On this current trip, I have yet to sleep on anyone’s couch even though I planned on doing so upon signing up to be a member of Couchsurfing.com. I did attempt to get in touch with potential ‘hosts’ on a few occasions but it simply hasn’t worked out. And now that a month has passed since I’ve arrived in this region of the world, I think I’ve realized that my travel style is simply not too compatible with Couchsurfing.
First, I generally don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow and as a result, I am naturally unable to send out requests for a couch to sleep on. I’m a last minute planner and will often wake up in the morning and make a sudden decision to move on to a new place. And given that this is how I like to travel, I can’t expect other people to be willing to offer me their couch on a moment’s notice. Besides, my last minute planning often doesn’t even give me time to check Couchsurfing.com and even when it does, I don’t really want to spend a lot of time on the internet sending out requests when the chances of receiving a quick response are understandably quite low.
Planning is almost essential in order to make use of Couchsurfing, as the less time you give potential hosts to reply to your request and to prepare for your arrival, the less chance you will have of anyone being able to offer you a place to stay. All of the hosts that I have contacted did reply to me eventually, but of course, by that time, I had already found a place to stay or moved on.
Second, I’ve also come to realize that for those of us who work while traveling, Couchsurfing may not be the right choice either. I try to put in at least 4 hours of work on my laptop per day while on the road and it is always my goal to work as efficiently as possible during those few hours. The more I can concentrate, the quicker I can finish my work and the more time I’ll have to spend exploring the country I am visiting. And I tend to accomplish more work when I have my own space where I can spread out my stuff, block myself from the outside world and get down to business.
With Couchsurfing, I would be someone’s guest and as a result, I would naturally want to respect my host’s schedule and lifestyle. So I’m just not sure how efficient I would be if I had to focus on work while in someone else’s living room as they go about their normal routine. Apart from that, I’d probably come across as quite rude if I chose to work instead of socialize with my host after they so kindly offered me a place to stay. Having my own space (i.e. hotel/hostel room) provides a lot more comfort for me and hence an environment where I am free to focus and work whenever the urge strikes.
Finally, I’m a relatively slow traveler (as evidenced by my two week stay in Aleppo) and quite understandably, Couchsurfing is not designed to have travelers stay in someone else’s home for an extended period of time. Usually, the invitation to sleep on a couch is for a night or two and as a result, I would have to spend my time bouncing from couch to couch every couple of days. In the end, it’s just much easier for me to stay in one budget hotel room for the duration of my stay in a particular town or city so that I have a proper base. As a working nomad, having such a base helps me eliminate the need to constantly spend time looking for a new place to stay, time that I can now spend exploring or working.
With all that said, this post is definitely not intended to be an anti-Couchsurfing message. In fact, I’ve now met about a dozen Couchsurfers and Couchsurfing hosts during my stay in Syria so far. And somehow, without actually sleeping on anyone’s couch, I’ve still been welcomed into their community. Several hosts have taken the time to show me around their home towns or to take me out at night to places (restaurants, cafes, karaoke bars, etc.) I otherwise would never have found on my own. The ones I’ve met have been overly hospitable and at least in this region, seem fully interested in interacting with and learning as much as possible from travelers who happen to be passing by. (A handful also seem to be quite keen on picking up foreign female travelers, but they’re quite respectful and harmless if the traveler is not interested.)
So if Couchsurfing fits your style of travel, then I highly recommend giving it a try and sleeping on some couches. If it doesn’t seem like a good match for you, then I still recommend getting in touch with Couchsurfing hosts every now and then as a way to delve a bit deeper into a particular culture. It still gives you an opportunity to meet some interesting and welcoming people but at the end of the day, you’ll be able to return to the comfort of your own room.
Does this make sense or am I just missing something?