Welcome back folks. Today I wanted to touch on a pay-it-forward kind of initiative that’s been of great use among travellers over the years, particularly in the world of solo-travel, and is something that has been indulged in widely. I’m talking about the very novel concept of accommodation and hosting exchange known as Couchsurfing – an extensive network of travellers and hosts alike that share mutual experiences and (sometimes) a few extras.
What is it?
Couchsurfing basically is what it says in the name. It’s essential a huge database and social network of both travellers looking for accommodation and hosts who are willing to offer up their ‘couch’ (though often it can be a bed in a spare room) for free. The idea is that both parties get something out of the arrangement. In general, it’s not uncommon for a traveller to use the hosts couch for the night and have a shower before heading off to their next destination. Usually out of general courtesy, the traveller will offer to take the host out for dinner as a thank you or even cook dinner at the hosts’ home.
It was founded in 1999 and has evolved immensely over the years. These days, travellers can stay up to a week or more, and the host often takes on the role of tour guide, showing local tourist and cultural attractions. Sometimes, traveller and host take off on a trip together and in turn stay with other couchsurfers. The general concept though, is that you’re getting to enjoy the huge advantage of free accommodation and cultural interactions with new people with the idea that at some point in the future you pass on the good deed. Many hosts offering such hospitality were once travellers themselves let’s not forget, and so for them, they feel that they have such a lot to give back to the traveling community, as they too had been shown such kind hospitality on their travels, which is usually the case of course.
I personally have used couchsurfing a good five or six times, and had very positive experiences, and in turn of course I always imparted a bit of gratitude along the way, whether it was dinner or leaving them a book or some possession. But then it could be that I was just one of the luckily ones.
The Unsavoury Side
As with many things, there is of course a flip-side to all this. Couchsurfing has been under a lot of scrutiny over the last eight to ten years after its gross misuse. In the last seven years alone there have been a few disastrous cases of crime that have hit the international media, including the rape of a young Chinese woman by a Moroccan in England, the rape of a young Australian girl in Italy by a policeman and the awful murder of a young American woman in Nepal. As horrifying as this is, and as off-putting it might be for any solo-traveller considering surfing a strangers couch in the future, these are extreme cases and thankfully are not too high in number when compared with the hundreds and thousands of success stories.
That aside though, it has been revealed on many occasion that the true meaning of couchsurfing, it’s real purpose is for people to meet and share experiences. Read that as you will. Either way, you’ll be right. A common question posed by many a would-be surfer is ‘So is it a free accommodation network or a hook-up site?’ Well the answer would be both, as people these days use it for both.
Obviously, this is all perfectly acceptable of course. Connecting online with someone and arranging your stay with someone whose profile picture and personal info gets your heart racing is absolutely fine, and arranging your stay with every intention of ignoring the couch completely and instead staying in their bed is also fine: if both host and guest mutually consent to it that is. And what a way to see the world: you get to travel for longer periods of time as accommodation costs are down to a bare minimum, plus you get to have the time of your life along the way, as well as maintain a good level of health and fitness.
If that is the kind of thing that lights your candle, you might want to get yourself prepared: get online and get yourself something from this little selection: http://www.for-sale.ie/silk-nightwear . You never know when it might come in handy. Anyway, thanks for visiting folks, and be careful out there. Until next time..