The following is a guest post by Katie Aune of Katie Going Global. You can read more about her at the end of the article.
So you’re not traveling at the moment?
But you still want to meet cool people from all over the world?
And you want to give a little back to the traveling community?
Sounds like being a CouchSurfing host may be right up your alley!
Photo by TheDailyEnglishShow
CouchSurfing gets a lot of attention as a great way to meet new people while you travel while saving some money on accommodations at the same time. But CouchSurfing is a two-way street – without willing hosts, there’d be no place to surf!
I registered for CouchSurfing just over a year ago and I admit, my intentions were somewhat selfish – I signed up in anticipation of using it on future trips. Once I really started digging into it, though, I realized that in order to maximize my chances of finding a place to surf on the road, I should probably do some hosting myself (again, selfish intentions!).
My first request arrived in my inbox just a few weeks after creating my profile. A woman around my age needed a place to stay as she drove from North Carolina to Denver. It sounded like we probably had quite a bit in common and it was only for one night, so I readily agreed, thinking it would be a good way to get my feet wet. We hit it off quite well, spending hours that evening swapping stories and comparing past travel experiences. While it wasn’t exactly a fascinating cultural exchange, it was an enjoyable experience and I now likely have a place to stay if I’m ever stopping through Denver.
My next opportunity to host came several months later, when I agreed to host a couple visiting from St. Louis. The way my schedule worked out, I was only able to host them for a night, but I was determined to make the most of it. As their arrival came closer, though, I found myself becoming quite nervous. What if we didn’t get along? What if I wasn’t able to show them a good time in Chicago?
Luckily, my worries proved to be for nothing. Jacob and Megan arrived mid-afternoon and met me at my office, where they left their bags before heading out to explore the city until I got off work. That evening, we headed to Giordano’s for some Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, where they generously paid for my dinner (not expected but certainly much appreciated!). Then it was off to Improv Olympic for another Chicago tradition – hilarious comedy! We had a great time, enjoying the show and getting to know each other better throughout the evening. Jacob shared tips for my upcoming trip to London and I gave them the scoop on the Chicago summer music festival scene. And much to my surprise, they were super-impressed with their sleeping arrangements – a fold out divan in my second bedroom. The next morning, as I showed them off to their next host (conveniently only 3 blocks from me), I was a bit bummed I wasn’t able to host them longer.
I’m still waiting to host my first international guests, something that really attracted me to the idea of hosting in the first place. I’ve received multiple requests but unfortunately the timing hasn’t worked out or I’ve received requests that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. Which brings me to one of the great things about being a CouchSurfing host – while you should at least respond to all requests, you don’t have any obligation to actually accept them all. When I receive a request from a potential surfer, I like to see something personalized. Did they at least take the time to read my profile? Or are they clearly sending out a form email to a gazillion potential hosts without really caring where they end up staying? I also take a good look at their profile – I read any reviews, see if they have references and get a feel for whether our interests and lifestyles might mesh. I want to know who I’m inviting into my home for a few days!
As Aaron wrote in Putting Surf in CouchSurfing, it is all about facilitating a cross-cultural exchange – and by hosting, you can do so without even leaving your hometown! You can learn about Russia, Germany, China or Brazil without hopping on a plane and at the same time, you can serve as an ambassador for own city and country – and culture. So whether you’ve surfed in the past, plan to surf in the future, or have never surfed, it is well worth your time to give hosting a try!
Have you hosted CouchSurfers before? What has been your experience? As a host, what advice would you give to potential surfers?
Katie Aune is a thirty-something recovering attorney who has lived in Chicago for nearly 10 years. She has a passion for travel and sports, combining the two whenever possible. With a full-time job in nonprofit fundraising, she takes full advantage of her vacation time to travel internationally at least once each year, but hopes to one day embark on a long-term trip through Russia and the former Soviet Union. Follow Katie’s adventures at www.katiegoingglobal.com or on Twitter at @kgoingglobal.