Sunday, December 7, 2014

Couchsurfing

A couple of weeks ago I hosted my first couchsurfer.  Couchsurfing is hospitality exchange and social networking website.

Couchsurfing is a great way to meet people and save a bit of money when traveling.  It's free and the only thing you have to do is register online.  You can search for people who are willing to host travelers in specific cities.  Profiles indicate the sleeping situation, i.e., if you can sleep on a couch, if there is a spare bed, or even a sleeping bag on the floor.  There's also information such as language proficiency, gender, age, smoking preference, etc.  Guests then send a request to the potential host to sort out the details.

Again, you don't pay anything to stay with someone.  But you should not look at it as just a free hostel or hotel.  The point of couchsurfing is to meet other open minded people, to learn a bit about other cultures and to get a more local experience.  The travelers leave feedback online about the hosts and the hosts do the same for the travelers.  So if you get a bad review then other people will be less willing either host you or to stay with you.

There are many couchsurfing groups that meet up locally for monthly social events.  I've never surfed, but several times during my travels I've met up with locals via couchsurfing for coffee, advice on things to see and do, and even to have a local show me around.

I've received other requests over the years to stay at my flat in Brno but it has always been when I'm unavailable.  At least until a couple of weeks ago.  Glenn, from Australia, was passing through Brno on his way to Vyškov and asked if he could spend one night with me.  We arranged a time for us to meet up in the center after work and we then came back to my flat.  I cooked dinner, he offered to do the dishes, and we swapped travel stories for a few hours.  The next morning he caught his train and I went in to the office.  

The thought of staying with a complete stranger can be rather daunting.  And I'm sure that many people would never want to invite a total stranger in to their home but I know many people who have surfed and hosted before and everyone has had nothing but good experiences.  Glenn was a great guest to host and I'm looking forward to hosting again.

Here's a BBC story I found on YouTube about couchsurfing.  
video
©BBC

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