I have never properly explained the Couch Surfing that I mentioned in a previous post, mostly because Justin and I like to travel “independently”. I was a member on Couch Surfer (CS) many moons ago, while I lived in the UK, but since then I have travelled differently. Trying to convince J that this was an ‘okay’ way to crash somewhere when hotels were pricey, was not easy, however last week we were “homeless” in Beijing. Without a valid visa, we could not use my passport, and therefore were unable to book into any hotels/ motels or hostels: Chinese laws!
I rejoined CS when we moved to Qingdao, and it really helped us in Beijing when we were stranded! At almost 2am in the morning, a kind man saw our distressed message and gave us a call. He had a place for us to sleep that night, and with that our prayers were answered.
So, what is Couch Surfing all about?
Let me tell you a little more about it…
CouchSurfing.com has created a community building project whereby people all around the world can connect via this website and arrange to crash on someone else’s couch (or spare bedroom). This is completely a volunteer venture that has reached a network of 4.5 million users spread across 253 countries.
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The reality is that traveling (in any country) is expensive, especially after the flights have been paid. The majority of us, having a passion for travel, are just normal folk who have bills to pay, and who need to save for important things, all while trying to get out and see as much of the world as possible. We can’t afford to stay in fancy five star hotels, and searching for hostels that are clean and safe can sometimes take a lot of time and effort. Considering this, free accommodation isn’t such a bad idea! We are out there to TRAVEL, not to stay inside a posh hotel room. We only need the room to sleep, change, clean up, and store our belongings. Why not stay with another traveller who is currently at home? I know from personal experience that you see a country through a different lens when you stay with someone who lives there.
And even if you don’t travel – This is a great way to meet people coming to your country or region. You can simply host them, or you can offer to hang out with them, and take them to the most popular sights and areas. It barely costs you anything at all, and the traveller is afforded the opportunity to see what your city has to offer.
On the flip side, there are the obvious safety concerns related to using this type of service. It is comforting to know that you can search for someone who has a photo, is verified, vouched for, and has been review. If I were to travel alone, I would only stay with female hosts, but as a couple, we don’t really mind staying with male or female hosts (first preference goes to females though).
Our Current CS “Homepage”
This free service is easy to join – Check out the website here: CouchSurfing.com
It may help you befriend new people, reciprocate hospitality and get to know new cultures and languages, but for most users, it is primarily a practical tool to find cheap (or free) accommodation in other cities.
Making new friends
Last weekend we met up with Denny and April (our friends who live in Qingdao), and they had some CouchSurfers staying with them. Two guys from Pakistan, Hamza and Dada, both currently living in Wuhan (Southern China). It was wonderful chatting to them about another part of China, about where they were from, about South Africa, and all about travel experiences we have all had. Denny and April love hosting CouchSurfers, and we hope to do the same once we move into our own apartment in Qingdao.
CouchSurfing hopes to create:
“A world where everyone can
Explore and Create meaningful connections
With the people and places
That they encounter”.