Couchsurfing was our main type of accommodation for my and Dobbs’ trip through New Zealand.
We didn’t have much of a choice – if we were to travel the full 3 weeks that we had set out for ourselves, we simply could not pay for accommodation each night! The backpacker struggle is real, but traveling on a shoestring makes it all the more exciting.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, Couchsurfing is a global network connecting “travelers” and “hosts,” offering accommodation essentially free of charge. The idea is that there is a cultural exchange that takes place, surfers and hosts sharing a bit about their respective countries with each other.
I had only heard good things about Couchsurfing in the past.
Of course there is an obvious risk staying at a total stranger’s place, but there is an equal counter-risk – somebody is inviting strangers into their home! Like with hitchhiking, we figured that as two (fairly sensible) girls traveling together, in the relatively non-threatening country of New Zealand, we would be pretty safe. And we totally were!
Couchsurfing was the coolest way to meet people of all sorts of ages, origins, and lifestyles.
We stayed with farmers, students, families, ski instructors, pub crawl guides… the list goes on. We really felt that we got an authentic Kiwi experience, and if given the chance, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat!
Having Couchsurfed for the first time along with a travel partner, I now feel a lot more confident to do it alone, knowing how to have the best chance of having a good host and a mutually beneficial experience! Obviously experiences Couchsurfing in Indonesia would be very different to New Zealand, but the basics remain the same.
Kirsten’s Top Tips for Couchsurfing
- In general, only stay with people who have a number of (positive) references. We made one exception and this was for Beau and Tai, two guys our own age. A thorough Facebook stalk can suffice 😉
- Keep your wits about you. If you’re feeling uncomfortable for whatever reason after having arrived at a host, leave. Any potential awkwardness is definitely preferable over being in a compromised situation. Make up a story, say anything, and get out of there. You have no obligation to stay.
- You are not paying to stay at this person, but remember that they never needed to host you to begin with. Don’t just treat the experience simply as a roof over your head for a night – make an effort to connect with your host
- Similarly, if possible, bring something unique that you can share. I had been away from home for months so couldn’t bring anything traditionally South African to share. However, Dobbs and I would sometimes bake a massive batch of cookies at a host’s place, share these with them, take the rest along, and share with the next host too. Other times we would buy food and make a meal in the host’s kitchen for all of us to share. It’s small things like this that others really appreciate.
- Keep an open mind. Don’t have expectations, because things will always be different. Be receptive to new people and experiences, and just do it!
Click here to see an up-to-date list and photos of the people I’ve stayed with around the world!