This is the second installment in my mini-series about couch surfing. Last time I mentioned some of the basics, but here I wanted to address what is usually the first thing someone asks me about when they hear that I’ve been sleeping on strangers’ couches…safety. Didn’t our parents spend our entire childhoods telling us not to speak to strangers, never mind meeting them randomly at pre-designated locations so that we might stay in their homes?

29A_0062

As far as I’ve experienced, couch surfing is uncannily safe. Any stories of negative experiences that I have heard have been these sorts of old wives’ tales heard about a friend of a friend. That being said, trusting someone new always comes with risk, and the website itself provides some good tips for safety. A good rule of thumb is to check out the person’s profile to see that it’s filled out, includes a picture, and has references. Most of the “horror stories” I’ve heard have involved surfers who had no references on their profiles and therefore no established reliability. It makes sense that crooks or other scary folks might try to use the site, but to establish a network of friends and references takes time and effort and also obviously makes them easily identifiable to authorities.

If you still feel unsure, there are some other ways to mollify your fears. If you’re hosting, you can ask that your guests come and go in accordance to your hours. Many hosts provide keys, but you aren’t obligated to let people have complete access to your home. You also can obviously select whom you want to stay in your place. If you genuinely only feel comfortable hosting females, fill out that preference in your profile and only host ladies.  Avoid anyone who alludes to you being attractive in requests. Most guys and gals on CS are totally respectful and harmless, but sometimes you get a few annoying Romeos who didn’t get the message about couch surfing not being a dating website.

If you’re surfing, there are also things to be done. Talk to your host through the messages or over the phone. Meet them in a public place. Try to get them to take you to meet up with some of their friends so you can see them in a social setting. Stay with people who have a few housemates. If things feel shady, don’t worry about being rude. Find a hostel or even just an internet café and skidaddle. I think another important thing to mention is attitude and confidence.  I’ve noticed a lot of hitch hiking guides bring this up. Human interaction is an ever-changing event that we have a great deal of control over. Many crimes are not premeditated but evolve out of the way an interaction takes place. You can read more about some of these ideas here.

Everyone I’ve interacted with from CS thus far seemed to have a good idea about how to respect other humans and was interested in maintaining a community of trustworthy travelers with free couches. Though I’ve provided a lot of hesitant tips, I do encourage everyone to try trusting strangers and see how wonderful it can be. It might seem intimidating at first, but we travel to step outside of our comfort zones and see what exists outside of our bubbles. CS is just another way to experience that. Open up and let go! But of course, trust your gut and make sure you feel comfortable, or else it won’t be enjoyable for anyone!

9

post by Jackie Clark