SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador- I was recently informed that my Couchsurfing strategy was all wrong. My friend Pablo from Pablo is Here told me of a conversation that he had with a Mexican Couchsurfering host who said that he would not accept any surfers who did not intend to stay for at least a week.
You can’t get to know anyone in two days was his logic.
Pablo then told me that up until that point he was requesting to stay in people’s homes when traveling in Mexico for only a day or two, and most of his requests just met an endless stream of rejection emails. After having the conversation with the host who said that he does not accept short term Couchsurfers, Pablo began requesting longer stays.
“I now tell hosts that I am a slow traveler and that I want to stay for two weeks minimum and a month maximum.”
It worked. By saying that he wanted to stay for longer durations of time, he found that his acceptance rate soared. He now had no difficulties finding places to Couchsurf, and traveled in this way across Mexico and Guatemala, staying with people for up to a month at a time.
This story made me realize that my CS strategy was also flawed, that I, too, have been requesting too short of stays. It makes sense: not only is it difficult to get to know someone in a day or two, but it is work for a host to pick you up, show you around, get you comfortable in their home, get comfortable around you — it takes time for a stranger to become a friend.
Couchsurf stays of a couple of days means that a stranger enters a place and a stranger leaves — and the couch you surf becomes more like a cold hostel bunk than a place where you exchange a part of yourself for a piece of another person.
Who wants a stranger creeping around their home? How can you trust someone who wants to use the place that you live as a hotel? Why would you want to invest time into a person who only wants to be around you for a day or two?
Why would I want a stranger sleeping in my home? I had to ask myself after having this conversation with Pablo. If I had a home, would I rather have a plethora of people accessing it through a revolving door, or would I prefer to have one or two people stay for a length of time that I could actually become friends with them, who I could feel comfortable around, who I could be more sure that I could trust, people who could teach me a few things, show me a real part of themselves, guests who I could have conversations with beyond the surface basics?
I had to admit that I would prefer the later.
The Couchsurfing road has been a little labor intensive for me: finding hosts, getting to their homes, and getting settled just to leave in a day or two was a little too much work to make it really worthwhile. The top heaviness of my previous Couchsurfing strategy was just a little too much, I became aware that I would rather just pay for accommodation than put an hour or two every day into finding a successive string of CS hosts. But if I could stay for a place for a month, that would mean that I would not need to send out another CS request for a couple of weeks, and the labor intensiveness of the strategy would diminish greatly: the labor time/ money saved ratio would tip in favor of Couchsurfing.
I previously thought that requesting stays of only a couple of nights would be preferable to my hosts — I did not want to impose. But now my opinion is different, it now seems as if it may be a better Couchsurfing strategy to request longer stays, to have a real look around the places where my hosts live, and to make some real friends.
I will take Pablo’s tip: the next time I look for a Couchsurfing host my request letter will be more like:
I travel slow, can I stay for a month?