Last week I wrote about how to be a great couch surfer host. After hosting a whole slew of amazing couch surfers, I’ve definitely seen how several acts, big and small, can make a guest forever memorable, and can improve the entire couch surfing experience.
1) Couch Surfers with a Very Informative Profile
Perhaps it should go without saying that most people won’t host couch surfers with an empty profile. Few or no pictures and minimal information do not inspire confidence that we’re dealing with a real person, let alone someone who is serious about preserving the integrity and quality of the couch surfing experience.
But I’m talking about something else.
My couch surfers have been all sorts of awesome, as are a lot of people picking up and traveling the world. Let us know that we should be super excited about your visit. Let us know someone special will soon be in our home. Give us lots of stuff to bug you about before you ever show up.
In short, you’re amazing. That fact should be evident from the offset in your pictures and profile.
2) Write a Letter, Surfers!
This was very common among my couch surfers in the United States. A few simple words are greatly appreciated. I’ve saved every letter I’ve received and I plan to save them forever. A few kind, personal words is such an easy and such an amazing gesture, and it often personalizes the experience, since unlike a house gift, a letter is usually written after the fact.
Words from a surfer:
“Thank you for making me feel so at home and comfortable. Thank you for sharing your space and, more importantly, your stories. It has been a pleasure to get to know you so far, and I look forward to keeping in touch!”
These words will stay with me forever, and so will the memories.
3) Gifts, the Right Kind
Before I say another word, I cannot stress this enough: No couch surfer should EVER feel obligated to give anything at all to their host. That being said, it’s often a lovely and much appreciated gesture. It need not cost much, and can still make a lasting impact.
The best gifts are ones that foster fond memories. My two favorites are regional souvenirs… or a beer.
a. On my fridge I have a bottle opener from Costa Rica. Among my books I have a dessert recipe book from Italy. And in my kitchen are a bunch of coasters from Poland. I love having things in my home from all over the world, and I love that each one comes with a story and reminds me of some of the great visitors who have passed through my home over the years.
b. Whether it’s a beer or a falafel, it doesn’t matter. You’re not really buying your host a drink. You’re creating a memorable experience together. I wander through Jerusalem’s shuk and say “That’s where I hung out with my Newfies” and “That’s where I had Chinese food on Christmas… with my surfer from China.” The beer gets drunk; the experience lasts forever.
4) Do Some Dishes
It is common courtesy for any couch surfer to leave your home the way they found it. And again, no couch surfer should ever feel like they have an obligation to clean anything at all in your home beyond their own mess.
That being said, I have had multiple surfers who were constantly washing my dishes. Even if I protested, before I knew it, my sink was empty. I cannot tell a lie. I am a neat and tidy person, but I absolutely loath washing dishes, and I so do miss having a dishwasher. These fabulous couch surfers know in their heart of hears that when I say “Stop, you really don’t need to do that”, what I’m really thinking is “Oh my goodness, this person is an angel who could and should stay at my home any time they want!”
A great life lesson: If you want someone to love you forever, do their dishes.
5) Couch Surfers Should Share Who They Are
As a host, I love experiencing the world through the eyes of people who live all over the world, and people who have travelled and have seen a great deal.
The best thing you could ever do as a guest is to be yourself and share of yourself as much as possible. Pour out information about you and your country’s culture, history, and idiosyncracies. I’m super attentive and I’m soaking in every word. The more you’re willing to let me know who you are, the more enjoyable and meaningful the experience.
And never assume any detail is too small!
I’m still blown away by discovering that in Spain the word “tortilla” means something completely different than it does in Mexico, and consequently the US (There’s no wrap involved. It’s more similar to what we call an omelet. I know right! Mind blown!!).
The best thing you could ever do as a guest is to be yourself and share of yourself as much as possible. Pour out information about you and your country's culture, history, and idiosyncrasies... The more you're willing to let me know… Click To Tweet
6) Write a Reference
I’m kind of reference gremlin. I love them. And the more I get, and the more positive they are, the more I just want to keep hosting and hosting.
Some people have told me that they didn’t bother with references because their host already had so many, they didn’t think their own added anything to the host’s profile. This is an error. Every single reference counts, and having 200 is better than having 100. The only way to get there is one reference at a time.
I read every reference I get with relish and excitement. And it’s just about the best way for me to find out how I’m doing as a host. In fact, the only thing that lets me know I’m doing a good job even more, is when I’m asked to be hosted again by the same guest.
7) Report Those Who Deserve Reporting
Couch Surfing is its own little subculture of the world. Many of us take it very seriously and strongly believe in what we are doing.
Therefore, when I hear awful stories about hosts who mistreated their couch surfers in any fashion, it unnerves me. I know for every God-awful host out there, there are scores of fantastic ones. But the only way to let future guests know what they might be walking into, is to write a reference that reflects what happened, or to report the host if what they did crossed lines.
I know that when a traveler returns home from their vacation, dwelling on the negative parts of their trip is the last thing they want to do. And with each passing day, the emotions begin to wane and the likelihood of being proactive lessens and lessens.
There are many reasons why you should hop on your laptop and take care of this right away. Do it because it helps improve the entire Couch Surfing community. Do it because no one should ever not wish to be hosted by someone like me, because some other fool ruined their impression of the experience. Most of all, do it because whatever suffering you experienced should never happen to another person. And it’s your responsibility as a human being to make sure of that!