How to Impress Your Host: 10 Steps to a Perfect CouchSurfing Profile
Have you ever wondered why your pleas for a couch to sleep on aren’t returned? Do you feel doomed to travel without the privilege of a free night’s accommodation and the pleasure of great local company?
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Do me a favour. Log into your profile and give it a read over. If someone contacted you with a profile like yours, would you let him into your home? C’mon, be honest.
What is This CouchSurfing Business?
Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’ve probably at least heard murmurs of this phenomenon known as “couch-surfing”. Internet-based communities like HospitalityClub (HC) and CouchSurfing (CS) allow wanderers and armchair travelers alike to interact in the real world.
The benefits are numerous: local knowledge, good conversation, free accommodation, new friends, and sometimes even a personal guide.
Point of interest: check out this site if you’re curious how many people in each country belong to either CS or HC.
As a host myself, I’ve seen the gamut of profiles and know in an instant if I should consider someone as a guest. Certain things set off alarm bells in my head. A strong profile and a nice inquiry will give me a good gut feeling about a traveler.
If you are competing with other backpackers for the same time slot on someone’s couch, you’ll want to stand out. Here are ten tips to be more eye-catching than Pamela Anderson in a pillow fight (if you’re a lass, substitute David Beckham in a banana hammock):
#1: Be Funny
Ha-ha/LOL funny, not strange funny. Being humorous and light will put the potential host at ease. After all, have you ever met a mass murderer who made you laugh?
#2: Be Detailed
The more personal info you provide the better. You will be less mysterious and, again, help put the host at ease. If I can’t get a feel for who the person is and what she’s about, chances are she won’t make it to my couch.
#3: If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It
Do you have the skills to pay the bills? Maybe your special talent can help you in landing some accommodation. I recently hosted a French chef who cooked up an amazing three-course meal for my wife and me. Of course, it wasn’t a requirement of ours, but my interest was certainly piqued after reading about his kitchen abilities.
#4. Showcase Your Openness to Other Cultures
Share examples of the places you’ve visited, how you’ve interacted with the locals and how it’s affected you. Can you appreciate and accept the differences in other cultures, even if they go against your personal beliefs?
#5: Be Trustworthy
In each community, there are ways to go about this. Comments and references from fellow travelers are important to potential hosts. Furthermore:
In HC, there is an option for Trust (if you can be trusted) and Identity Checked (if your passport was verified). Having one or both ticked off in your comments will go a long way. Make sure anyone commenting on your profile uses the relevant choices.
For a small fee, you can have CS verify your identity. Along with verification, you will also be supporting the non-profit organization. Another CS security measure is Vouching. Get vouched for to increase your odds.
#6: Don’t Use Pictures Other than Yourself for Your Profile
An image of George Costanza in his underwear or a baboon face might be funny to your friends, but it won’t be to a host. Your smiling mug will go a lot farther in securing a couch.
To take that another step, use a travel shot with a picturesque background. A driver’s license or passport picture will just make you look like a psycho.
#7: Be Active in the Community
Keep your profile up to date. Log in frequently. If there is a forum, go give someone helpful tips. You get what you give.
The fact that you’re traveling already puts you in this boat. But to stand out, talk about your interests and hobbies. If you play an instrument, you may be more attractive to another musician or someone who just loves music.
#9: Make the First Impression a Good Impression
On your first message to the potential host be kind, courteous and thoughtful. Don’t send an abrupt one or two-line email. Before you hit the Send button, give it a proofread and make sure your message actually makes sense.
And one more thing: sty awy frm SMS-styl splng, u knw wht i mn?
#10: Do Some Hosting Yourself
No one likes a freeloader. If you have a history of three years of surfing other couches, and haven’t returned the favour to any extent, you may raise some eyebrows. Prove you’re not just a taker.
It is well worth your time and effort to ensure you have the best possible shot. The stories that come out of couch surfing are ones you will want for yourself.
One of my most memorable travel experiences was crashing on a couch in Petrozavodsk in Russia. A night of revelry with our host and his friends culminated in an authentic Russian banya experience, complete with besom beatings.
Now go read over your profile again. Start from scratch if you have to. It may be the difference between the opportunity of a lifetime or bunking in a rat-infested hostel!