When we discovered Couchsurfing a couple of years ago, it changed our style of travel. We went from mostly hanging out with other travellers to spending time with locals who were enthusiastic about showing us around their town.
Of course, we understood what we were getting out of it — among other things, a free place to stay and a knowledgeable guide. But we couldn’t really see what was in it for the hosts.
Maria Paz, our first South American host, told us that she loved Couchsurfing because it made her feel like she was travelling even though work was tying her to Santiago. Another host, Paul, said he was planning a long trip and planned to couchsurf along the way — he wanted to give back before he left. And Benny told us he loves to host so that he can practice the 700 languages he speaks.
Now that we’ve settled down for a bit, we’re finally able to have guests come and stay — and it’s been awesome. While we haven’t hosted anyone we’ve never met, we have had both friends and acquaintances come to stay, and we’re finally able to see why hosting is so worthwhile.
1. See more of your town
Hosting gives you a reason to get to know your own city. You’ll probably want to take your guests to see the sights, which you might not have seen yourself since you were a kid. Here in A Coruna, we took Dave up the San Pedro elevator and introduced Philip to the joys of tapas.
Seeing how someone else reacts to things that are familiar for you gives you a new perspective on them, and can help you appreciate what you have.
2. Hear travel stories and get inspired to travel
You might not be able to travel at the moment, but you can live vicariously through your guests’ stories. They might have been somewhere you plan to go, so you can pick their brains about what you should do when you get there, or you can just enjoy hearing about their experiences. Plus they’ll be happy to hear your stories as well.
3. Learn some travel tricks
You’ll be able to see how other people travel — what they pack and how they organise their time while they’re on the road.
You might pick up some great ideas or find a fantastic travel accessory that you’d never heard of.
4. Practice languages
If you’re learning a new language, hosting people who speak that language will give you an excellent chance to practice. It’s a no-brainer, really.
5. Experience the other side of the coin, so you can see how to behave when you’re a guest
Hosting people gives you the chance to see what it’s like to have a guest in your house. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see how a good guest behaves — and you can then emulate them the next time you’re the guest. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll learn what not to do!
Have you hosted people through Couchsurfing, or a similar service? What was it like?