Couch surfing is for travelers who wish to stay at someone’s home, instead of a hotel when on the road. Hosts, in turn, offer their couches free of charge for weary travelers. Sounds simple, right? Sort of…

Big Trust

The first thing about couch surfing is the amount of trust it takes on both sides of the arrangement. For instance:

    Trust the Host: I arrived at 11:00 pm one night (I was late due to a delay at the airport), got dropped off by a cab in a strange neighborhood in a new town, and walked up 3 flights of stairs in the dark and knocked on a door. “I’m here!”
    Trust the Traveler: A strange girl arrives late at night at your door and you open it. You promptly give her the key to the house. “Welcome!”

See what I mean –crazy! I mean, this is the type of thing Freddie Kruger dreams of! But the benefits of couch surfing are worth it — just think, as a traveler you get to:

    Meet new, local people
    Live in a neighborhood and not a hotel
    Save money

The cons? Little privacy, the apartment may be far from the downtown / tourist area, and cleanliness may be a factor (although it wasn’t for me).

House Rules

A few ground rules will ensure a smooth stay during your couch surfing experience:

1. Ask about house rules and abide by them.

2. Give a gift – buy a round of drinks, make dinner or bring some sweets for your hosts. Anything that will let them know you appreciate their hospitality. A thank you note afterwards is always a nice touch too.

3. Don’t overstay your welcome. My friend Kate (who lives in NYC and therefore always has people wanting to stay with her), offers her place to friends and famiy for a maximum 3 nights. I think this is totally fair and reasonable.

My First Surf

My first time couch surfing (which is only just, because there was a tenuous link), I was hosted by the Cohn brothers Gahl and Elad, who were friends of Michal, who was a friend of Aric, who I met once at a NYC bar through my friend Brigitte. Whew!

Gahl and Elad couldn’t have been nicer – seriously they went above and beyond. For instance, they:

    Gave me Gahl’s bedroom (since he was spending most of the time with his fiancé anyway)
    Supplied me with a freshly made bed and bath linens
    Promptly gave me a local cell phone to use during my stay
    Allowed me to do laundry, then even folded my dry clothes and placed them on my bed
    Offered advice for bike rentals, called the airport shuttle for me, provided helpful directions, etc.
    Bought me chocolate milk in a baggie

I’m now afraid to couch surf again because the bar has been set pretty darn high!