Has Couchsurfing grown up?
comment 6 Written by on February 15, 2010 – 5:25 am



Is Couchsurfing now mainstream? 1.5m users is huge number for something supposed to be ‘alternative’.

But it depends on what circles you mix in.

A couple of years ago, I found myself often having to start from scratch explaining the concept to other travellers in hostels. Couchsurfing was by no means new then, but it was still fairly underground and generally kept apart from the hostel world. You were either with it (and therefore not staying in hostels) or you weren’t aware of its existence.

Now there’s more overlap. People dip in and dip out. Those that don’t use it themselves have at least met others who have. And the word itself is no longer alien – even if people still don’t understand it fully.

If you’re a traveller currently staying in lots of hostels, I’d be interested to see if you agree and if you are coming across more couchsurfers now than before.

It was an article on Peter Greenburg’s travel site entitled "Couchsurfing for grown-ups" that made me return to this subject and think about how Couchsurfing is evolving. I like to see people recognising that the concept is not just for skint students and all ages groups are getting involved.

However, after reading the piece, I’m not sure why it has this headline. It’s a nice, introductory article but never qualifies how or why it is for "grown ups".

In fact, one of the casestudies, Morgan, comes across as a example of how not to use couchsurfing.

I stayed with someone in Japan who was using people as secretarial slaves. In exchange for staying, I had to work six hours a day in her tiny room filling out applications and sending out grants.

Eh? That’s not couchsurfing. That’s just bizarre. I’d be straight out the door.

But apparently Morgan agrees to it for a while, then falls out with his host over conflicting religious beliefs, moves out and spends a night in a cupboard box in a homeless park.

Who knows what Morgan’s circumstances were, but I hope the idea of checking in to a homeless park for the night while on a RTW trip doesn’t catch on. 

Anyway, if you’d rather not follow in his footsteps, follow these easy steps:

  • The first rule of Couchsurfing is to read the profiles and the references, ask questions if unsure, and don’t stay with a person if they seem in any way dodgy.
  • The second is to have a back-up plan. Don’t couchsurf when you don’t have a reserve fund of cash to pay for a last-minute alternative if things don’t work out. If you can’t afford one night in a hotel, it’s time to go home.

And that’s the way to couchsurf the grown-up way.

Photo: By Daquella Manera, Flickr, Creative Commons.

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6 Responses to “Has Couchsurfing grown up?”

  1. Have to agree with your tips on how to to couchsurf the grown-up way… you know it makes sense.

    I’m yet venture into this world though and I know few people who have so it feels far from mainstream to me at the moment. As you say, it depends on the circles you move in. The term does seem to be understood more widely these days, I was amazed the other day when my mum seemed to understand the concept without any real need for an explanation.

    So while the term might be mainstream it feels to me like it’s still quite ‘alternative’ in terms of actual users, but maybe I just need to get out more 🙂

  2. Yep, I think that’s exactly where we are Steve. Nicely put. I think anyone who actively reads the travel press can’t fail to be familiar with the term. But I think unless someone has experienced it themselves, there is still some level of confusion and, let’s face it, fear. There are however also folk like yourself who are open to the idea but just haven’t got round to it yet. There was less in this particular group a few years ago, I reckon, because less people had heard of it.

    By Vicky Baker on Feb 15, 2010 | Reply
  3. That person who was using people for work should have been reported or at least the comments about hosts should have let people know what was going to happen when they got there. The vast majority of Couchsurfing experiences seems to be extremely positive. You’re always going to have those weird/bad cases but those don’t seem to be common.

  4. I agree Brian. I’ve never heard a story as extreme as this one. I can’t believe there weren’t warning signs on the person’s profile page. The story gives the impression that you could be looking for a sofa and accidentally get trapped in a sweatshop.

    By Vicky Baker on Feb 15, 2010 | Reply
  5. I use hospitality club for my social networking and I mainly do the hosting but I have met up with a couple of locals through the site when I was visiting cities and it made the trip so much more fun and engaging.

    I think that people of all ages and lifestyles are ‘dipping in and out’ as you put it – OK many of them have budget constraints, but they also just love to meet people who can give them an insight and instant social life of their new locality. I interviewed one of my guests who was using Hospitalty club to travel the UK for a month with her teenage daughter and she said it was more about allowing her daughter to experience what England was really like.


    I’ve also had a couple with a baby, a couple of older women travelling alone and a middle aged couple – all pretty grown up!

  6. Thanks Heather. What a cool mum! Nice idea. Wonder if the teenage daughter appreciated it at the time though? Maybe if the families had other teenage kids too. That would beat a hotel where you’re stuck with your mum 24/7 😉

    By Vicky Baker on Mar 12, 2010 | Reply

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