This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistian's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Alyce Currier is content strategist at Wistia. Her last Non Sequitur was about surviving music festivals.
I first joined Couchsurfing because, well, I was young and needed lodging in Montreal and couldn't afford a hotel or hostel. I was intrigued by the concept of staying with residents of cities I was visiting, but it was financial necessity that made me take the plunge for real. I signed up for the website, filled out my profile, and reviewed a couple friends in hopes that they might return the favor.
I went into my search for lodging in Montreal with no real reviews from actual couchsurfers, but managed to find a place to stay with a friendly host. We ended up staying in two different houses in Montreal so as not to overload either host, and it made for a really lovely experience of the city.
We received suggestions for the best poutine, received a walking tour of a few neighborhoods we probably wouldn't have otherwise visited, and got the greatest brunch with the coolest bathroom at L'Avenue, all thanks to our hosts' suggestions.
Visiting cities using couchsurfing is a pretty easy sell overall: free lodging and expert advice on the city? Sign me up. But hosting couchsurfers can be fun too, and it's been a great way to inject a little variety into life when things start to feel a little too routine. Here are a few reasons why hosting couchsurfers is awesome, and some tips for doing it right!
It's fun to offer someone a unique experience of your city
I'm of the opinion - as many probably are regarding their own city - that the vast majority of "things to do in Boston" suggestions given to tourists are absolutely terrible. It's been fun to offer ideas for fun that aren't part of the standard formula, plus, when I have time, having a couchsurfer visiting is a good excuse to take part in activities that aren't part of my usual routine.
It's not that much work
It might seem like having someone crash on your couch could be lot of work, but actually, it's been pretty minimally intrusive. Per the culture of the site, most couchsurfers understand that they are being offered free lodging and that anything beyond that is extra, so they tend to bring their own towels, take care of their own meals, and spend a lot of time outside the house. To be a great host, it's nice to offer some guidance and hang out a bit, but you're not really obligated to do much beyond that.
Side note: because many couchsurfers are seeking a more immersive experience in a city and people who'll spend a bit of time with them, it's polite to let prospective surfers know if you'll be too busy to hang out when they visit in case they want to try to find another host who has more time :)
You'll like it more if you pace yourself
Although I mentioned before that hosting isn't that much work, my housemates and I learned the hard way that hosting a lot of surfers in quick succession isn't very fulfilling, and in fact, simply having an extra presence in the house week after week can be a bit taxing. We've found our sweet spot to be one couchsurfer every month or so.
Make sure you communicate with your housemates
If you live with other people, make sure they're on board with the couchsurfing process. Otherwise, it probably won't be comfortable for your visitors. I usually forward my housemates any couchsurfing requests I'm considering accepting and make sure all of us are okay with having a surfer, and in particular, that surfer, during the time period requested.
It's polite to designate a go-to person for a surfer to contact if they're having trouble - if I'm the host, then I should be their first line of communication, and anything my housemates do is an additional favor on their part.
Couchsurfing has been a really cool way for me to meet new people and get out of my comfort zone. I'd definitely recommend giving it a try if you have a couch to spare!
Has anyone else used Couchsurfing in their travels? What would you show someone visiting your city that might not be on the typical tourist's itinerary?