How Couchsurfing Changed My Life

A friend recently alerted me to an article about Couchsurfing that, in my opinion, is very biased and one-sided, and does not portray couchsurfing as the positive and life changing community it really is. Although I will admit what she was submitted to was awful and I hope she goes about the right legal channels to pursue her complaint, I personally feel her reasons for going couchsurfing were wrong (to save money rather than to make a new friend) and feel the article in question is extremely one-sided and a little farfetched. You can read the article  here and make up your own mind.

This post is not going to be one full of snide remarks damning the author (although that does sound like fun) writing paragraph after paragraph about how wrong they are and how their attempt to campaign for the closure of an active and positive community is both naive and a leap too far. Instead I would like to spread some positive energy about Couchsurfing and tell you my story; How Couchsurfing changed my life…and the lives of many of my closest friends!

Most articles you read about couchsurfing describe a single persons adventure surfing a strangers couch in a foreign city, a reporter trying it out for the first time, or seeing it from the eyes of a host describing what crazy and amazing characters have surfed their couch over the years. This post is more about the couchsurfing community and how it has made such an impact on my life, encouraging me to be more outgoing, more open minded and to have nothing but positive thoughts for everyone that I meet, whether I know them or not.

Since joining couchsurfing I have done some whacky things. Things I NEVER thought I would do. I have posed butt naked with 300 others for a Spencer Tunick installation in Dublin. With the help of 5 loyal friends, I have spent over a week making over 300 handmade Valentines cards which we later handed out in local hospitals and on Grafton street in Dublin to unsuspecting passers-by. We also spent the afternoon (about 30 of us) giving out free hugs to share the love. These FREE HUGS days tradition with a group of us hitting the streets in the summer, in the spring and even at Christmas time to spread some Christmas joy to shoppers.

Thanks to couchsurfing I have spent many a night dressed as a Zombie, or at an 80’s party or wearing a crazy wig or dressed like an absolute chav. (Yes these are good things!!) I have spent a day face painting for free while dressed as a clown. I have made a human pyramid in central Edinburgh and re-enacted scenes from Braveheart!! I have been proposed to at 8am in the morning in the middle of Dublin city. I have gone surfing, camping, singing, drinking and dancing in parts of Ireland I would never have seen had it not been for my couchsurfing buddies.

Thanks to couchsurfing I have met some of my best friends. I would have been an absolute loner in Sydney with the help of CS. Many times on my travels I have fallen back on CS to keep me entertained, to look for help to find a friend. My best friend here in Korea, Brittany, is a fellow CSer I met on a night out. Heck I even moved into a couchsurfing house in Dublin one summer with 4 other couchsurfers and we were dubbed ‘The House of the People’, and that was exactly what we were…hosting over 200 people in one summer alone.

We have organized random ‘surprise birthdays’ on the dart train, improv Pillow fights in Iveagh Gradens and St. Stephens green, I played Urban Golf (where you dress up in random mis fitted clothes and hit a tennis ball around derelict buildings with broken planks of wood..!) with a group of wacky CSers in Toronto and again a few weeks later in Detroit. In that same weekend we went Urban spelunking, cycled around ghetto areas of D-town and even gave free hugs to homeless people. IN DETROIT.

Despite Couchsurfing strictly NOT been a dating website, a lot of people do meet their other halves through couch surfing. I have dated many wonderful people through this site and probably will in the future. Some of my friends (Elly and Eddie) met through CS and our now engaged. Two others recently got married (congrats Cristof and Marianna) and two others are living in Oz together as happy as can be (Sophie and Simon!) It is inevitable that in a community of 2 million that you won’t meet people you simply click with in everyway. We are all such like minded people, open to adventure, and travelling the world.

Me and recently engaged Elly at an 80s CS party!

I have been to many ‘COUCHSURFING FESTIVALS’ including a weekend camping in the Wicklow mountains, a weekend of singing and dancing in Scotland, a weekend of craziness in Detroit, ultimate frisbee and picnics on Bondi beach in Australia (and an all day all night St Patrick’s day Pub crawl). CSers introduced me to my first ‘Korean Noraebang’ Karaoke room experience which was something I will surely never forget.

Csers taught me Scottish dancing, golfing, how to hug, how to smile, how to be a zombie but most of all..HOW TO BE A GOOD FRIEND. And that is now something there seems to be no shortage of in the CS community. In fact I would go as far to say that far from being a social network connecting strangers and turning them into friends Couchsurfing is more like one big FAMILY and I love all my brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles very, very much!!

Couchsurfers are some of the coolest people I have ever met. The CS community has challenged me to think outside the box, to never judge a book by its cover and to live life to the full. I have stayed on people’s couches on 5 continents (Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America) and have hosted over 300 people back in Ireland. How  many truly negative experiences have I had which would make me want to leave the site or spread bad publicity? NIL.NADA. NONE. That has to be some sort of impressive record for mankind and the awesomeness of putting your trust in strangers..strangers who I’m happy to say are now friends.

Couchsurfing buddies: Friends Forever (Mexico, Ireland, USA, Canada)

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26 Comments

  1. December 3, 2010 / 2:48 pm

    That is a truly awesome story. I am actually just starting to get involved with couch surfing after a recommendation from a friend. I have put my couch up on the site and am hoping to surf for the first time next month :) I will be happy if I have even half as good a time as you have!

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 6, 2010 / 6:53 am

      Glad you are enjoying it. It really is the most wonderful travel resource and quite possibly the best invention of the decade, IMO. I’m sure you will have many years of craziness thanks to future CS encounters!

  2. Liz
    December 3, 2010 / 11:00 pm

    From reading another article on this (and her profile), the woman has been a member of couchsurfing for 6 years. She has both hosted and been hosted by other members. She went to the police first. She then asked Couchsurfing to take down the profile of someone who was under criminal investigation for rape. They chose to, instead, just pull down his negative comments towards her.

    She still has her profile up, actually. She only wants to do the more regular cultural meetings and no more actual couchsurfing.

    I know it also depends on where you are as to if couchsurfing is a good idea. My area in Maryland and State College, Pennsylvania had a decent number of problems, so it wasn’t a great idea (though Washington DC is) so I’m not as familiar with it as you are.

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 6, 2010 / 5:59 am

      A member yes, but far from active. How can you be a member for 6 years and have only 3 friends/references?
      You are right- it does depend where you live, how active your local community is etc. The more active- the more fun, usually. Everywhere is going to have its problems…In life as in couchsurfing it is important to trust everyone but check everything!

      • Pozh
        December 6, 2010 / 3:50 pm

        Trust everyone and check everything; where did I hear that before……………

      • intrepidtraveller
        December 6, 2010 / 4:38 pm

        Some quotes are worth remembering…especially when they come from my wise old grandpa!

  3. melody
    December 4, 2010 / 3:54 am

    I’m in couchsufing for almost a year, and I had wonderful human experiences thanks to this website. It’s an open minded comunity based on trust.
    I love it!

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 6, 2010 / 5:56 am

      It’s great to hear positive response about couchsurfing, glad you are loving it. The longer you are a member and the more involved you are the better it will get!

  4. December 8, 2010 / 2:21 am

    Wow that is awesome! I’ve heard about it, a friend of mine had a lot of people stay at his place in Brooklyn. He had this large canvas that he made each one leave a little part of themselves on. pretty shnazzy art piece now.

    I should try it out sometime, you’re in Seoul right? lol

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 8, 2010 / 8:55 am

      Wow the canvas sounds cool. We had a little visitor book where people would leve us notes befor ethey left. Its such a great way of meeting people.
      No, I dont live in Seoul I live on the DMZ but I do go to seoul every weekend to party and meet people!

  5. December 11, 2010 / 4:52 pm

    Wow great naked experience!:D

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 12, 2010 / 9:47 am

      Thanks, it was pretty cool alright! :)

  6. January 22, 2011 / 6:09 pm

    Just read that article.

    “CouchSurfing should be shut down,” says Ulto. “It’s a menace to women, and allowing sexual predators to continue to prey on them is irresponsible, especially in this economy, when young travelers are looking for cheaper accommodations.”

    That’s like saying college residences should be shut down – there’s a high rate of sexual assault there as well.

    I don’t want to go into victim blaming. There is no excuse for assault.

    I think what needs to happen is better education for members with regards to how and who to look for when doing Couchrequests. And if you are a woman and new to couchsurfing, perhaps start off with staying with another woman.

    A male friend of mine couchsurfed once with a member who happened to be gay. He was propositioned and felt uncomfortable, resulting in a poor experience.

    Personally, I wouldn’t put myself in that situation (staying with a gay CS member) unless I knew him beforehand.

    Basically, be open-minded but make sure whatever you do is within your safety comfort-level.

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 23, 2011 / 1:39 pm

      Yup I feel very sorry for the victim but it really does not mean the site should be shut down. I like your idea to educate people more…maybe when u first join you should be sent a series of tips and safety guidelines on how best to utilise the site. At the end of the day, if u think its a bit risky..dont go…better safe than sorry!

  7. March 28, 2011 / 5:05 pm

    I’m still learning from you, as I’m trying to achieve my goals. I definitely love reading everything that is written on your site.Keep the stories coming. I enjoyed it

    • intrepidtraveller
      March 28, 2011 / 5:47 pm

      Thanks for your kind comment. Im glad I can help you ,,DREAM BIG! :)

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  9. November 9, 2011 / 11:18 pm

    Hi Janet

    f a couch surfer stays wth you, does that mean you have to cook and clean for them all the time, i mean Jesus, i have enough things to do bringing the kids to school, feeding them, and them wanting to brng them to funderland.

    It would be lke, ‘Can we go to funderland!!!’ and then ‘d have some German n the back ground saying ‘Ich würde lke einige echte Deutsch Brot, nicht diesen Mist essen Sie irish haben, bitte!’

    Over and over agan, i mean things are bad enough?

    P.s.
    Do you think any of those Franch girls would be into a man like me, i have my own farm, 200 cows, a tractor and combne harvestor ?

  10. November 9, 2011 / 11:18 pm

    Hi Janet

    if a couch surfer stays wth you, does that mean you have to cook and clean for them all the time, i mean Jesus, i have enough things to do bringing the kids to school, feeding them, and them wanting to brng them to funderland.

    It would be lke, ‘Can we go to funderland!!!’ and then ‘d have some German n the back ground saying ‘Ich würde lke einige echte Deutsch Brot, nicht diesen Mist essen Sie irish haben, bitte!’

    Over and over agan, i mean things are bad enough?

    P.s.
    Do you think any of those Franch girls would be into a man like me, i have my own farm, 200 cows, a tractor and combne harvestor ?

    • intrepidtraveller
      November 9, 2011 / 11:24 pm

      You must understand that COUCHSURFING IS NOT A DATING SITE!! :)
      Whether you decide to take your couchsurfer to funderland or not is totally up to you! ;)
      They don’t expect to by fed or anything, and they are very clean…couchsurfers know that they must clean up after themselves, as any guest staying in your house would do as I’m sure you well know Mr. Kieran! :D

      • GysyJona
        November 13, 2011 / 4:38 pm

        Well done Janet ;) I enjoyed reading you took advantage of the events and groups of CS many members are not aware of…so great job you’re promoting it :) I made a uni assignment about this fact…involving Computer Mediated Communication and also digital literacy…bla bla but a blog post is more fun and I feel the same about the “family” feeling…Congrats again and hope to see you live as well surfing a couch or spreading hugs or posing ahha

      • intrepidtraveller
        November 13, 2011 / 5:12 pm

        Hey! Thanks for your lovely comment, and it’s great to come across another avid couchsurfer in the blogosphere! That’s amazing that you did a Uni project all about couchsurfing! Let me know if you ever come to Ireland, there will be a couch waiting for you! Janet

  11. claire lafon
    August 19, 2012 / 9:38 am

    Hey Janet,
    I was quite moved by your article. Being a CS myself for 2 years now, I recognise myself so much in your experiences. CS changed my life and myself, I permited me to live even more according to my values and to meet absolutely awesome people. People for whom kindness, hospitality, friendship and love is the real thing. You have a couch in Paris if you ever want to visit!

  12. February 18, 2014 / 10:24 pm

    I agree with you that CS can be great, but in case of a problem the safety team is too weak. Concentrix is in fact in charge of the support team and is based as well in Belfast but also in India, and I wonder if CS gave them the safety team as well. So unfortunatly, a lot of women having issues on the site, will regroup and will start a collective case againts CS and if they win so CS will shut down. It is sad because it was a great idea, and yes it is fun, but too many women are harrassed, without CS being them to protect them. So yes they are enthusiastic but after a while they start to have negative experiences and so at the end, they become against the site. It is not my case, but I lived in Dubai, and in Dubai women being raped are jailed, you cannot report a rape, CS did not put a banner, and when a woman tries to inform a woman on the wall, the guys flag and delete her comments, and the safety team which might be based in India maybe, seems always on their side. So at the end, CS is great yes, but is becoming too dangerous. A collective case with women having been harrassed or having received weird messages from the safety team, or having bad experiences with the CS support team will certainly open a collective case and if they win, so CS will shut down because they will have millions to pay them. It is sad as if the safety team would be more efficient and respectful it would not be the case. And to give the support team to Concentrix was a bad idea. It is really a very cheap and low quality of services. As well a petition will start for the transparency of the safety team. You have to know whom you are talking to. People think they talk with someone in San Francisco, that a woman is a woman, when she might be a man, based in India. If it would be the case, so CS would certainly shut down. As those women would win their case. Of course the men deleting and flagging the post informing women in Dubai, are creepy and could be quite dangerous, but the site seems to not care at all. Bewelcome and hospitality club seem much safer for women. It is the same than CS but safer, because they are not running for money. BW is a non profit organization. But I agree with you that CS is fun, however the women who had serious issues of safety, hate CS usually because no help, nothing.