Wondering how I managed to spend just 2000 euros in 200 days of full-time European travel? Here’s one of my not-so-secret secrets: Couchsurfing!

My experience:
I first heard of Couchsurfing in university. My favorite barista disappeared from the coffee shop and was unable to make my daily latte in his perfect manner. When he returned, I hastily (and semi-jokingly) confronted him as to how he could ditch me like that during a very important semester of studying. He told me he’d been surfing couches in Chicago. What?!

Yes. Sleeping on others’ couches for fun. For vacation.

I set this otherworldly idea in the back of my mind, happy to sip once again on that delicious raspberry white chocolate latte, and forgot about Couchsurfing. Until I moved to Texas and started dating a Couchsurfer. There I learned more about the worldwide community. We hosted Couchsurfers from around the US and around the world, allowing them to stay in our tiny 1 bedroom, 3 person, 3 cat apartment. Some were there for work, others for vacation. No matter what the reason, the age, or background, everyone added something extra to my life.

During my own travels, I’ve stayed with couchsurfers all around Europe. Together, we’ve gone on photography excursions, gone sailing, and crossed into ‘forbidden’ lands. Hosts have given ‘insider’ tips as to the best places to eat, drink, and dance, the best museums, best escapes, best transportation. Often hosts will meet me at their home, but sometimes they’ll pick me up from the bus or train station. Sometimes we spend days on end together, other times I only see my hosts at night or in the morning.

So what is it?
Whether you’re stuck at home, taking a trip one city away, or galavanting around the globe, Couchsurfing may offer something for you. Sign up with a free account, create a profile similar to Facebook, with friends, reviews, photos, ‘about me’ and more. Search for free accommodations around the world. You may end up sleeping on a couch, on the floor, in a bed or may even have the whole apartment to yourself. Some hosts will give you a key, others will ask that you only are home when they are. Come as strangers, leave as friends. As tacky as it sounds, it’s so true.

As we did in Texas, you can also host travelers in your own home. Be friendly, open, and caring. We were even interviewed by a German newspaper when we let one of their reporters stay with us!

Some photos from Couchsurfing Experiences:

 

Terms to Know:
Host: The person whose pad you’re staying at
Couchsurfer: The traveler
Crash: To stay at (as in “you can crash at my place”)
CS: Abbreviation for “Couchsurf”
CS-er: Abbreviation for “Couchsurfer”

Tips:
Read profiles carefully. Read reviews carefully. Make sure you are comfortable with where you’re going and who you’re staying with.

If you feel uneasy before or during your stay, don’t continue. You have every right to excuse yourself with little explanation. Chances are, if you are feeling troubled in any way, your host also feels the tension. Most hosts are amazing, I’ve never had a bad experience. But as always, be smart and trust your instincts.

Respect your host, his/her home, and schedule.

Offer your host something to make the effort worth their time. Anything from a magnet from your hometown, a story, a beer, a bite of your sandwich or perhaps a full meal. Don’t go overboard, but offer something. Couchsurfing hosts are offering places to stay out of the kindness of their hearts, not out of greed. But it’s still good to feel appreciated with a small ‘thank you’.

Lately, if I stay for a couple nights I’ll print off a few photos from our time together and leave them as a memento with a little note on the back. Simple and sweet, and a good reminder of a good time.

As a female traveling solo, I often stay with guys because there are more guys responding to my couch requests. Sometimes there’s a bit of sexual tension. Cut it right away. This is NOT the purpose of Couchsurfing. How to rid your stay of this? Pretend you have a boyfriend, pretend you’re a lesbian, pretend you’re not interested. Do NOT stay in their bed. Do NOT parade around in your lacy lingerie. Pretend you’re staying at your Grandparents’ house and behave as such.

Remember, Couchsurfing is not for everyone. If you prefer your privacy, book a hotel room. If you like to make friends at the drop of a hat, try Couchsurfing.
Of course you like to make friends. Sign up Here!

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