IG account: @theworldthroughawanderer
The word "couchsurfing" literally means surfing on a couch, and in a nutshell, it is a platform created for travellers who need a place where to stay, but usually the main purpose using it is definitely not just avoiding to pay an hostel. Couchsurfing, in fact, is a travel community made by “hosts” and “surfers”. The first ones lists their available space during certain dates while the latter request to surf thanks to a private message that of course hosts can either accept or decline.
Everything happens for free and people may think why one should ever host a stranger without asking money back in its own house? Well, travellers know what does it mean to be travellers, and we know how important is to help each other, plus it is a beautiful way to meet people along the way and to get in contact with local life.
When I booked my one way ticket to SE Asia I decided to live this travel with different eyes and awarenesses. Travelling in Asia is not the same as travelling everywhere else in the world since Asia is an place with an ancient history and completely different habits from ours and the countries where I have been travelling before, that’s why I wanted to discover its real soul, and the best and probably only way to do it, I believe, is through local people. Therefore I decided to use Couchsurfing as soon as I would get to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital and my first destination in this trip. Once landed in city I manage to find a grab (a local motorbike taxi) and after a short ride I got to a local suburb where I apparently was the only foreigner around. My host, Hoan, came outside to pick me up as his house was pretty hidden and I wouldn’t be able to reach it by myself. Suddenly I found myself sitting on a chair in a living room/garage surrounded by a Vietnamese family looking and smiling at me. None of them spoke a really good English but we managed to chat together and get to know each other for a while before getting ready to sleep.
Thanks to Couchsurfing I’ve been living the real Vietnamese life in a local family who let me experience their habits, such as sleeping on a Vietnamese mattress, a super thin handmade sleeping mat made out of dried reeds and laid either on the floor or on a flat surface such, in my case, a bunk bed. I’ve been also able to cook with my host a typical local dinner that we enjoyed together ending up drinking the local rice wine cheering with a “mot, hai, ba, dzo”, litterally meaning “one, two, three, four” our common “cheers”. Those are the reasons why using Couchsurfing will change you travels if you are the one who is looking for real life experiences beside the usual travel highlights.
So, how does Couchsurfing work precisely? Well, first things first. Getting to complete your profile is the most important step as it will basically be your CV in this adventure! My advice is to spend time to write a good presentation, Who are you? What are your hobbies? What can you share with your host? Be as much honest as possible because your profile is the only way the person who will host you has to know you and the best it will be the most chances you’ll have to get accepted.
Of course do not forget to add enough pictures to your profile, and I mean good pictures, not the one you show your back on the beach while enjoying the sunset. Would you ever open your home doors to someone you don’t even know how he/her looks like? Try also to get few references before to send your first request, even if your friends need to write one for you, would already be a good start.
When you start looking for an host try to attentively read his description to understand better if that person would match with your own personality but also to know more about his home rules. Check their references, usually I always look for people with a few of them. Then writing a request is the crucial part, cutting and pasting 100 of message won’t help you since expert couch surfers will notice it and probably will refuse you. Spending a bit of time to introduce yourself and especially let your host know the reasons why you choose him/her! Here we go, your host accepted you and you’re ready for a new adventure, aren’t you excited? But first do not forget that as long as Couchsurfing is a free platform based on good karma people would be nice offering or even sharing something with your host. Cooking your traditional cusine, teaching a bit of your language, helping with cleaning are just small examples that might help you to give back a bit of love during this amazing change life experience.
All pictures are mine.
IG account: @theworldthroufhawanderer