This past weekend, my friend Christina and I popped our Couchsurfing cherries. Couchsurfing.org is a website that essentially connects people who like to travel with couches to other people who like to travel with couches so that you can make friends and travel the whole world nearly for free. When all of the accommodations in Glasgow had been booked up because of the Ryder’s Cup, I desperately turned to Couchsurfing.org. I had been aware of the site, and even had a profile, but I had never actually considered it a reality. After requesting to surf on a number of couches while in one hundred words trying to sound upbeat, safe, and a cool person to let stay in your house, a woman accepted.
Her name was Julie and she had a kitten. That was all we needed to know. We accepted.
When it was finally Saturday, we came face to face with the fact that we were going to stay with a complete stranger. We didn’t have her phone number or Facebook and we didn’t have her address; we only knew that she had a kitten.
At that point, it was too late to go back. I messaged her on the site, and she sent us her address. After dinner in Glasgow, we hopped on the bus to her house, and were dropped on a dark, quiet street in the suburbs. It was strange, walking through the residential neighborhood up to an apartment building to knock on a random lady’s door.
We did it, with only minor panic – we forgot that in the United Kingdom the ground floor is floor zero and not the first floor. When she opened the door, we were relieved to see that Julie looked even nicer in person. And her kitten was too adorable, too.
While we made small talk with this nice woman, she showed us to our room. Standing at the doorway, she said, ‘You know, you really need to be careful about couchsurfing. Not everyone is nice’. That was the moment we finally thought, maybe this was dangerous?
Then we wondered: how could we have been safer? And also, was it safe for Julie to let random people sleep in her house? While Couchsurfing.org does record every message of correspondence between you and your surf-friend and the online profile is thorough, it cannot guarantee one hundred percent safety. The best way to stay safe while surfing is to make sure friends back home know who you are couchsurfing with, meet your host in a public location before hand, charge your phone, and go with another person. We did most of that.
While couchsurfing may be a risk, it is definitely worth it. We got to meet Julie, play with her adorable kitten, and sleep overnight in Glasgow for free.
Samantha Emily Evans
Photo credit: Katherine Fraser