By Te’Devan Kriyavan Kurzweil
So for those of who don’t already know and have been living inside a closet or box, there is a rapidly growing phenomenon called couchsurfing. There are three websites dedicated to this that I know of off the top of my head: couchsurfing.org, hospitalityclub.org, globalfreeloaders.com, and I am sure some other ones are popping up, too. So basically, a complete stranger opens up their house, apartment, bus, backyard, tree-house, rooftop, whatever, to complete strangers (with references, ideally). They can stay at this person’s place for some determined amount of time, ranging from a few days, to a week, to even a month if you hit it off well enough.
Each couch surfing host has a different degree of hospitality and time allotted for guests. I have had hosts who I’ve never met and merely got the keys to their pad upon my arrival (though, admittedly, that is rare). Other times, you might have some sort of time frame for when you have to be back to their place by and others where you can come and go as you please. Needless to say, ridiculousness and hysteria have often filled my couch surfing exploits. One of the greatest things about couch surfing is that you are immediately introduced to a community of people upon your arrival. You are the anticipated stranger and will be referred to as the couch surfer of so-and-so. This, of course, depends on the level of sociability of your hosts. Some hosts are social butterflies and seem to know everyone, while other hosts can be a bit more socially awkward.
When looking for your ideal couch, you have the opportunity to look over many different profiles and look for keywords that may or may not appeal to you. Though I do this from time to time, I usually try to think as little as possible and look for just a word or number and stay with someone based on my initial gut feeling, even before I have a chance to blink. There is no exact science to picking couches. Nothing is really expected from you other than to merely be grateful and to allow them to show you a good time during their free time. Obviously don’t make too much of a mess, though many seem to struggle with the last one (God knows I have). After your stay, they will leave a reference for you. The more positive references you have, the easier it is to surf other people’s couches. I currently have a pretty stellar profile. Though I don’t use my profile as much lately since I’ve been staying more with friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, and people that I just happen to meet upon my arrival in town. Showing up with no place to stay and relying on fate, wit, and your personal charisma is referred to as “freestyle couchsurfing,” which is something that i have done many times (remember, there weren’t always internet sites for this stuff).
While couchsurfing, as with most things in life, it’s best to give all of yourself. You can cook them a meal, take out the garbage, help them with a project around the house, or maybe just lend an ear to listen. Some of the people are extreme partiers while others are more laid back and surprisingly conventional, despite their willingness to open up their homes to strangers. Also remember, the people you hang out with might not always be your first choice as to where you want to rest your head at night.
Often, couchsurfing sites are ideal for road trips to unfamiliar places and backpacking overseas. I will sometimes book more than one couch for me and my friends. If one couch falls through, it is always good to plan ahead and have a backup couch. Not everyone wants to wing it. And I assure you, after many years of couchsurfing, the best couches have very little to do with how nice the place may be. It is merely a meshing of personalities and lifestyles. If you carefully look at their profile and view the references, you can gauge people pretty easily. I know most of you guys are going to go on and find the most attractive girls that will take you in, and that may indeed work out, but more than likely, they might sense your intention and inform you their couch is currently unavailable. So I recommend toning it down a bit if you’re hoping to get laid. Though it does certainly happen, it is by no means the drive forcing you to go couchsurfing, or the sole intention of these sites. It merely works on that old-fashioned principle of do onto others as you want done to you. And though you may want females throwing themselves at you if they are staying at your place, they may not want the same. However, like I said, upgrades from the couch to the bed have been known to happen. I just recommend playing it very cool and not really having any expectations other than to meet new, great people and have a hospitable place to stay while you’re traveling.