I’ve done a moderate amount of travel over the past few years – gradually getting more adventurous and moving away from the most popular travel destinations and onto some of the harder to access places.
On my upcoming trip I’ve been inspired to try couchsurfing. As a female who is usually travelling solo, I’d never looked into it as I wasn’t convinced it was safe, but after talking to a few friends who host couchsurfers in Canberra (as well as being couchsurfers themselves), I’m going to give it a go.
While my upcoming trip is about seeing some sights I thought I would only dream of, such as the Lofoten Islands in Norway, I’m also hoping to meet as many like-minded travellers as I can – which is where couchsurfing comes in.
Couchsurfing websites connect travellers with local people willing to offer a couch or sometimes an air mattress or bed at no cost. They are travellers themselves and want to share their special part of the world with others and have the opportunity to meet people with stories to share and make some great friends.
While yet to actually couchsurf, from what I’ve found so far it’s a great way for travellers to better explore a place by staying with a local that can inform you about the best places to see and even show you around, and it also gives you an insight into the local culture.
I was first introduced to the couchsurfing concept last year by a Canberra friend after he had hosted a couple of French couchsurfers.
My friend hosted mostly people form Europe for a couple of days – most often from France or Germany. He would show them around the sites of Canberra and take them on some of the region’s hiking trails.
After talking to him about what I should look for in hosts, I signed up to the couchsurfing website and have now found hosts to stay with in Norway and Sweden and seeing if I can find hosts for some of the other countries I’m visiting. People have the option of paying a fee and becoming verified hosts and surfers on the website. It’s a way to show you’re genuine, however I’d say only about half of hosts I’ve seen on the site are verified.
For me I think the key thing (as my friend pointed out when I started on the site) was having good references. As a would be couchsurfer, I looked for people with at least a handful of references from past couchsurfers, reading through them to make sure they sounded ok.
I’ve also met another friend recently who also hosts couchsurfers, with some of these couchsurfers staying a week or two. He’s currently hosting two people – one from Argentina and the other from Germany.
His couchsurfers visit Canberra for varying reasons – some are stopping here while transiting between Sydney and Melbourne, others plan to work in Canberra or the snow fields, and others specifically wanted to see Australia’s capital city and visit sites such as the War Memorial and Parliament House.
Like I imagine most other cities have, Canberra also has a couchsurfing community that meets for a casual drink or meal each Tuesday. It’s framed as a get together of like-minded people – both couchsurfing hosts and couchsurfers.
What do you think about the concept of couchsurfing?