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Couchsurfing: a Primer

At the age of 16, I made a promise to myself that I would stay single until my mid-thirties. I lived with other people most of my life, until recently. My home was always with family, at school in a dorm, or home with friends in an open-door policy style apartment. When I moved to South Florida, I only knew 1 person, my cousin, and she is married so I was on my own. It was my first time living alone, and I loved it. I’ve lived by myself for almost 10 years now. Living by myself, I first lived in a 5 unit apartment complex, but now I live in a duplex. So, it’s basically living alone, although technically, there is another person in the building.

Around 2 years ago, I realized I was rapidly approaching my mid 30’s and my lone wolf lifestyle might not always be that way. It’s almost selfish that I don’t share myself with others, and I was craving more human interaction at home.  Plus, it’s always good to see other people’s perspectives, both men and women.  I heard about this website called Couch Surfing. For those not familiar, CouchSurfing is a website that connects travelers and hosts around the world. You build a profile, similar to the social media site, Facebook, where you can add friends. In addition, you add References, which are real life connections between users. So, any time you meet someone in the real world, you become a reference. Couchsurfing is a free website, although you can get verified for $25 (will talk more about that later). And you do not charge your guests.

I get very strange looks when I tell people I allow strangers to stay in my home and don’t charge them anything. Yes, trust is difficult and must be established. You may not get along with everyone, so it’s a good idea to be specific. For instance, I really don’t get along with people overly concerned with Political Correctness, gay men, or feminists. So, I put it in my profile. Even at that, I’ve had a few people come that I wish would have left earlier. But, I figure I live alone, and have plenty of space with 2 couches, a queen sized bed, and floor space to host 10 people, if needed.  And I really wanted to meet people (especially women) from foreign lands, after hearing about how Western Culture has such levels of entitlement.

The way I contribute is by giving people a place to stay, who may not be able to afford a hotel in the United States.  Miami isn’t cheap, but often times visitors come to south Florida and just want to be able to say they visited Miami. It’s very common to see young travelers on the site that want to explore the world. Often times, they travel alone. I get a lot of requests during the winter, having a perfect climate for visitors looking to get out of the cold weather. So, by hosting, I’ve made friends around the world. And I’ve been offered a place to stay by many of my visitors. It’s not uncommon if they bring a gift from their home country. And most are responsible and willing to cook and clean up the place. I don’t usually expect them to hang out with me, and often times, they don’t have money to blow, but sometimes you really click with someone and end up hanging out the entire time.

Risk and Reward

There are some risks. You’re letting a stranger in your place. You should set up a system with them so they can get in and out of your place, so you need to arrange meeting times. If you don’t trust strangers in your place alone, let them know you won’t be giving them a key ahead of time. Another question I get is how I know someone won’t kill me or steal my kidneys. The truth is, I believe that people, in general, are good. Also, I am so familiar with Psychopathic behavior I can smell it. One of my biggest concern is the attractive young women that take advantage of people. Often times they will expect rides, food and complete 24 hour access to your pad. I don’t want young amatures getting drunk on spring break coming in at 4am puking on my floor. So, I screen people before hand. Everyone has a profile. I’m not accepting someone with zero friends or references. And negative references are so rare, you can almost be sure that is a red flag. The worst guests I’ve had, I simply leave no review.

OK now for the good stuff. I won’t share details but I’d love to write a book on this stuff. I always ask travelers if they smoke marijuana. I look at it like this, if you’re traveling in a foreign country and have no connections, wouldn’t it be great to know someone? That’s where couchsurfing come in. You get to know someone cool enough to let people crash in their pad. So, they’re probably cool enough to have a connection, and you’re all set. Plus, you want someone familiar with the law. Can you get laid from couchsurfing? Well, can you get laid in real life? That’s it. You shouldn’t use it for hooking up, ever. However, often women travel alone to explore foreign countries and it’s my duty to represent America and all it’s glory. And, like I said, often these are young people. Maybe they just got out of a relationship. Just be responsible. And for travelers (I’m looking at you single women travelers), if someone has a history of single female travelers only, you should use good sense. Get some pepper spray or something. And, any guy that’s offering foot massages in his profile is surely going to be creeping on you. So be prepared. And guys, be smart. You don’t want to get sperm jacked in the middle of the night and find out you’re a father down the line. If you live in the US there are a lot of people looking for a way to get here and they may try to sweet talk you. Don’t fall for it.

Now some Pro Tips

OK so if you aren’t scared yet, you’re probably a really cool person. If you want to participate, you’ll want to install WhatsApp and Viber and it’s good to have a smart phone that frequently checks your emails. The Couchsurfing app isn’t the best, but you should have it for messaging purposes.

You are not a chauffeur.  There is a great service called Uber you can kindly refer your guests to.  I plan on experimenting with being a driver, as I live close to the airport in a vacation area.  I plan to post my thoughts on this in the future.

Again, be honest in your profile.

Tell friends, family and/or neighbor that you are hosting or traveling.  So many of my guests have told me their parents would kill them if they found out they were couchsurfing.  At that time, I look them in the eyes and say, “Good.  Then no one will come looking for me after I kill you.”  This will scare the fuck out of them.  But seriously, just tell some one.  I’ve gone as far establishing a secret knock with my neighbor so she call dial 9-1-1 on my signal.

Clean your apartment and remind your guests that you like to keep it clean.  I enforce a “shoes off” policy in my house.  Also, wash the dishes if you dirty them.

Wash linens and provide blankets and pillows.  It feels good to show your guests you take this seriously.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  I learned how to fold a fitted sheet (like a Pro!) because of my couchsurfing experience.

Avoid selfies in your profile.  Actually, avoid selfies all together, and stop using that word.

I offer free Wi-Fi and laundry.  Couchsurfers love free wi-fi.

Some travelers will hang out with you, and it’s very common to cook and eat meals together.  That’s my favorite part.  So one good activity is to go to the grocery store together, talk about diet and different foods and then cook up a nice meal.

Guitars are a great social musical instrument.  A lot of people know how to play or would like to try.  I have 3 in my place.

You’ll meet a lot of hippies.  Often times they are vegetarian or vegan, and most of them actually enjoy cooking and eating good food.

This is what you get couchsurfing at my place. It should look this way when you leave.  Notice the folded fitted sheet.  Like a boss.

Conclusions:

Think about this:  You land in a foreign country all alone, hail a cab (driven by some unfriendly asshole) to get a ride to your unnecessarily fancy hotel where you sit in solitude.  Not knowing anyone, or having a clue what to do, you go out to a restaurant and eat alone.  Later, you cram your leftovers into a tiny, awkward hotel mini fridge.

Optionally, you stay with a cool guy like me, eat like a king, get a good night’s sleep, wake up to coffee, bacon, eggs and mimosas, and head to the beach.  You get hooked up with locals, find everything you need and avoid tourist traps.

And for anyone thinking about hosting, here’s something to think about.  Does your life revolve around work and television?  Maybe grab a few beers on the weekends with the same people.  Introduce some new people to your life, and see your life from a foreign perspective.  You’ll have to be trusting and willing to share your space with others, but isn’t this world made for sharing?

In summary, I love couchsurfing and I look forward to posting some of my stories here. The good, and the bad. Currently I host and attend local meetups, but in the future I plan on traveling, and possibly visit some of my new foreign friends.

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