I guess I will now take another stab at this post & try to elaborate more on the first of the OPs three part question."Would it be possible to just surf from couch to couch?" I guess it is possible to surf from couch to couch (but it wont last forever if one cares about their reputation).Would it be possible to just surf from couch to couch? How hard is it to get somebody to host you? What's been your experience?
Hospitality exhange through Couchsurfing, BeWelcome, and TrustRoots is great but definitely not something to rely on.
Couchsurfing is more than just finding a free place to stay. It's more about making friends and sharing experiences.
There are a lot of surfers passing through places at any given time and not enough hosts for all of them. If you want to use it, prepare to spend a lot of time writing dozens of personalized requests to hosts. The only thing a host gets out of letting a stranger impose upon them is the experience so you have to convince them that you're interesting enough to be worth the risk and burden. Usually you won't be able to.
I've tried couchsurfing a lot. It's only worked out a few times. The times it has worked out have been awesome experiences but again, it was more about the experience than having a place to sleep. The problem is that it's just not a good way to consistently have a place to stay. It's especially hard if you're traveling on an uncertain/flexible schedule. The people who host couchsurfers are usually normal people with jobs and lives and probably can't cater to someone who who can't tell them if/when they'll show up at their door.
There are often fun events and meet-ups through the Couchsurfing website that are worth going to to meet people. If you show up to one of these it's possible someone would offer you a couch or at least show you around their city.
In short, no, you can't just go from couch to couch. Get a sleeping bag, mat, and tarp and be prepared to sleep outside most of the time.
Warmshowers.....seems cool. Thanks a lot man.My personal experience with the website couchsurfing has not been all that great. I think it's relatively clickish, but a great resource to use if you are looking to gain some friends in different parts of the world. My one experience in Carbondale, IL was great. My host showed me this awesome spot for deep dish pizza and let me crash on the couch. He was a cool dude. We talked and exchanged some stories and I was on my way the next day. It was a great resource for bicycle touring because I knew where I would be based on my normal daily mileage.
For hitchhiking though it was not all that great. A lot of times I wasn't sure where I would be so it was hard to give my host a reliable time frame of when I might arrive, which was troublesome because if I truly relied on their schedule being open for a few days and if they did not pick up their phone then I needed to find a place to camp. Sometimes it wasn't an issue, but it just sucked if they said they'd definitely be around and flaked out, which you'll find is pretty common among travelers. So don't rely on anyone's word unless you know them and have traveled with them before or they have hosted you in the past.
Continuing on with potential hosts...I tried using a few hosts abroad when I was in Southeast Asia and I found that a lot of people were rather creepy. Maybe it was a culture difference, but I had a few hosts who wanted to share their beds with me if I met up with them and another guy claimed to be nudist. So if I came into his home, he required I be naked at all times lol. So I quickly scratched the idea of couchsurfing off my list.
For me, I'd rather sleep outside if I'm wandering around. It's less hassle, you're safer, because you really don't know what that person's intentions are and you bump into people on the road when wandering who end up hosting you sometimes anyway. So just live in the moment and let whatever happens, happen. Couchsurfing kind of takes away some of the adventure anyway because then you focus on getting to that destination instead of enjoying the journey.
Also, another resource that was not mentioned is called "Warmshowers" it's a website used by cyclists who let you crash on their couch if you are bicycle touring through their state. I tried using it once, but the person flaked out.
I have had good luck with www.couchsurfing.com When i first registered I had a tough time convincing people to let me surf (lack of references etc). @Matt Derrick actually helped me get started by giving me a positive refference. Since I have had much luck and am upfront on how I travel, why I am in town etc. I will agree with @MolotovMocktail in that cs is a real community, thats made up of actual cool people without capitalism fucking everything up. Its def a give and take and isnt just an alternative to homelessness. I incorporate surfing with much of my travels. I usually try to surf with others whom seem interesting and have yet to have any negative experiences with it.
Couchsurfing is like regrouping & having a temporary homebase while traveling. In addition to showering & sleeping, I have been able to wash clothes, borrow bicycles, give/get free books, attend events, go sightseeing, borrow bus passes, swim in pools, share meals & so much more. I am sure there are some revolving couchsurfers who are really just upscale homeless ( i bet places like NYC would have an infinite surfing possibility if someone was smart enough). That being said tho, lots of hosts do not want to host locals or US citizens & the reference system can make or break you. Some only want to host foreign tourists. With the keyword search function on CS, its easier to find people to surf who share enough in common with me to almost always have a place to crash. I always travel with my bivy & sleeping bag so the alternative (sleeping outside) is natural and always available. With sleeping outside I usually isolate myself much more, I stay clear of homebums & am completely sober so unless I find another traveler I am usually alone. With couchsurfing I become a temporary member of someones community. The trust factor is huge & why the references mean so much. Often times your host will simply trust you with all of their stuff, keys to their home etc, often without actually meeting you yet. Lots of times I am just given instructions on how to get in their place. I am never treated like a stranger but more like a friend of a friend. Couchsurfing is awesome!
By couchsurfing I usually feel more like a tourist & less like a survivalist.
I guess I will now take another stab at this post & try to elaborate more on the first of the OPs three part question."Would it be possible to just surf from couch to couch?" I guess it is possible to surf from couch to couch (but it wont last forever if one cares about their reputation).
CS may be free but not really for freeloaders. There is an underlying expectation to use the surf for a cultural exchange, not really as just a way to save money by renting a hotel/motel/hostel. By eliminating the financial transaction many more opportunities to participate & exist in actual community present themselves. Often it is expected to do something nice for your host (making a piece of art, writing a poem, giving a small gift, preparing a meal or treating the host to a restaurant, or helping by doing some simple household chores. This common courtesy is more symbolic than anything but it shows appreciation. I have given books to hosts (often acquired at a free book pile , yardsale or used book store, repaired bicycles, given concert tix & vip passes of shows or fests I am working, done the dishes or purchased some simple every day ingredients like milk, bread, eggs & or coffee. I am usually flat broke but there is always something nice I can do to show that I am grateful.
I recently heard a story from a host where a young kid (20 years old) from Iowa came to the big apple & requested to stay for 1 day; he had no plans, no money & kept asking to stay just another few nights until he could line something up. This went on for 9 days. The host is very active on CS & was 80 years old & luckily for that kid was understanding of his bleak situation. He was just a dumb, lost & misguided kid that naively thought he will move out to NYC, find a job; get a place to stay etc & it will be just like in the movies. He also dreamed of hitchhiking back home to Iowa but also clueless as to the how and where to start.
So this story from the host where i was surfing brought up the topic of hitchhiking. I did not overstay my welcome & surfed for the 3 days that I requested but there was an uncertainty in the back of the hosts mind due to an unpleasant experience with the other kid (that he mistakenly thought was a Traveler since he mentioned hitchhiking). I could sense an skeptical undertone in & around the topic of my hitching & was uncomfortable that he thought that by me traveling via hitching that he was gonna have to endure a repeat experience. I do now have all positive references on CS and know exactly how to travel without money via hitching,hopping trains, rideshares & megabus. I also know top not take advantage of peoples generosity & or overstay my welcome. I guess this is to all of us in the traveling community; we are a small subculture that most of mainstream society has forgot about. As someone who has been around awhile it is my responsibility to leave the nontraveling world with a positive experience in dealing with us travelers. What I do & how I act could have negative consequences on others down the road. In this case I did have to defend how I travel but also defend fellow travelers. It would have been easy for the host to decide to only host foreign tourists who arrive by airplane, with the understanding that their travel itinerary is most likely rock solid & that they possess the financial means to rent a room or amend their transportation if anything happened. Most frequent couchsurfers know how important there online image is to prospective hosts & never want to tarnish it. I had absolutely no money & or definitive travel plans besides what time I would head out. I was given coffee & a bowl of cereal every morning that I welcomed as both the additional charity of my host. This also gave us the opportunity to get to know each other while sharing these simple meals. It would have been wrong of me to help myself to all of his groceries & or avoid these 5-10 minute exchanges of small talk to get acquainted with each other. After all I am a total stranger sleeping on his couch.
Luckily I was able to salvage this hosts uncertain image of the collective world of transient travelers. I am clear & open on my way of life & how I travel on CS and elsewhere online. Part of couchsurfing is the cultural exchange; with many people wrongly assume that local & or regional surfers have little to offer & refuse to host them. I try to add value to every situation that I am in.
The only way I can think of achieving long term multiple surfs in one place is to constantly be lying & changing your profile or having multiple profiles to keep a few steps ahead. That sounds like a lot of work & deception & doubtful that anyone will last too long undetected on www.couchsurfing.com without raising red flags & recieveing negative responses. I would like to see more people open their homes for transitional type housing with the idea that it was temporary in nature to assist someone avoid or recover from homelessness or to foster budget relocation to a new place. The CS model could be the vehicle to achieve that type of dynamic but I would guess that it would have to be done in a transparent & honest way.
It is rarely any different than flying a sign/spanging, hitchhiking or using rideshares; if we all act like dicks then collectively those who are inclined to help us as individuals will collectively stop helping us all as a group..
I am a couchsurfing friendly person and have been for several years. Have had several people in here - - several at one time with dogs and packs or just a single person with pack. Floor space, a crappy futon and several sleeping bags are available plus PLEASE go shower and food is always available. I have other things available but there are many things out there to look at too as @highwayman stated as well.
Also look into some of the community farms out there that look for help, sometimes paid help too, in exchange for food, shower and camping. I have a few contacts for these if interested, pm me. In the mean time - yes there are some cool people out there who are available for couch surfing and it goes quite well..
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