My First “Real” Couchsurfing Experience
Couchsurfing isn’t a new concept to those who, like me, constantly lust for travel, but never have thick wads of cash to spend. To those unfamiliar, Couchsurfing is a website connects “surfers” a.k.a. travelers to hosts in the country to be visited.
While I thought this would be an idea I would immediately gravitate towards, given my cheapskate-ness, I didn’t actually have my first “real” Couchsurfing experience until my 45th day of traveling, while I was in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Though I’ve met up with some Couchsurfers in Siem Reap, Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang, and got hooked up with Hariharalaya Retreat Centre thanks to a Couchsurfer, this would be my first time to spend the night at a host’s home.
Apprehensions about Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is not for everyone. Some people like to have their own space. And not have to interact all the time. And not worry about making a wrong move in the host’s home or pissing them off in some way. And not want feel like they’re parasitically mooching off of someone.
Some people also have a certain comfort level, and the thing about Couchsurfing is you don’t always already know the host’s home’s condition before you get there. It’s also quite time-consuming / challenging to look for a local Couchsurfer whose profile seems interesting and who replies to you in time for your visit.
As a solo female traveler, there’s also a very valid concern of safety, as you are essentially staying over at a stranger’s home.
Guesthouses / hostels in Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos has so far been a lot cheaper than I thought, so if you can allot a budget of $3-7/night, you could definitely find a place to crash.
So why Couchsurf?
I first met up with Nok at the Silk Road Café during my first visit to Ock Pop Tok in Luang Prabang, Laos. We spent some time getting to know each other then wound up going to The Arts & Ethnology Museum together, which she hadn’t gone to before.
The day after, we exchanged emails and she offered to let me stay at her house, if I wanted. Having a relatively flexible schedule, wanting to spend more time with Nok, and finally have my first “real” Couchsurfing experience.
The great thing about Couchsurfing is that it gives you a more local, everyday perspective on the country you’re visiting, and most likely, show you a different side of a town/country, unfamiliar to most tourists, but best of all, it allows you to engage in conversation with a local, instead of always striking up conversations with backpackers about traveling. It gives you a greater appreciation of just being somewhere rather than planning for your next destination.
My Couchsurfing experience was great overall in that it allowed me touch base with an English-speaking local, who did “cool” work, was honest, amusing, and accommodating. However, I imagine that not all Couchsurfing experiences will necessarily be so great, and we must always proceed with caution, and that sometimes, it helps to just be open to organically finding out about a place and meeting people along the way, because you will run into friendly locals outside of Couchsurfing as well. :)
Choose your own adventure.