Couch Surfing – ”The World is smaller than you think”

I just came back from a bar here in my city, called Cana Benta. I went with my two cousins (Ana and Lucas, who are more like my siblings) and this German girl who is staying at my house through Couch Surfing and a girl called Fernanda, who is also a member of the Couch Surfing community in Curitiba. It was fun because Fernanda is very active with Couch Surfing and so am I (although not as much as she is) and both my cousins have ”used” or met people from CS before.

What is Couch Surfing, you ask!?
Well, it’s a large corporation that offers its users hospitality exchange and social networking (CS Wikipedia) . Basically this is what CS is: You like to travel. You like to meet people. You’re a student, or maybe you don’t have a lot of money to spend on hotels or hostels….that’s where CS enters. You can create a profile at the site and when you are planning on traveling somewhere, you search for a few profiles from the city you’re going to stay at and message a few people asking if you could maybe ”crash” or, surf on their couch for a few nights while you are in town. Or, even, maybe you already know someone at the city and have a place to stay, but wanna meet new people. You can also ask if someone is available to have some coffee, show you some cool places in the town, or just go out to hang out and chat about the country/city/people/language etc.
It works both ways. You may also host people at your house, offer them a couch. It’s FREE. But that is NOT the cool part. Once you start surfing couches and hosting people at your house, you realize that it’s all about knowing places and stories about the World. It’s about getting to know parts of the world through some fun stories and pictures. It’s about being a nice person and understanding people who are wandering, traveling… It’s actually pretty amazing. Maybe one of the coolest things we have nowadays.
On your profile at http://www.couchsurfing.com you can specificate what kind of people you would be able to host at your house, by gender, number of surfers, age… And when you are asking someone if YOU can stay at their house, you need to send a nice message to let them know what you’re doing in town, who you are exactly etc.

Some people are a bit afraid because it seems like an unsafe kind of website, I mean ”who’d be crazy to let some stranger into your house?” and I get that, but here are some facts you need to know about CS:

  • Once you are serious about hosting and surfing you should probably get your account verified. In order to do that, you will go to a part of the CS website that says ”get verified” then you will enter some personal info, like your current address and wait for them to send you a post card in the mail. Once you receive this post card, you will see there is a code. You will enter that code on the Couch Surfing website and there, you have confirmed that you actually live at the address you said you live.
  • If you are looking for couches to surf when traveling, look for references at the person’s profile. A person can have positive, negative or neutral references. The more references, the safer it is to stay at that house.
  • Write references so you can have people write references about YOU. That will make you a ”safe” person too.
  • CS deletes profiles with suspicious references, that is, references that alert that that place is not a good deal. It is a safe site, but remember that everywhere in the World, there are people with bad intentions.

And more: if you will be hosting someone, be a nice host. You do not need to take your surfer anywhere if you don’t want to, or don’t have time to, but make sure he/she won’t get lost. It’s all new to them, bus, taxi, train…
Same thing with food. If you are eating, it might not be that bad to invite your surfer to eat with you. Make him/her feel comfortable and at home. Making sure they have a good experience is up to you and remember, that’s what they will talk about your city/country. ;)
They are travelers. But you are, too, when you host. Ask them where they’re from, what their habits are, what they like to do for fun, the differences between cultures.

If you are traveling, the best advice I can give is: have common sense and be polite. Don’t EXPECT your host to buy you food. Don’t EXPECT your host to take you places. Don’t EXPECT your host to do anything. The host will probably do their best to accommodate you the best they can, but sometimes they have jobs, busy schedules, school and other things that will make a bit hard to pay attention to you 100% of the time. Ask him questions about the city, maps, directions, tips about restaurants and sight-seeing, but if they cannot go with you, be comprehensive.
It’s not your responsibility to buy them food, but if you can cook, it’d be nice to make them some typical food from where you are from. Or take them out to dinner. It’s just a nice gesture, to say ”thank you for having me over”.

I will in the next posts, tell stories about my experience with CS. I have surfed once and hosted many times, gone out for coffee and sigh seeing a whole bunch of times. So I have stories to tell. I’ve met amazing people from a lot of places: Arizona, Oregon, Ohio, Australia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Germany, China, some states in Brazil….

The mission of the Couch Surfing community is to make people from all over the globe, be closer. Like I have said before, we might feel like we are part of a gigantic planet where no one knows nothing and no one but WE can make distance shorter.

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