It all started with a status that I put up on the Runaway Brit Facebook page.
“Couchsurfing: Yes or No?”
Before long I had received 31 comments, by far the most comments I have ever received on one status. I knew I must be onto something.
“I would definitely recommend the experience!” said Dana’s Boots
“Yes, Yes, Yes” enthused Where Is Kait?
“I have nothing but good things to say about it” was the response from Miss Adventure: Teach, Travel, Live, Learn
And Skinny Chick Travelling told me about how Couchsurfing had “…changed [her] life in every positive possible way.”
I was overwhelmed by the response. And I was surprised to discover that most of the comments came from female travellers. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but experience has shown me that a woman travelling alone has to be more cautious than male or group travellers, and this is what has always held me back from trying Couchsurfing before. Yet here were a number of female travellers unanimously telling me to go for it.
I signed up to the website and left details of my trip.
Then I received a message on Twitter: “I have a flat you can use”
I replied to the message and we connected through the Couchsurfing website.
The apartment was very close to the central area of Westbahnof and within walking distance of Schönbrunn palace, making it perfect for sightseeing. I decided to take the plunge.
Less than a week later I was walking nervously from Vienna’s Westbahnhof train station to my host’s home.
My host had been working all day and seemed tired when I arrived, yet he still made me feel welcome in his house – offering me drinks, allowing me to use his washing machine, and showing me to his daughter’s room where I would be sleeping.
Having travelled extensively himself, he understood the needs of a fellow traveller and was a good host.
As it turned out he would be away for a few days and would be allowing me to have the run of his apartment to myself. Although I was hoping to use Couchsurfing as a way of meeting people this worked well, as I had a couple of friends in Vienna that weekend to catch up with during the day. It was nice to have a private base to return to.
Would I recommend Couchsurfing?
I love the idea of Couchsurfing, but I love my privacy too—I like a common area to hang out chatting with like-minded travellers, but I want a private room to spread out in. The apartment in Vienna was perfect, but I knew with that I had struck gold. In all honesty, I think that I would make a better host than surfer.
I received a few offers from other possible hosts for some of the places that I had listed on my itinerary. All of them were tempting, but after Vienna my friend and I travelled onwards together and decided to stay in hostels where we could meet other travellers.
Sadly, I received a few emails from men that implied there is a tendency for some people to use the site to hook-up. Of course I ignored these, so if you are a solo female traveller using Couchsurfing please make sure that you choose your host carefully by looking at the reviews. You could also find out information about them by looking at social networking sites (it’s amazing how many people have open profiles on Facebook!).
All in all, I had a very positive experience of Couchsurfing, and will certainly be up for trying it again.
Have you ever tried Couchsurfing? Maybe you haven’t tried it yet, but would like to? I would love to hear your experiences—positive or negative. Please leave a comment below.