CouchSurfing: What Exactly Does That Mean?

Traveling is an adventure that truly can change your life and make you richer in body, mind and soul. My experiences traveling have changed me and have truly opened my eyes to the world around me.

As a person who grew up in a small town in Arkansas, this experience of stepping out into the big world and exploring has given me an insight that I would’ve never had staying comfortably back in my life in America.

While living in Spain in 2013, I was introduced to CouchSurfing for the first time. When I first heard the name I laughed, thinking it was some sort of sport. However, after my friend explained the concept to me I laughed even harder and said, “that is the most ridiculous and dangerous thing I have ever heard. I would NEVER do that!”

 

How does CouchSurfing work?

 

Couchsurfing is a service that is offered online that connects people from all over the globe together.

There are three main ways in which you can get the most out of this service:

  • Exploring and connecting with people in your own city.
  • Offering your home without cost to a traveler that needs a place to stay while visiting your city.
  • Finding accommodation or a person to meet up with while you are personally traveling to a different city.

 

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Couchsurfing host: Bandung, Indonesia

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How can I get started?

 

The first step is to open your mind to such a foreign idea and just give it a try. Start by completely filling out a profile, which will consist of you writing in detail more about who you are, what you like to do, places you have visited, pictures, a description of your home if you are going to host, time of availability etc.

Once you have that completely filled out, then you can start exploring. There will be local discussions, events and easy access to contact the people that live within close distance to you.

 

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Couchsurfing host in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

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What is a typical experience like using CouchSurfing?

 

Every experience I have had has been completely different, which is what makes the experience so exciting and addicting. A typical experience of mine usually consists of talking by email, phone or Skype with the possible host during a span of 1-2 weeks, depending on if it’s last minute or not.

After I gain some trust with the person, we plan the travel details and I give them the date and place of arrival. Upon arrival the host will either pick you up or give you specific directions on how to get to his or her home.

Once together the activities might include: talking and getting to know each other, a tour of the city, being introduced to the host’s friends or family, trying different traditional foods, cooking together, going on a small trip, concert, or seeing whatever may be going on in the city in the dates you are there.

If the visit is during the week, it’s common that the host will have to work. In that case he or she may decide to give you the keys or will tell you the time in which he or she finishes work so that you can enter in the house. Talk with you host beforehand and work out the little details in order to avoid any kind of complications or misunderstandings.

Read more: COUCHSURFING: A CROATIAN SURPRISE

 

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Couchsurfing: Jakarta, Indonesia

How do I know who I can trust and not?

 

There are millions of users on Couchsurfing from all over the world. With that many users, it’s inevitable that there will be people that are not using it for the right reasons, so safety is priority. First and foremost, reading someone’s complete profile is a must.

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If you find that someone does not have certain areas filled out and it looks a little sketchy, automatically eliminate them from the search and move on.

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Look for people that have an active profile and that seem to have similar hobbies and interests to you. On your profile you are able to add as many pictures as you want, so take a look at the other person’s pictures and get a feel for what he or she likes to do to see if you think you might be compatible.

Both hosts and travelers can obtain references from other hosts, friends and guests and for me this is my lifeline when choosing my hosts.

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As a solo female traveler,  I would say that my biggest suggestion to reduce the risk of problems is by choosing a host with more than 10 positive reviews from both girls and boys. I often look for comments from girls that say “I am a single traveler and I felt safe in his home.”

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If someone has over 10 references saying positive comments, you can drastically reduce the risk of something happening, although you can’t completely avoid it.

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Read more: COUCHSURFING: TRUST YOUR GUT

 

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Couchsurfing: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Is Couchsurfing Safe?

 

Just like anything in life, you have to be careful and listen to your heart. I have used Couchsurfing more than 100+ times alone without any kinds of problems. I am aware of the dangers in each and every place that I go and if I have any sort of hesitation I do not ignore it.

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CouchSurfing can be an experience that truly changes your life and can introduce you to amazing friendships from all over the world.

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If you take the safety measures while using this service, you will have the opportunity to meet and connect with all kinds of different people from all over the world and create memories that last a lifetime.

 

Read more: Couchsurfing- Safely Choosing a Host 

 

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Couchsurfing: Chennai, India

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Don’t forget to also check out:

7 FEARS TO CONFRONT AS A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER

DETAINED BY IMMIGRATION OFFICERS

PHILIPPINES: A WALK INTO PARADISE: KAWASAN FALLS

 

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comCouchSurfing: What Exactly Does That Mean?
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Ways to Save On Accommodation While Traveling

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How in the world do you afford to travel the world full time?

This is a question that I get daily while on the road. While traveling can get expensive, especially the more high maintenance you are, there are many ways in which you can save while you are on the go.

If you break down the spending of a typical traveller, you will find that accommodation can easily be one of the highest costs. Even if you find a cheap hostel for $15 dollars a night, that is still $450 a month, which would be $5,400 for a year of travel.

There is an obvious amount of planning that you must do before going on your first long term trip, especially in regards working and saving.

Sorry to say it, but travel does not come for free (well, I guess some people find the way—where is my rich boyfriend?!—haha (joke)!

But seriously, many people look at my life on the road and see the amazing adventure that it is, but miss the story behind this exciting journey—the hard work, weekend shifts and gruelling overtime hours that I put in to make this dream become a reality.

If you make sacrifices while working and save, save, save, you can actually make it pretty far around the world on your savings if you just use your money wisely and try to save as much as you can on transportation, accommodation and entertainment.

And no, that does not mean sacrificing so much that you limit the amount of fun that you have…

Actually, it is the COMPLETE opposite… 

In this article I am going to share different ways of saving on accommodation, based on my own experience traveling extensively across more than half of the world (and still going).

Just a disclaimer: I have not tried out everything on this list (most, yes). However, I do have useful information from other travellers, which can be helpful for you if you decide to try them out.

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COUCHSURFING

 

Traveling the world and staying in the house of a complete stranger?

COUNT ME OUT!

Those were my own words when I heard about Couch Surfing back in 2013 when I first moved to Europe for the first time.

The concept seemed absolutely absurd and unsafe, but the more I looked into it, the more I realized that it was much more reliable and secure than what I had imagined.

Couch Surfing, Saudi Arabia

Couch Surfing, Saudi Arabia

If you are looking for a way to have a complete cultural immersion while traveling across the globe, and are willing to (at times) sacrifice a comfortable bed and your own personal space, then look no further than Couch Surfing.

I have been hosted by more than 250+ hosts over my years of traveling and I can tell you from first hand experience, it can be life changing!

Couch Surfing is a website with millions of users from all over the world that connects local people with travellers. As a traveler, you are able to send out a request to meet up or stay in the home of a local person or family, with no cost.

I can already hear you saying—but that sounds WAY too risky!

Everything in life comes with a risk, but the good thing is that Couch Surfing gives the options of users to go through a verification process, and you can choose a host based on if they have gone through this process or not. It is very similar to the concept of staying in a shared space on Airbnb, but the difference is that there is no cost.

Having the option to choose hosts based on their references has been so helpful and it is the main way in which I go about choosing who I stay with. I can honestly say that with all of the safety measures that I have taken with Couch Surfing over the years, I have never had any dangerous situation happen to me while using it (and I am always alone).

Couch Surfing has truly changed the way in which I see the world and has introduced me to some of the most incredible and hospitable people.

AIRBNB

 

As an earlier traveler, I mostly used Couch Surfing, but that has gradually changed over the years and now my #1 pick is AIRNB.

While Couch Surfing is AMAZING, there is still an underlying obligation to hang out with your host and to organize yourself around his or her schedule.

My travels around the world have completely changed over the years. When I started I was living off my savings, doing some random odd jobs in between trips, but nothing while I was actually traveling. However, travel is now my lifestyle and I am doing everything that I would normally do at home, (like work full time) on the road from my computer.

View from my Airbnb in Colombia

View from my Airbnb in Colombia

Airbnb gives me that option of a cultural immersion and contact with local people, but obviously with a price. While it is nice to hang out with my host, I do not have those guilty feelings that I tend to have with my Couch Surfing host when I am not able to hang out.

There are many options with Airbnb, from renting a private room in a house (which is what I do most of the time in order to meet locals) or renting a full apartment or house.

There are some INCREDIBLE options available, from very affordable to extremely expensive.

Get up to $37 off your first AIRNNB experience if you are a new user by clicking here.

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HOSTELS

 

Hostels are most young backpackers first option. Many popular hostels are generally centrally located, in areas in which hotels would be triple the price and it is an easy environment to meet other like minded travellers.

I must admit, I have not stayed in many hostels, although some of them that I have stayed in were quite neat.

The reason that I do not stay in hostels is because I work full time on the road and I absolutely need my space and privacy. I do not like sharing a space with a large amount of people and will stay wide awake at night to even the slightest sound of snoring.

Hostels are a great option for solo travellers, but if you need privacy like I do, then there are still options out there to meet people.

After comparing the prices, I have found in many places that a centrally located private room in a house with Airbnb is often the same price as a bed in a shared 8 person room in a hostel.

Yeah, that is nice, but I travel alone and I want to meet other people, I hear you saying….

If you decide to stay in a private room near a popular hostel, you still have the option of visiting there. Many established hostels have a small restaurant or area where you can have a coffee, which is a great option if you want to want to pay a visit and socialize, without actually staying there.

In many hostels they have the option to buy a private room for a higher price, which can be very useful, especially if you are traveling with your romantic partner. The price for one person will be much higher than some hotels or Airbnb options, but if you are traveling with another person, it will come out much more affordable.

BED & BREAKFAST

 

I really enjoy a nice bed & breakfast, especially when I travel to more rural places. From time to time, I like to look for a place that is a bit more cozy and traditional, further away from the city, with a nice chimney and views of the nature.

I love the idea of supporting the local community and the great part about this option is that they are private family homes. Some of them can be very nice and at a fraction of the price of a hotel.

This is a shared environment, so it is a good and friendly place to meet other people. You typically have a shared home made breakfasts with other travellers. It can be a very unique experience!

Highly recommended!

HOTELS

 

My favorite website to search for hotels is booking.com

I love the way in which I can filter exactly what I am looking for and organize it according to my budget and needs.

There are countless options available out there for reasonably priced hotels, ranging from very basic to higher end.

Staying in hotels gives you the complete flexibility to come and go as you want and the convenience of 24/7 front desk assistance to help you in case of an emergency.

 

HOUSE OR PET SITTING

 

How could a stranger ever trust a random stranger to watch over their home or pet while gone?

Many seasoned travellers like to leave their homes and go to another part of the world, especially during colder months, but often have no one to take care of their house, water their plants, feed the fish or take care of the yard. Others would love to travel with their animal, but the place they are visiting does not allow them.

In these situations, people are desperate to find someone to stay in their house and watch over things while they are gone.  It would give you that once in a life time opportunity to live and travel to a cool place, rent free!

Some websites that allow you to search for this kind of opportunity: 

https://www.trustedhousesitters.com ($60 annual fee)
https://www.housecarers.com ($55 annual fee)
https://www.mindmyhouse.com ($20 annual fee)

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FRIENDS OR FRIENDS OF FRIENDS

 

Have you ever became good friends with a foreigner that came to visit or live for a period of time in your city? Or do you know a friend from school or college that has family or friends in another country?

Maybe you have no direct connection to people abroad, but if you look around, I am sure you can find someone that does.

Do not be afraid to ask others for their connections.

I am so grateful for all of the amazing people, especially through social media, that have connected me over the years with their friends and family around the world, which were obviously complete strangers to me at first.

You just never know what kind of connections people have.

There are so many eager people all around the world that would love to have you as a guest during a summer stay, or might even know of a job that you could do for a few months, giving you the opportunity to see a new culture and get some international work experience.

Facebook has SO many active groups and even by reaching out on there, you can find people that would love to help you out. When I travel to a country, I like to join different Facebook groups beforehand and connect with people living in that country in order to make new friends, get travel information and see the latest that everyone is saying in reference to news and updates there.

WORK AWAY / HELPX

 

This is an excellent option if you are looking to live abroad and stay and work in one set place. This option typically provides you with accommodation and food in exchange to working a certain amount of hours a day. However, I have met many people that have found paid jobs or a free job eventually turned into something paid. There are many opportunities available out there, so it is just a matter of doing some research.

Understand that not everything you find advertised is as good as it seems and like everything else, there are some obvious dangers.

Read the reviews people who have worked there, communicate by video before hand with the owners and share your plan, work address and any detail possible with your family members and friends.

Remember, you are going to do work in exchange for a place to stay and some food.

That DOES NOT mean that you are their slave and that you should be working all day, without free time. Before going, make an agreement (written if you can) on your working conditions, hours and what is included, so that there is no confusion when you arrive!

Some helpful websites: 

https://www.helpx.net
https://www.workaway.info

WOOFING

 

Woofing is an organization that helps to connect anyone who is interested in learning about organic farming and are not afraid to get their hands dirty.

They offer free accommodation and food in order to stay and work on a farm and learn all there is to learn about organic farming from first hand experience. Although I have never done (or plan to) do this, I have heard from other travellers in my path that it is a neat experience that allows you to learn a new skill, sometime a language and gives you the opportunity to live in a new country.

Just like I mentioned on Workaway, you must be careful and selective with who you work for, have an agreement, check the references and understand that you have the right to your own free time after your set working hours are done.

WOOFING is available in all of the continents around the world, (well, except Antartica).

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AU PAIR

 

This was my first gig when I moved abroad in 2013 to live in Spain. I had no idea what being an Au pair was when I first discovered it, but I quickly realized it was a job that suited me and was a perfect way to get my foot in the door to getting a visa and finally living my dream of moving to Europe.

If you are wondering what an Au pair is, it is basically like a really cool foreign babysitter (female or male) that typically teaches a foreign language.

When I moved to Spain, I moved in the home with a family with a 5 year old daughter named Laura in Zaragoza, Spain. I took her to and from school, played games with her, went on their family vacation and was basically like a big sister to her. The family wanted her to get get a culturally enriching experience as a young girl and also to have the opportunity to learn and practice English on a daily basis.

Every situation is different, but typically you will get an allowance ($300-600) a month, along with free food and accommodation.

Obviously, not every family will be a match for you, which is why it is important to talk and video call them as many times as possible before making a big move across the world.

However, if the situation ends up being a total disaster, you are not stuck (which is a fear that holds many people back from doing it).

If you find out after a period of time that the family is NOT a match, you can easily find something new once you are there, through word of mouth, local Facebook groups etc.

I mention this due to my own personal experience. I left my original family after 3 months to do something different. Sometimes things do not go the way you had originally planned and that is OK!

I highly recommend checking out reputable websites and reviewing all the different profiles available.

There are so many options to choose from.

Click here to visit the website that I used to find my first family in Spain: Au Pair World 

CAMPING

 

I will admit, I am not a traveler that tends to camp, especially if I am alone (well, unless it is in the desert or in an absolutely beautiful place).

The more I travel, the more I meet travellers that only camp on a daily basis. If you are traveling during warm months of the year and you love the outdoors, then camping is a great and affordable option.

Camping in the Desert in Oman

Camping in the Desert in Oman

Not only will you save money, but you will get the opportunity to have a unique experience outside of the busy, populated cities.

It is important to check the restrictions in each place because it is actually prohibited in many places around the world.

If you get caught, there are very hefty fines!

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OVERNIGHT TRANSPORTATION

 

Over night transportation is quite amazing, especially in places like South East Asia. If you are trying to see as much as possible in a short amount of time, without waisting a minute, this is your option.

In Asia, for example, many busses have beds with curtains, plug ins and blankets/pillows.

I was first introduced to this while traveling to Sapa in the north of Vietnam. It was unbelievably comfortable and I slept just as good there as I would in regular bed.

Over night trains are also an excellent option (and super comfortable). I did my first over night train in Thailand and it only cost me around $10!

Again, you have a full bed with a complementary blanket and a pillow.

Any chance I get to travel by night I do so. I love the feeling of arriving in a place and not losing a single hour time of day time.

RENTING A CAR OR VAN

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If you will be traveling in one country for a long period of time, then renting a van or RV could be a good option. This will give you the flexibility to freely visit places and not have to deal with spending time looking for accommodation.

Keep in mind, if you cross the border into another country in a rental vehicle, there is often times an additional charge. If you forget to mention it to the company, they might charge you an additional $1.000 penalty- no exaggeration! 

If you are traveling for a short time and have a small budget, you could rent a bigger car and convert it into a place to sleep. I have met many travellers, especially in Europe, that are camping in their cars in order to save money.

This gives them the flexibility to sleep for a few hours and then keep driving, so they do not lose any of their precious time.

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SILENT RETREATS

 

Can you believe that I spent 20 days of my life in complete silence, without any electronics or social media?!

Well, neither can I!

If you are looking for an option that will give you a break from the chaotic and loud world,  then a silent retreat is an option worth looking into.

I did my first 10 day Vipassana silent retreat back in 2016 in India.

You must register in advance because the spaces fill up FAST in most places. The retreat is free of charge (with food and accommodation included).

You are served the whole 10 days by volunteers that give up their lives in order to help you have a life changing experience. With that said, you SHOULD tip at the end. The amount you leave is up to you, but considering that you do not pay to be there, the least you can do is give a good tip.

I also did another 10 day silent retreat in Thailand, called Suan Mokkh.

It was very similar to Vipassana, but involves daily yoga, chanting and group meditation.

I highly recommend both of them, especially Suan Mokkh.

You must keep in mind that this is NOT for the weak of heart. It is very difficult and it will push you way past your limits.

Did I mention that there was no eating after 12 in the afternoon?

Yeah….

You might want to consider the living conditions before you commit.

  • No talking
  • No eye contact with others
  • No caffeine
  • Separation from males (obviously no sex)
  • No smoking or drugs
  • No electronics
  • No reading
  • No exercise (Vipassana)

It is a difficult experience, but if I can sit in silence for 20 days of my life with the active mind that I have, then anyone can!

MONASTERY STAYS

 

If you want a very unique experience, with direct communication and quality time with the nuns, then try staying at a monastery!

I truly enjoyed my experience staying with them. It was unlike any experience that I have had until now!

In each place that I stayed, the nuns did a nightly biblical lesson and sang songs. It is far from a luxurious stay, but the memories you will take away have no price tag.

Typically the accommodation comes with just a hard bed and desk, with simple meals prepared by the nuns.

The location depends on how much you will spend per night, but you can find anything from $5-50 in most places.

Helpful website: www.monasterystays.com

 

HOUSE SWAPPING

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This may be WAY outside of your comfort zone, but this type of experience DOES exist (it is not just in the movies!)

While I have never done it, I think it is a fantastic opportunity!

It will give you the chance to share your life, home and resources with someone else, as well as give you a mutual experience in a distinct place around the world.

You just NEVER know, maybe you will find a new lifestyle that fits you better than your own in another place.

Useful website: www.homeexchange.com

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BUS STATIONS OR AIRPORTS

I mention this as an option only for a one night stay if you arrive late to a destination or you have a very early morning flight the next day and it does not make much financial sense to get a room for just a few hours.

Many places (especially airports) have security and even free wifi. Bus stations can be a bit dangerous depending where you are, so do not let your guard down.

I have stayed in many airports (few bus stations) in my trips. This ensures me that I do not miss my flight or have to take a late night taxi to arrive to a 0400 am flight.

 

What ways do you save on accommodation?

Connect with me on Instagram: 1nomadicdreamer and share!

 

 

Don’t forget to also check out: 

5 IMPORTANT THINGS I HAVE LEARNED DURING SELF QUARANTINE

IS SOLO TRAVELING WEST AFRICA WORTH THE EXPERIENCE?

SURVIVING MALARIA COMPLETELY ALONE IN LIBERIA

 

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Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comWays to Save On Accommodation While Traveling
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