Couchsurfing in India

On Sleeping with Strangers: Couchsurfing.org

Nittin, my Couchsurf host from Delhi who took me to his family's home in Shimla, India

I know the idea of sleeping with strangers freaks many people out, but one of the reasons I was excited to move to Colorado and “settle in” for a couple years (despite my hesitation about feeling “stuck” here), was to have a place of my own to host couch surfers. When I tell people there’s such a thing as a social media website similar to Facebook, except that a friend request is actually a request to sleep on a stranger’s couch/floor/spare bedroom, they balk and say something like, “How scary!” or “That’s strange.” I agree. It can be both scary and strange, but I’ve used the site as a surfer numerous times and had some of the most unbelievable experiences. When I tell people about the kind man who took me out to a fancy dinner and loaned me money for a week of travels in northern Vietnam, they can’t believe I met him on Couchsurfing.org. When I talk about the local man I stayed with in Delhi, who then traveled with me to Shimla to stay in his childhood home with his father and sister (overlooking the mountaintops, I might add!) and then back to Kalka where I stayed with his sister and aging grandmother, they’re surprised that our first encounter was as perfect strangers, when he picked me up at the airport. A few months before I moved to Fort Collins, I surfed with a man about my age who is now a good friend. There were numerous encounters with strangers who are no longer strangers in between these memorable ones, and after using the site as a regular surfer for so long, I was eager to become the host and give back the favor.

My room in Vivek's house, shared with a girl from Denmark.

My room in Rishikesh, India, shared with another couch surfer from Denmark.

Last weekend, I was finally able to convince my skeptical roommate (rightfully so) that strangers can be good people, and she allowed me to invite two women into our home. We hosted Jen and Liz for two nights, and had so much fun getting to know each other over beers, wine, dinner, and more beer the following day at Fort Collins Brew Fest in Old Town. Not only was it Katy’s and my first time hosting, but it was their first time using the site. The weekend was an overall success, and I think we have three new believers in the couchsurfing community. Couch surfing has strengthened my notion that people are inherently good. It has made me a believer in trusting strangers, and it has proven that completely immersing myself in a culture is by far my favorite way to travel. With couchsurfing, one gets to see the local lifestyle, eat the local cuisine and speak with the locals about their culture, religion, family, etc. We get to learn from the inside what it’s like to be a local, and almost always the experience is bolstered by newfound friends.

The Details:

For those who don’t know, users of couchsurfing.org sign up and create a profile, complete with photos and descriptions about self, including interests and philosophy, and sections like “Types of People I Enjoy” and “One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done.” Not everyone fills these out completely, but it’s up to you to determine what that means. Then, perhaps most importantly, there is a references section where people can rate their experience with a particular host/surfer based on trustworthiness, and then leave a review for others to see. It’s important when choosing a host or allowing a surfer into your home that you view a profile and make calculated judgments of character.

And it’s free. It’s not to be abused as simply free lodging, nor should you actually sleep with strangers; it’s a cultural exchange, and should be treated as so. Be the guest you would want to host, and the experience will be positive for all.

On Sleeping with Strangers: Couchsurfing.org
Written by:Jessica J. Hill

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10 Comments

  1. Jackie says:

    Jessica, I would have to say it is too scary letting perfect strangers stay on your couch. I hope you sleep with one eye open at all times!!!

    • jessicajhill says:

      Haha, well we get to know each other quite well before we go to sleep, usually, and I tend to trust my gut instinct when I meet people for the first time. It has yet to lead me astray! My couch is open to non-strangers too, if you want to come visit 😉

  2. Tim says:

    I love that website! It may be a vaccine for the fear-mongering of the evening news. Congratulations and thank you for finding and using it! And an even bigger thank you for reminding me of it, since I just moved into a place too, and as soon as I have a second sleeping surface, I’ll be listing for sure!

    • jessicajhill says:

      I’ve never considered couchsurfing like a vaccine, but I like where you’re going with this! Have you hosted before, or just surfed? Both experiences are equally amazing, I can say now!

  3. Frank says:

    Good for you Jessica, it’s great that you are that open and generous with your time and to others.
    I don’t think we’d ever do it, I think couchsurfing for another generation honestly, but I can see all the merits behind it and think it’s great opportunity to meet other (hopefully) good people.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Frank! I’ve met some wonderful fellow surfers of your generation as well, so it’s not just for a certain group, but I certainly understand your hesitation with it. It’s a bit of a non-conventional way to travel, but totally worth trying if you’re in a place you think you feel safe trying it.

  4. Dana says:

    Great post, Jessica! We had a wonderful couch surfing experience in Norway–it really added to our stay there and we got to see and learn about things from a local perspective that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

  5. Andrea says:

    Had my first couchsurfing experience last week and it couldn’t have gone better! Love reading about other people’s experiences and sharing in the ideology that world isn’t as scary as it’s made out to be! http://nomoneywilltravel.com

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