We’ve talked about Couchsurfing before here and here, but today I want to spin the experience to the other side, where you give back to the travelers of the world—as a host! I’ve actually been a host a lot more than I have been a surfer and I must say that it is a different but, potentially, equally as wonderful experience. However, not all my hosting experiences have been great… something to be expected, but I also believe that we can impact how a situation turns out with a little bit of planning (or not if that’s what fits you). So, with the intention of helping you enjoy your experience, I’ve put together these top five tips for being a successful Couchsurfing host:
1.) Think about what you are willing to offer:
Honestly, please question yourself about who, what, when, how, etc. you are willing to host before you even start hosting people. While your answers may change over time, being aware of how you can fit Couchsurfing into your life will allow you to integrate it more fluidly into your daily routine. Questions I always consider and their answers for this point in my life are:
- When can I host? Currently on the weekends as hosting during the week stresses me out with work and my 6:30 morning routine.
- How long am I willing to host for? As I don’t want to host during the week, the maximum nights is usually two, however, I highly prefer this to one night. I personally don’t like feeling like I am only a free place to sleep (which has happened), so I like to spend a bit more time with my surfers.
- Who I am willing to host? I know a lot of young females don’t feel comfortable hosting males but some of my best Couchsurfers were males, so I am happy to host them. In addition, I try to make an extra effort to host young females who may be surfing for the first time because I can imagine they may be uncomfortable with the situation and I know that I can be underwhelming enough to (hopefully) make them comfortable.
- Where I can host? As my current flat only has one bedroom and living room, the surfers will stay on the pull out couch. It might not be the most luxury place ever, but friends sleep there too so I am not worried about it. I do make sure to have clean sheets and towels for all my guests (not necessary but something I personally appreciate as a surfer).
Note: If you are willing to host all people at all times equally, that’s amazing! Get ready for fun!!
2.) Vet your surfers accordingly:
Being honest with yourself about who you are willing to host and when you are willing to host them means that you to host people that fit what you can do. I have, on occasion, changed my ‘rules’ if I feel like someone who wrote to me really fits with who I am, but normally I stick with what I know I can deal with because it makes the situation more comfortable for everyone. After hosting over 30 people (probably closer to 50, but I don’t remember and have to go with number of surfer reviews on my page), I am more willing than ever to say no if I don’t feel comfortable with a surfer—either with the questions they ask or the trip they are on. I no longer believe it is my responsibility to host everyone I can and look to host people who I feel like I can impact AND can impact me.
For example: If you are a smoker I am less likely to say I can host you because I really don’t like smoking and don’t even want you hanging out the window for a cigarette. This doesn’t mean that I am not friends with smokers, I just don’t want them living in my house for two days if it means I will be uncomfortable in my own space. At the same time, I am very clear about this kind of stuff beforehand to try and ensure that everyone understands the situation and if a smoker is 100% behind what I am saying, maybe it won’t be a problem for them to stay with me.
3.) Try to create space for surfers:
My best experiences with Couchsurfers is when I actually spend time with them! I know it might seem odd and that some people can host when they never see their guest, but I like to get to know the people staying with me. This might mean that we go for food together (or make something), walk around the city center, or just have a glass of wine. On one hand this makes me feel like the people who are staying with me are genuinely interested in getting to know me—and not just using my sofa like a free hostel—and, on the other hand, has resulted in some beautiful friendships. Although it is not necessarily ‘normal,’ I have created some long-term relationships with some of my Couchsurfers.
Again I am going to remind you that it is important for you to understand what you need and make sure to work towards those things before going out of your way for a surfer. For me that means trying to get to know the person a bit before throwing them into my group of friends/family (although this isn’t always the case and sometimes people end up tagging along to things before we have really spoken). It also means that even if my surfer wants to wander around town or go party, I am okay with saying no if I have other things I have to get done. However, this goes both ways—
4.) Be open to surfer needs:
If you are considering how to allow your Couchsurfer into your own life, keep in mind your guest’s journey as well and how you fit into their plan. I have had all sorts of people stay with me—some of them are looking to meet people and couldn’t care less about seeing the city, others have intense tourist plans. What your surfer wants to do while they are visiting your city will also determine how you can interact. Don’t try and push going out when you know they are up at 8am for a guided tour (and even consider giving them their own key and trying to be ‘more quiet than normal’ when you get home if you do go out). Remember, while it is your home, putting unnecessary stress on the situation can make it worse for everyone.
Keep it in mind: I have had several surfers who have stayed with me only for money reasons and haven’t even found the motivation/finances to go for one coffee/beer (between 1.50€ and 3€ in Granada). If they don’t even want to do something together at hom, instead focusing only on what they want to do, personally, I find this frustrating. However, by following the previous steps I am able to have less of these experiences than before because I look for people who are on the same page as me.
5.) Go with the flow:
At the end of the day, perhaps this is the most important tip. None of your Couchsurfers are going to be the same (like none of your friends are), so it is important to be accepting and flexible in different situations. Sometimes the surfer you accepted because you thought you would be a great fit doesn’t really end up being someone you want to talk to, and sometimes the person you said yes to last minute because you felt bad ends up being a wonderful addition to your week. If you go with the flow you will feel less frustrated with the not-so-good situations and if you keep your expectations low you will be thrilled with the fabulous ones!
Let us know your top tips for hosting and your best Couchsurfing experiences in the comments section!