Unfortunately, I pretty much failed to utilize the majority of my cost saving strategies on vacation that I brought up in a previous post. This happened for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I found it was just going to be difficult or impossible to do all these things on one trip.
Luckily, I did try out one major new thing for me, couchsurfing. Couchsurfing was an amazing experience with my host in Portland. Accommodation was neat, comfortable, and safe. He was a more than gracious host and he showed me numerous cool parts of Portland, including many I would have definitely missed. The highlight was all the great craft beers, including a beer festival to finish off my time in Portland (assist goes to my host for letting me know about it). I do not know if all couchsurfing hosts can match up to him.
Although couchsurfing was a positive experience for me, I have heard mixed reviews from others including my host. Some people have been in uncomfortable situations, while others have used it frequently with no problem. Although these uncomfortable situations exist, it seems like a smaller percentage of the time. I had determined prior if something felt wrong, I just would politely leave and spring for a hotel room somewhere. To prevent any issues as a couchsurfer, research and communication is your best friend.
When looking to couchsurf, you are provided with a list of individuals willing to host you with different searchable options. Profiles, references, and reviews will be there. I was selective and was trying to find individuals with whom I shared some hobbies or interests. If anything sounded concerning or weird in the profile or reviews, I just avoided that person. I also tried looking for individuals my age or older because I was not as intrigued to relive the dorm experience. I would recommend taking the time to read the profile and rules to get a feel for the person and to know what you are signing up for. Most hosts want to spend some time or connect with the couchsurfers while they are there. It is probably better find someone you could really hit it off with based on their profile, rather than not doing your homework to find out they are a nudist upon arrival.
In addition to screening your potential hosts’ profiles, you should also put work into your own profile (which your potential hosts can see). By looking at your profile and the request messages you send to them, hosts effectively screen you. By crafting an informative profile and personalized message to a host, you increase the likelihood of you couchsurfing request getting accepted. Your profile should give some insight into your interests, preferences, and personality to help your host know if you will be a good match for him or her. If new to couchsurfing, you may want to go to local couchsurfing events or have friends write references for you so hosts feel more comfortable accepting your request. In the request message, give some detailed plans so the host can know if they can fit your visit into his or her busy life. I also like to include something that makes it known that I read their profile and something that we have in common. Of course courtesy, common sense, and honesty also go a long way. It apparently frequently happens where one couchsurfer will also take a significant other along and not really communicate that to the host.
Manners continue to matter when you actually get to your destination. Keep tidy and offer to help out around the house as appropriate. Some people get their hosts gifts. I covered dining out a couple times. Most importantly, people do couchsurfing to meet others and share experiences, you should do this too. This is what what made my experience so great. Trying new things and connecting with others, what a novel concept.
If you are interested in couchsurfing here is more information that may help you decide if you want to wade into these waters:
Hope this helps,