I stared at my computer screen for a few moments- my jaw dropped, becoming way too friendly with my neck, and my eyes started trying to escape their sockets. Couchsurfing? I thought. What? How is that safe? This was before I had my first Couchsurfing experience. Don’t judge a book by its cover, right?
I first started with Airbnb. Long story short, you pay someone to stay at their house/apartment/attic/tiny room next to the kitchen for however long you’re in the area. I love Airbnb. I did it in Paris, Amsterdam, and Bethlehem, PA, and had an amazing experience every single time. The thing about Airbnb, though, is that because you pay them, they have to get verified- Couchsurfing is different. Anyone can do it. And it’s free.
I read many reviews about Couchsurfing and how great of an experience people have had. Then, being the person that I am, I decided to Google the bad Couchsurfing experiences, and quickly exited out of the page- why do I love doing that to myself?
However, I was going to be in Costa Rica and I wanted to try something new. I would have my boyfriend Sarvar with me, so I knew that even if my host was a total creep, it couldn’t end that horribly.
So I did it. I messaged a few people about crashing on their couch, or floor, or air mattress, and only a few of them responded. As it turned out, only one of them could host us.
We would be staying at our host’s apartment in Playas del Coco during the last three nights of our trip. What if it’s horrible and that’s the memory we’re left with as we leave Playas del Coco? This thought occasionally entered my mind, and I quickly shrugged it out and focused on whatever it was I was doing at that moment (either drinking a beer or soaking in the sun- Pura Vida!).
As we got off of the bus in Playas del Coco, I knew it was a matter of time before we would meet our host. We headed to the grocery store to buy a bunch of beer as a ‘thank you’ for our host (of course I was thinking, oh gosh, I hope he likes beer, what if he doesn’t like beer?!).
I contacted him on Facebook, and in a matter of minutes, the taxi was pulling up in front of his apartment.
(I’ll call him N)
“Hi, I’m N,” he said. I shook his hand and smiled.
“We’re all just hanging out by the pool, drinking beers. I’ll show you my apartment and then you should come and join us.” I glanced at Sarvar and grinned. Any apprehension I had about staying in someone’s house I never met before had vanished.
Before I knew it, Sarvar and I were sitting around a table, with dogs at our feet, drinking beers and sharing stories about our hometown and learning about Costa Rica and all of N’s friends. Most of them weren’t even from Costa Rica- they were from places such as Canada, Austria, and France. That made it even better- they were able to tell us about Costa Rica since they had been living there for quite some time, and we were able to learn about different countries.
One of the dogs, Becky
Try Couchsurfing. The experience I had was far above and beyond what I had expected. I felt as though I had known N and his friends for quite some time, and was sad when we had to leave. N and his friends gave us suggestions about what to do and where to eat. Sarvar and I ended up splurging and going on a booze cruise the last day because of their suggestion! One of N’s friends even gave us a ride to the airport.
Although the idea of crashing on someone’s couch is scary, it’s actually one of the best experiences I’ve ever had- and I can’t wait to try it again! It’s a great way to save money, meet locals, and make friends from around the world.
For peace of mind, pick a host that has reviews. Previous guests are allowed to leave reviews on their host’s Couchsurfing page, which will definitely put you more at ease. Talk to them on Facebook or through the site before hand to get to know them first, and make your decision from there. Remember, you are not obligated to stay with them for the duration of your trip! This is just another way to meet people from around the world.
Sunset in Playas del Coco