have said that they will stay somewhere else and join me on the weekend – which also works out perfectly :).
Also check out tips for making safe choices by couchsurfing.org:
Of course having a guest over is not easy – it’s actually mentally and physically draining. I was sick for a few days after my first guest left because I was busy showing them around, staying up late and then having to work at the same time. After a while, I’ve learned to balance my own personal life and also find time to hang out with my guests. I’ve had amazing experiences with everyone I’ve hosted so far. We’ve shared movies, awesome conversations, cuisine and cooking tips, language tips, travel tips and many more.
So why do I host people from couchsurfing.org? It’s simple – it never hurts to help someone out and in the end, I gain a lot more by just simply offering them my couch. I can say that I’ve definitely made some good friends who I’ll be seeing again in the near future through hosting and now, I know that I’ll have a couch to sleep on in many cities and countries. I just simply love meeting people, learning new things and just having the ability to show someone what life is like in Boston. :) And clearly, I’m not the only one that thinks so because the couch surfing community has definitely grown over time.
Click here for full infographic
Want to start being part of the couch surfing community? Start by creating an account on couchsurfing.org and instead of hosting or surfing right away, go to your city’s forum and go on some CS meetups. That way you can meet a few people who have experience and get tips from them. Also, feel free to check out my profile here.
The next CS meet up in Boston is November 7th from 9pm at Cambridge Brewing Company!