My apologies for the delay in posting, noble readers; I have recently relocated to Vimutti Buddhist Monastery and have limited Internet access.
Some Couchsurfers may have already had the fortune of reading Sleeping Around by Brian Thacker, the story of a man surfing his way across the globe; incidentally, if you are in New Plymouth, New Zealand, I left my copy to their CSing community – find it and leave your autograph to the ages.
From Kenya to Iceland, Thacker takes us on a global tour of the hospitality of those bearing their souls… but mostly their couch cushions. If I had read this back in 2007, I would have been pleasantly shocked and awed. As it stands, from my great experiences Couchsurfing in Thailand – longboating to Kou Raya Yai in Phuket, dining on the beach in Kou Tao, enjoying the company of Americans, British, and Thais over a home-cooked meal in Nahkon Si Thammarat – I already knew the world was full of such generosity… even from those who have little: in Kenya, he stayed with a man in his mudwall house and did a few walkabouts of a small village. But there are also those with resources who want to give a good name to their culture: somewhere in Brazil, there is a huge mansion listed on CSing (you get your own wing; how’s that for a couch?); an Argentinean man offered to set Thacker up in a ski lodge for a few days.
A pity he didn’t choose to surf in Japan, New Zealand, or his native Australia, but I digress… what got my attention, among other Couchsurfing ideals discussed in the book, was a conversation Thacker had with his Icelandic host, inquiring as to whether CSers and hosts ever “hooked up” in their travels.
Let’s explore this further with a hypothetical scenario. You’re a male Couchsurfing host and a single female contacts you about needing a place to stay for one night; altogether, not an uncommon occurrence. From her picture, you can see she’s smokin’… and here’s where difficulties arise: do you try to make a move on this beautiful, well-traveled girl who probably just wants a safe environment with a charming guide for the night? If she responds (good on ya), you might start to question whether she surfs just for casual sex; if she doesn’t, you feel a bit sleazy for even trying in the first place, and chances are, a negative reference is in your future, limiting your Couchsurfing opportunities as host and surfer:
This guy is such a jerk. I politely asked if I could stay for one night, and as soon as I arrive and settle in, he tries to get me drunk and starts hitting on me! Girls, BEWARE! I wouldn’t recommend him as a host or surfer. Definitely an insult to the spirit of Couchsurfing.
It is pretty sleazy to even consider sleeping with someone alone, on the road, and to whom you’ve opened your home. On the other hand… the vagabonding life can get pretty lonely. Sex is often the first real connection in interacting with foreign travelers. And if she’s only staying one night, there is little chance of conflict in ending the “relationship”: you know she’s only staying for one night, she knows she’s staying for one night, and the chances of both of you running into each other again by coincidence are staggering.
From a woman’s perspective (and I apologize for this guesswork, but I will forever remain in the dark as to your minds), let’s play out a scenario between a female Couchsurfing host and a male surfer. The guy tries to gage as to whether a delightful, attractive host would be interested in taking things a bit further this evening… ok, stop there; a nice girl has opened up her house for you, and the first thing you can think of is “how can I hit that…”??? Pretty shameful. On the other hand, if unwelcome advances come from the girl first (whether she’s surfing or hosting) I can imagine it playing out in two ways: either you hook up, or there’s an awkwardness following the both of you for the remainder of the trip (I might add it would take a cosmic event for a guy to turn down a girl).
Why Couchsurfers hooking up is a good thing:
- Ummm… “building bridges” in the international community?
- Some would say that’s called being a good host
- An impermanent thing; you both have time to have fun while traveling, and not deal with anything serious
Why Couchsurfers hooking up can be a really bad thing:
- You betray the trust instilled by Couchsurfing, both as host and surfer
- With a negative reference, you may be permanently couchless on the road
- The chance of that awkward encounter in an international airport later on
My experiences? I’ve had a lot of surfers and hosts and thought about what might have been. I hear stories all the time from hosts, mostly guys, about girls who have surfed looking for a good time. My hosts on Kou Tao met while the guy was surfing her couch in Egypt, and they’ve been together for quite a while (soon to be married, I believe). I guess, in a sense, it’s better than trying to hook up in nightclubs or through random encounters; you know a little about both host and surfer going in, and you already have a common interest that really ties you to each other’s feelings: travel. The differences lies in accountability, i.e. your references. In the real world, if you’re turned down or slapped in disgust, that’s pretty much the end of it (unless you’re unfortunate enough to have tried something in a small community or office); in the Couchsurfing world, the experience is torn open for all to see… one can even change his or her reference after the fact.
What are your experiences with Couchsurfing?