Couchsurfing and an Open Letter to the Solo traveler

Shana Pike
December 5, 2016

Dear fellow wanderlust, study abroader, or comfy couch reader,

Travel somewhere by yourself! Get out of your comfort zone and explore! Traveling on my own was easily the most informative and interesting part of my study abroad journey. I tend to be an introverted extrovert (or an extroverted introvert?)  by which I mean I love people, but I also desperately need time to recharge after being with people for too long. Due to the fact that I generally organize my life through an extrovert’s lens, I tend to travel with others.

One of my goals for study abroad was to do a trip entirely on my own. I wanted to reduce barriers though, which is why I choose Ireland. English is the main language (although the accents proved tricky…) and it was really cheap to get to from Amsterdam. Win-win.

As someone traveling on a budget but really enjoys the local experience, I wanted to try couchsurfing. Couchsurfing, for those of you unfamiliar, is an organization that connects people offering a place to stay and those traveling who need a place to stay. Most often, this site is filled with people who absolutely love traveling and just want to share experiences and meet new people. I thought it was perfect – I can get my extroverted and introverted fixes (and it’s cost-free!).

I started reaching out to potential hosts with really well thought out and articulated, personalized messages well in advance… 45 days in advance to be exact. Do you know what you’ll be doing in 45 days? Neither did the people I messaged. I was rejected by everyone with kind words of luck.

I made a hostel reservation, just in case.

As my dates approached, I started sending requests again, to which I got one response. It was from a 34 year old man who moved to Dublin 11 years ago. He seemed enthusiastic and nice, so we chatted for a bit and exchanged contact information.

I canceled my hostel reservation.

The next day, he told me he would book a hostel for us two on Thursday night. Why, I’m still not sure. I asked him multiple times, “What is that for? That doesn’t make sense”. I asked for clarification, but I never really got a straightforward answer. I justified it as strange, but figured if he were an oddball, there would be more people to turn to at a hostel than in his home, so I let it pass. Later, our conversations made me even more uncomfortable, as he “jokingly” offered to get me drugs at one point.

The night before my flight, I couldn’t sleep. I had an anxious feeling that wouldn’t go away. Honestly, I didn’t even want to go on this trip anymore. I was exhausted and bogged down with school work, I was staying with a sketchy person, and I just wanted to stay wrapped in my Amsterdam bed. Then I received another host offer from a 20 year old student. She was insanely kind in her messages and I immediately saw an out.

To spare an incredibly stressful sequence of events, I stayed with her instead, listened to my uneasiness, and made a wonderful friends out of my first couchsurfing experience.

Morals of the story:

First, trust your gut. I almost went through with this arrangement because I "felt bad" that I was pulling out of a previously decided ordeal, which would have been foolish and potentially dangerous.

Second, if you're interested, I'd highly recommend trying couchsurfing. My experience may take a potential user aback, but it worked out in the end and I got a wonderful friend and experience out of the arrangement. Win-win! 

The activities mentioned in this post were undertaken during the student’s free time and were not sponsored nor endorsed by IES Abroad.


Shana Pike

<p>Hello folks! I&#39;m Shana, a small-town tree-hugger with a big appetite for experiences, culture, and knowledge. I&#39;m an undergrad student of Psychology and Gender Studies, yearning to understand my surroundings better each day. Welcome to my conglomeration of ideas and passions, all nourished by traveling, friends, spinach, and coffee.</p>

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