Being a freelancer, means that I can go on holiday whenever I like. I can jump on a plane and work on the other side of the world for a month if I want to. But, no one pays me to take holiday. Going on holiday isn’t easy. It means losing work (and thus directly losing money that would pay for your holiday) or doing twice as much work in the weeks before you leave.
So I tend to go look for a budget accommodation option. And couchsurfing is a really good place to start. I went to Sicily on my own a few summers back and my whole trip was made because in-between hotel hopping around the island, I did a little couchsurfing. I’m still friends with the guy I stayed with (he’s just had a baby, so cute!) and I’m itching to try it again. Galway in Ireland is next on my list.
But I can afford to stay in hotels now. So why go and stay with a complete stranger? Well,Â there are more advantages of couchsurfing than merely saving money. I’m not against travelling on my own (I’m single and I don’t necessarily have friends who can run off when they like). Being on holiday alone is fun during the day, there’s stuff to do, things to see, sunshine to play about in. And then, it gets really really boring. Drinks and dinner just isn’t something I enjoy on my own. I like conversation.
Couchsurfing is a sort of stop gap between hostel dwelling, and holidaying on your own. You’re unlikely to be with your host 24/7, so you still get time to do your own thing. But then you get to hang out with them, meet their family, spend time in places you’d have never found otherwise. That’s how I found myself whizzing around Palermo on a scooter, and visiting the ruined church which is now a classical music school that puts on regular concerts in the courtyard.
Diana the couchsurfing chef by Guttom Flatabo
Evenings were spent with my host’s girlfriend and daughter, eating proper Sicilian food. Or in little bars with friends. And sometimes with midnight drives to the beach. They were spent having adventures with someone who loves where they live. And having little parties on balconies and being far too silly in the early hours.
Is there a safety issue? Not that I could tell. There’s a risk in staying and meeting people you don’t know. Of course there is. And there’s no doubt that some people use the service to meet travellers of the opposite sex. But Couchsurfing.com allows you to comment on your host, and your experiences, so if someone has a very bad review, you’ll know to avoid them. And you’ll find that some hosts avoid first-timers as well. Why? Because some people see it as a free bed for the night and nothing more. It’s very much a two way experience.
Most hosts I’ve met do this to meet people, to show people their town and to have fun. They don’t get paid, so it’s only polite to hang out with them, or at least buy them dinner one night. You’ll find sometimes that your schedules don’t quite work properly, but you can at least make an effort. Because when you do, you have a better holiday for it.
I’d recommend Couchsurfing to anyone who likes the idea of going away on their own, but gets bored easily. It’s a fantastic way to meet new people, and see new things when you’re away. If you’re lucky, you’ll make friends for life. The money-saving aspect is always a plus, but you can get so much more out of couchsurfing than you’d imagine.