Monday, 9 November 2015

To couchsurf or not to couchsurf?

I have been travelling now for a few years now, and yet couchsurfing went against every intuition I have ever had, and everything my parents told me not to do… sleeping in some random person house I met online. However, in a moment of desperation, stranded with only expensive accommodation in Miami, I turned to the couchsurfing community and finally put my faith in the internet. I'm glad to tell you that I didn't end up in a ditch, or underneath somebodies basement as I feared I might!

Benefits:
  • Despite having 0 references, and being extremely last minute, Jeremy, my first ever host, told me I could get a cab to his workplace and we could sort things out from there. Upon arrival, he instantly trusted me and gave me keys to his house and car, telling me I could get an uber back to his and wait, nap in his car, or, wait for it… have free tickets to watch the Miami Marlins play New York Mets with some of the best seats in the house! Turns out he worked as the Baseball Team Equipment Assistant so was able to bag me some free tickets, and even invited me to watch them train the next day.
  • Speaking of unexpected adventure, in San Antonio, my host's neighbour popped over with VIP Jazz Festival tickets in a downtown park. I hopped onto the back of his motorbike and was given a great lengthy tour around the city, which happened to coincide with an electronic light story of the Alamo projected on the cathedral. That’s the great thing about it all, you just never know where a Couchsurfing night will take you, every day is a brand new adventure.
  • I met the craziest lawyer in Tallahassee, Florida. She called me her international spirit animal haha, we're both really just raging alcoholics who like to party and prefer having male friends - though, I'm pretty sure she'd be my best friend if she were in England haha.
  • It’s a great chance to try out and learn new things. From balloon animals to nudism, there is a variety of hosts that offer some really crazy things! (Yes, one mans profile suggested mutual masturbation because, ‘no homo, I just like the guest connection’) haha. Don’t worry though, I never had these people sneak up on me, I just avoided them if it were listed in their description… But hey, if you’re into that! Give it a go.
Negatives
  • On the downside, however, unfortunately, it can be rather sexist. Men do have a harder time finding a place to stay since many women don’t feel comfortable hosting them alone, but also many men would rather their company. This can lead to some odd situations… A guy I met in NOLA stayed with an old rich guy in Miami and ended up giving him nipple massages in return for accommodation. This man even offered him a job as his ‘personal assistant’ in return for getting a green card to live in the States – weird.
  • Of course, you also do hear the horror stories. One guy had a webcam pointed at the sofa where I slept, and didn’t tell me… Whilst I figured it was more for air b&b guests that stay when he isn’t there, it still made me feel awfully uncomfortable, and among other odd things he did (like demand I get his drinks all night), I ended up leaving early and switching hosts.

Conclusion
Overall though, I would urge you to take a leap of faith. It was the best thing I have done, I met some great people, had a great laugh and got to do things I would have never been able to without it! Oh, and don’t forget, it’s free! A cost-effective way of seeing the world. Just exercise caution when choosing who to request to stay with, always tell a friend where you’re going and have a reasonable exit strategy for a worst-case scenario.

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