thoughts: on couchsurfing

I signed up for Couchsurfing back 2013 before I went to Taiwan on a term abroad, during my junior year in university. Back then, I thought Taiwan would be my big ticket to the big world, being nearer to China, Korea, Japan, etc. I liked the idea of sleeping on another person’s couch for free (and in a foreign land no less!).

EXPERIENCE ABROAD

I was giving up on my Couchsurfing account until a certain hot French guy from my host university recommended it to us on their trip to Taroko (yeah, i know, so credible — see my trip to Taroko).

So my friends and I (we were 8 in total) decided to have a shot at this rising tiger that is Couchsurfing. Using my account, I secured our accommodation 2 months before with an adorable stranger offering us his home for free. We planned to spend our new year’s eve in Taipei, and this guy has just the right location.

He welcomed us with open arms. We shared the 3rd floor of their house with 2 other group of strangers (one group was Canadian, the other American). Each group has its own bedroom.

Imagine trying to fit in that petite cubic room! But we were happy!

Our host welcomed us with open arms and without asking for anything in return. It was one of those instances that testify to the belief that humans are inherently good.

Another experience was a trip to Hualien, Taiwan. I contacted around 5 hosts 2 weeks before our trip. One of them approved but it was too late as we were already in Hualien when I saw her reply!

EXPERIENCES LOCALLY

The second time I tried Couchsurfing was during a trip to Cagayan de Oro. My plane ride was ahead of my friends’ and I had nowhere to stay for just one night. A month before the trip I tried to request 3 different Couchsurfers living in CDO simultaneously. All of them approved and were welcoming in their responses even if they know that I was to only stay a night. (But I didn’t push through as a friend offered me her home)

My 3rd experience with Couchsurfing was on a budget 2D/1N trip to Puerto Princessa, Palawan. I was really short of cash and could not afford to pay for even a cheap hostel. 3 days before the trip, I messaged a total of 7 Couch surfers. All of them declined my request. It was a good thing, we got good connections in Palawan and we managed to still get a comfortable room for free! And our 2D/1N trip got extended to 3D/2N but that’s an entirely a different story.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

  • My lead time?
    • Taipei Trip — Contacted 1 host, more than 2 months before the intended trip and we were approved instantly.
    • Hualien Trip — Contacted around 4 hosts, 2 weeks before intended trip and was approved the night before the trip (which I failed to see as I was busy preparing haha!). I forgot to mention that the host who approved us instantly replied and was iffy at first but eventually yielded.
    • CDO Trip — Contacted 3 hosts, 1 month before the trip and was again approved.
    • Palawan trip — Contacted 10+ hosts, 3 days before and was rejected instantly. I guess I should have given my hosts greater leeway. A week might be the minimum so that the hosts can prepare too, even if you have contacted a lot.
  • My stated purpose?
    • Taipei Trip — I told our host that it was our first time in Taiwan and it was our first time using Couchsurfing and that we wanted to experience living in a local’s house and that we are students and barely have budget for a hotel.
    • Hualien Trip — I told our host that it was our first time in Hualien and we are just exchange students and have barely enough money.
    • CDO Trip — I told my intended hosts that I wanted to go to CDO to cross out one thing (river-rafting in CDO) in my 20-things-to-do-before-20 list. Maybe they all thought I was too persistent and very adventurous e?
    • Palawan Trip — I told my intended host that we had no budget for accommodation because we were planning to spend it all on experiences (i.e. subterranean river, firefly watching, food trip, etc.)
  • My destination?
    • Taipei — Hmm, I think back then there were around 10+ persons in Taipei who regularly logged in to their profiles. It goes to show how Couchsurfing is already popular among the people of Taipei.
    • Hualien — There were around 5 recent log ins. Hualien is a popular destination for Europeans (especially exchange students) visiting Taiwan. People go to Hualien to mountain climb. So I guess it’s no question that hosts from Hualien are not new to foreigners sleeping on their couch. Plus, Couchsurfing seems to be an alternative way to advertise some really cheap bed-space in Hualien.
    • CDO — There were around 7 who logged in recently (days). Although one of the hosts I messaged logged in a week ago and I just messaged her, hoping she would see it in time, because she looks reliable (and in fact, she approved!). I forgot to mention that the hosts in CDO looked like they’ve been to several countries abroad. So maybe, Couchsurfing is already fast seeping into the travel culture in CDO!
    • Palawan — There were also around 5 who logged in recently. 2 of these hosts were just hours ago. The people who last logged in changed everyday that I checked. From the looks of the hosts’ profile, a lot of them seemed to have already hosted some foreigners (well considering that Palawan is always a top pick for tourists). Only a few of the hosts posted photos of travels abroad (there was a foreigner with a house in CDO), and seemed to never have used Couchsurfing other than to host and meet foreigners (ok I’m being bitter here). But you know I get this feeling that a contributing factor in rejecting my request to host me is that I am not white or yellow and are just locals ourselves.

But then again, my opinions may just be biased. How about your Couchsurfing experience?

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