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March 30, 2012

What’s it like to couchsurf across America?

Young man lying under a red couch.

Young man lying under a red couch. Photo: Dave Austria / Flickr

When you think of places you’ve visited, do you remember the sights–or the people?  In this article, it was the latter that made the lasting impression: I couch-surfed across America.

The vivid and quirky cast of Couchsurfing hosts the writer encounters provide enough fodder for its own TV sitcom. An excerpt:

Bill, our host in Duluth, described himself in his profile as a Zamboni operator and freelance detective. In reality, he manned the graveyard shift at an assisted living facility and supplemented his income by donating plasma on the weekends. With the decline of the Iron Range, he explained, blood was now the city’s largest export. This was also false.

It goes to show that there’s no such thing as a standard couchsurfer (or standard American, for that matter).  Along the way, writer Tim Murphy goes through the highs and lows.  The highlights include flying in a WWII-era plane over the Mississippi river, followed by being treated to dinner.

One of the recurring challenges was finding hosts to stay with in popular big cities.  Being in high demand, these hosts can be super-picky:

Nearly every profile I looked at in San Francisco stipulated that requests must be sent well in advance—and write a real nice letter, too (one profile asks for “a touch of humor and/or flattery”), because they get 20 requests a day and won’t take just anyone.

Have you done couchsurfing or homestays with locals?  What were the pros and cons of doing that?  Please share your experiences in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (3) 
Category: Backpacking, Hospitality, Notes from the collective travel mind


3 Responses to “What’s it like to couchsurf across America?”

  1. Damien Says:

    I’m host on CS,I have to disagree with you about host in the city being super picky,a personal request should get enough attention from the host.

    How will it makes you feel as a host if you received everyday lot of copy and paste/Generic couchrequests?

    I received about 80-90 percents of couchrequest this way,It’s one the biggest con about couchsurfing,it’s cause lot of damage to hosting and host themselves are not motivated enough to continue answering them all,it sounds like a part time job and cannot keep up on hosting after a few months,they also changed their profile status from couch available to maybe.

    You said 20 couchrequest for any host in San Francisco that makes between 2 and 4 personal request a day for me,so there are plenty of chance to couchsurf if you write a personal request after reading the host profile.

  2. GypsyGirl Says:

    I’ve been a part of CS for several years, and have slept on couches, rented rooms, and even whole flats in other countries. My experiences in American (my native country) are somewhat unique. When State side, I mostly venture in a 43 foot rig along with several dogs and horses. My pack and I have ‘couchsurfed’ in a few peoples back yards…

    CS is a genuine avenue to be part of a place, as opposed to pass through it, especially if I’m travelling to wander for wanders sake. However, when going to a place for a direct purpose, like, say, a conference, I tend to find other accommodations.

  3. So what’s it like to Couchsurf in Asia? | Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Says:

    [...] few weeks ago, Marcus Sortijas published an interesting piece on Vagabonding describing the Couchsurfing experience in the United States. As I am a Couchsurfing [...]

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