This post was last updated on September 18th, 2014
It’s no secret that we love Couchsurfing. We’ve used it for free accommodation all over the US, Europe and Asia, and likely saved hundreds of dollars in the process. Of course, one of the best parts of Couchsurfing is having the ability to meet awesome people from all walks of life. Singing French men, Italian chefs, scholars and teachers, writers and videographers—we’ve had some pretty memorable experiences with diverse and interesting people all around the world.
Meet a few of our generous Couchsurfing friends who have previously welcomed us into their homes:
While we consider ourselves to be free-accommodation-snagging pros, recently we found ourselves doubting if Couchsurfing was still a good option for our travel style. Guesthouses are inexpensive in Asia, and if we’re being completely honest here, we really, really enjoy having our own space. A place where we don’t have to worry about the stench of our cycling clothes infiltrating the living area or tripping around in the dark for fear of waking someone up or coinciding our arrival time with that of our host. Even though we often have our own room when Couchsurfing, sometimes that extra bit of freedom is greatly appreciated. Especially when it comes for just $7 a night.
We also have some new factors to balance with traveling, namely this whole working thing. We aren’t the first and we certainly won’t be the last travel bloggers who lament about balancing work and travel. It’s all extremely new to us though, and while we are optimistic about what the future holds, we have so much to learn about being ‘location independent’. Unfortunately, this makes Couchsurfing even more difficult. We want to spend as much time as possible with locals, learning about their culture and having those ‘this is why we travel’ moments, but realistically that just isn’t always an option if we have work that needs to be done.
These new travel aspects lead to the crucial question:
Is Couchsurfing still right for us?
When accommodation is more expensive, absolutely. There’s no denying that Couchsurfing saves some serious cash, especially in Europe (where we’ll be headed next year).
But even when we are in less expensive areas of the world and willing to shell out for hotels, Couchsurfing is still an extremely valuable tool. All it took was a visit to Hue to remind us.
Like we mentioned earlier, one of our favorite things about Couchsurfing is the opportunity it provides to make local friends. What we’ve never thought about though is that we don’t have to be crashing on their couch to connect. Instead, we can utilize the social network to meet new people, learn their insider advice to the place we’re visiting, have an awesome time together, and then go back to the comfort of our own hotel.
Our recent trip to Hue, we did just that. We arrived in the city center dripping in sweat from the day of cycling, ready to meet a group of University students we had connected with on Couchsurfing. They would give us a tour of the city, and in the process have the opportunity to practice their English skills. We thought perhaps a handful of students would show up. You can imagine our surprise when instead we were greeted by about 20. It didn’t mater—we liked them all immediately when they didn’t judge us for our stench.
Some of them were a bit younger than us, a few of them were quite shy, but all in all we had a wonderful time together. We shared coffees by the river and received a personalized tour of the Thien Mu Pagoda. They took us to a hidden vegetarian restaurant in honor of the Buddhist holiday and introduced us to their favorite sinh to (smoothie) place. We talked about career aspirations, traveling, cycling, and life. We learned. A bit. We laughed. A lot.
As our travel style continues to change, likely so will our use of Couchsurfing. However, our rendezvous in Hue was a reminder not to dismiss Couchsurfing so quickly, because in the end, the website is more than just a resource for saving money on accommodation; it’s an easy way to build meaningful friendships with people around the world—and these relationships don’t have to be on a free board condition.
Have you used Couchsurfing as a way to meet locals? What was your most memorable experience?