My five month couchsurfing experience taught me everything I needed to know about privacy. We all have a personal bubble, we need space, and we need to know that we have somewhere to seek refuge, to escape from the world and everyone in it when it’s just too much.
So how did I spend 15 weeks jumping from dorm hostel to strangers couches in an attempt to travel as long as I possibly could? I can tell you that it wasn’t easy. But my five months doesn’t even compare to some travelers, like the Japanese guy I met in Athens who had 22 weeks of couchsurfing experiences behind him.
Living out of a suitcase or backpack and not even having a current address to call home is an unconventional way to go through life. But for a lot of couchsurfers, that’s the reality. As much as I live for the adventure of travel, I still want that little corner of the world that’s just mine to come back to.
Couchsurfing is worth it for so many reasons.
Anyone who has ever aspired to travel for long periods of time (specifically on a backpackers budget) know the struggle of spreading out your things in someone else’s living room or reliving memories of sixth grade camp in a dorm hostel and forgetting what standards are.
I chose to couchsurf on my first big backpacking trip for two reasons. One was because I really wanted to experience foreign countries through the eyes of a local and I wanted to make friends all over the world. The other reason was that I knew that it was the only way I could really afford to travel as long as I wanted to and also be able to move to New York at the end of that trip.
I also want to point out that during my entire couchsurfing experience, I always felt safe. However, there is obviously a level of common sense that needs to be applied when choosing a host. Only choose hosts that have a well developed profile with plenty of positive reviews and make sure you connect on another social media platform (like Facebook or Instagram). Never stay anywhere without letting somebody know exactly where you’ll be and who you’ll be with.
Not everyone has it in them to live the life a couchsurfer and I definitely met a lot of people who thought I was crazy. When you are in limbo, completely unanchored, uncommitted and living each day as it comes you’ll encounter many questionable glances from your stable and stationary friends and family, or even the occasional stranger. Don’t you feel uncomfortable? Aren’t you afraid to stay with strangers? Don’t you miss home? Simply put, what’s wrong with you?
Couchsurfing through 11 Countries
During my couchsurfing experience I shared my precious space with a lot of strangers. Or more accurately, they shared their precious space with me and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful. But at the same time I was looking forward to my own closet to hang my clothes in and trading in my travel bag for a toothbrush holder.
But if you really have the drive to travel cheaply, and you want to meet like minded people who really just want to show the best their city has to offer, then couchsurfing may be for you. If you decide you want to embark on your own couchsurfing experience, here are my guidelines for staying sane in the face of shared spaces and revolving rooftops.
1. Know why you’re Couchsurfing
You decided somewhere along the line that you wanted this. You were either fed up with the same routine, wanted to see the world or simply wanted to escape the life you saw unfolding for you. Committing to a full couchsurfing experience was part of the equation and you told yourself that it was worth it…AND IT IS.
Don’t for one second forget the pep talk you gave yourself that provided the motivation you needed to rough it. Losing site of the why only leads to a plane ticket back to your hometown, begging for the job you couldn’t wait to give up.
Couchsurfing is a great way to meet locals and get insider tips and have experiences that you just won’t get from conventional travel. It’s not all pretty, but it’s all memorable.
2. Be comfortable with yourself
Don’t be embarrassed for wearing the same outfit three days in a row, accepting an invitation to crash on somebodies couch, or showing up to a club in your Nike’s (because who has room to pack stilettos).
You have an excuse to live like a gypsy when you’re young, to figure out who you are and who you want to be and you should own it. This is the time to make mistakes and you should embrace the richness you are receiving by experiencing a different journey than most and how much better it will be at the end.
The more comfortable you are with your place in life the less others will question it, or the less you’ll care if they do. And to be honest, most couchsurfing hosts have been where you are and travel the same way – you probably won’t find anyone who understands and accepts you more than they do.
3. Escape when you can
My couchsurfing experience was amazing, but sometimes I would just need a break from people. I cannot stress enough that when the opportunity presents itself to soak up some good old fashioned me time, take it. If the weather is nice, get out. Always, always, always get out. Public parks, coffee shops, or free museums will give you an environment of optimism and opportunities.
Spending your days cooped up inside will only give your mind time to wonder what exactly it is your doing with your life. And while those thoughts are going to come regardless, it’s important to not let them overcome you. Staying in will only amplify your focus on where you are instead of where you want to be and that can be crippling to your ability to work towards your goals.
4. Stay balanced
This means focusing on the good, accepting the not so good, and using your energy to make a life you want instead of accepting the life you have. Nobody has one road to follow and the more you allow yourself hard lefts on your path the more opportunity there is for growth. The previous step and the current step are just as important as the next, and focusing all of your energy on one of them will only ensure staying right where you are.
You don’t need to know your next step, because maybe you’re still contemplating where you’re at today and reflecting on where you were yesterday. Allow yourself days that you do nothing and feel guiltless about it, allow yourself the occasional breakdown and anxiousness because those days keep you motivated, and because you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel a little fear.
Balance is important. Struggle only strengthens your character. Today you might be cuchsurfing in Brooklyn but it doesn’t mean you aren’t on your way to a Brownstone with a Central Park view, and you’ll probably see some pretty amazing things in the process.