I’d heard of the term before and knew that service Couchsurfing.com was at the forefront of it all – but beyond that I was rather uneducated on the subject. Needless to say, looking into taking part in it all was quite the eye opener.
Couchsurfing is a global community of 10 million people in more than 200,000 cities, and the reason I wanted to participate in it was two-fold. Not only is it something on my bucket list that I want to try out, but I thought that giving Couchsurfing a go would be a good addition to a piece that I am writing for one of my university assignments. So it was something I wanted to try, and wanted to try soon.
I looked around several places – Barcelona, Bremen, Brussels – basically anywhere that I could fly to on the cheap, but not places so obscure that it would be difficult to find alternative accommodation if something went wrong with my hosts like they had to cancel at the last minute, for example.
But I was having real trouble getting anyone to accept me, despite making over requests to over 20 different hosts.
One reason is that the dates I was asking to stay were too far in the future – basically meaning that people didn’t know if they would be available due to work and other commitments in three months’ time. Due to this exact reason, two hosts replied ‘maybe,’ and although I was appreciative of their response and possible offer closer to the time, I wanted something set in stone as I didn’t want to have to change or cancel any flights.
So I decided to try and improve my own profile in order to get some more promising responses. I beefed it up with a little more information and a couple more photos, and got ‘payment verified.’
Payment verification is a one-off payment of £13 to Couchsurfing.com, presumably to provide them with a stream of revenue and a way to verify you through payment details. I had already been verified through my phone and was waiting on my address verification, done by sending a postcard to my house – which I have now received and completed.
So I tried again, but was having little luck using my search parameters of ‘within 5km of the city centre,’ ‘is verified,’ and ‘speaks English.’ Yet I was determined to keep trying.
So I decided to give another country and city a go – one that I haven’t visited before and is more out-of-the-way – Luxembourg City in Luxembourg.
I tried a couple of people, but they, frustratingly, didn’t respond at all. I tried a couple more, but that was like turning over the same stone.
But then one, a married couple by the name of Marc and Jojo, came to salvage the situation.
I was actually in lecture when the notification from the Couchsurfing app popped up on my phone, and I couldn’t wait to get out and read the message.
At first I thought it was just going to be another message of rejection, a “thank you for your request but we can’t do your dates, unfortunately.” But it was the exact opposite.
In fact, it was not only an acceptance of my request, but a very enthusiastic one to boot. And upon the reading of that message I confirmed the stay, booked my flights to Belgium and then a coach on to Luxembourg.
Suffice to say, I’m very excited about trying it in May, yet still, a little apprehensive. My hosts actually have a slew of great reviews and a lot of friends on the website, but they only have one strand of verification, which is a payment.
Sometimes travel involves risk, and it isn’t something that is going to dampen my excitement, and I am sure that I will end up having a good time.
If I was to advise any first-time couch surfers, I would give them one main word of encouragement – persistence.
This is because one of the toughest tasks on Couchsurfing can be finding your first host. After you start making friends and getting reviews, I would imagine that it becomes a little easier from there.
I am sure that I will have plenty to report back on when I return from Luxembourg, but until then I can continue looking forward to my first CS experience.