Sunday, 2 April 2017

Couchsurfing For The First Time

London, UK


For me, Couchsurfing for the first time began with the deletion of many pictures and apps to make the storage space I needed to download the app. I'd heard about Couchsurfing years ago so I knew what it was and it was definitely something I wanted to try. The aim of the site is to help travellers connect with other travellers and let them stay in their homes for free but on top of that, what I found most appealing was the fact that you would be in direct contact with a local. Who doesn't want a local's input when they travel to a city they've never been to. Or maybe you have been there before but having someone who lives there to interact with opens up so many more avenues to your experience. Simple things such as eating where the locals eat so you avoid the tourist traps, free sites and activities TripAdvisor did not tell you about because only a local would know about it can further enrich your travel experience.

In my mind, there was more to the Couchsurfing experience than just a free space to rest your head at night. After downloading the app I quickly set up a profile but didn't actually message anyone to make requests to stay with them.  Instead I went and did my research. I mean, I couldn't very well ask a stranger to let me into their home without making sure I knew how to protect myself.  It's Couchsurfing not Pick Your Murderer, better safe than sorry eh? 





I wanted some guidelines for what to do when you are Couchsurfing for the first time. How do you write messages to strangers so they want to open their doors to you? How do you know what to do if they accept? How can you be assured they won't kill you in your sleep? You know, little things. One of my favorite bloggers, Gloria Atanmo from The Blog Abroad around the time of my research into Couchsurfing, published a super helpful beginner's guide which you can find here. She gives a detailed account of using Couchsurfing from setting up a profile to sending messages and safety tips. It is a piece worth the read if Couchsurfing is something you want to get into.

I more or less only had this post under my belt when I started messaging couchsurfers and requesting stays. I was going to London for a week which was a long time so I knew I'd be staying with more than one host within my time there. I ended up staying a few nights with a friend of my mum's who's apartment was vacant for the time I was there and 3 nights with my host. Those 3 nights with my host were definitely the best introduction to Couchsurfing in London a girl could've asked for.







Want to know my one reason for going to London? Click here

My host Shilpa and I met on my third day in London. She brought me on a tour around her area in the East End with its many chicken shops ( 4 chicken shops to one person ratio). The tour was fun and informative. She told me about the history of the area, ( she really knows her stuff ), showed me some beautiful street art, told me of places I could go in the area the next day like Bricklane Market. Then we went for cocktails at her favorite bar, it was happy hour so it was pretty busy but the whole atmosphere was lively with entertainment from dancing bar men throwing ice everywhere! 




We also went to her favorite Indian restaurant, Dishoom located in Shoreditch which is so popular we waited in and around, maybe over 2hours to get in. It was freezing cold outside but the staff regularly bring out hot drinks like mint and chai tea and warm wines to keep you warm whilst waiting. And when we got in a really lovely bar man gave us some complimentary snacks but shhh...

At the restaurant we met up with another couchsurfer who had requested to stay with my host, but seeing as she was already hosting me she invited him along for the night instead and boy what a night it was. It was surreal getting to know two people I had never had any prior connection to over some really good Indian food, in a city I didn't know. And we laughed and talked a lot. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.






The next day I had breakfast with Johnathan, in the pub where we brought the previous night's celebrations to an end. I got a Full English Breakfast for £3.20! It was madness! But of course my budget was not complaining. And it was good food too. Johnathan and I spent the entire day together pulling harmless pranks on other tourists buzzing around Camden Market, Box Par, Borough Market etc. Then I visited The Shard and Johnathan went shopping for ingredients to cook the beautiful dinner he'd volunteered to cook for myself, Shilpa and a friend of Shilpa's. I made it just in time for the end of the dinner, but they'd left me some, and we shared dessert and fruity beverages. 

We made our own version of Cards Against Humanity and played it into the very late hours of the night. It was so much more fun writing responses as we had our own inside jokes and similar senses of humour that added a more personal touch to the game which, I won (yes!). At around midnight we said our goodbyes to Aidan and Johnathan, and as Johnathan was returning to America the next morning, it was extra sad.





The memories I have from this experience are memories I don't want to ever forget. I don't want to travel to a city and spend my days wondering the streets looking up at tourist attractions and buildings  that won't introduce me to a new way of thinking or show a different personality I have not encountered or strike up a conversation about whether or not one of the members of The Beatles was holding a banana in the Abbey Road Album Cover because we saw it on a T-Shirt.

I want to travel and meet new people and make new friends and make the most of the time I have because whether it's throwing coloured cornflour at strangers or making new friends whilst waiting in a line for a concert, I forget that I travelled there alone, because it sure doesn't feel lonely. And using Couchsurfing is a pretty darn good way to make sure you are not alone. 



 If you're a Couchsurfer and planning a trip to Dublin and would like someone to show you around, I'm no Shilpa but I will do my best, you can find my profile here, just send me a message. And if you're not a Couchsurfer, just message me on any of my social media (links below) or email me at info@albatrozandco.com.

Also if you're planning to Couchsurf in London, Shilpa has some great tips and free activities to do which you can find here or on her blog, Pack It and Leave It so check it out.




My next post will be a London video diary so keep your eyes peeled! Also if you could take 30 seconds to complete this travel survey that I am doing for market research I would really appreciate it. I would like to know how interested you would be in a free service that connects you with locals who will act as your guide in their city. It's just 5 simple questions and it would really mean a lot to me guys. Click here.

Have you ever used Couchsurfing? What are your favorite CS memories?



Till next time my pretties xxx

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4 comments so far

  1. I'm so glad you've had such a positive experience with it! I've considered it a few times but never been brave enough...maybe next time I will! Did you find it quite simple to choose such a fabulous host or did you have to do some digging?
    Lisa | www.whatlisadidnext.com

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    1. Thank you Lisa! I seriously loved it and I think you should give it a go if it is something you've been interested in. I main thing I did was read reviews of hosts I was interested in and who were female. Also I only messaged verified hosts which was a lil ironic because I am not verified...yet! If you're careful about who you message in the first place and have things in common, you're likely to end up with a host as awesome as mine! Lol

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  2. I would be so nervous to use that! But I'm glad I've seen this - it's always nice to see people with positive experiences talk about a service before you use it. And I'm glad you had such a great time in London! It sounds like you had a trip of a life time. I actually have a friend living in one of the cities I'll be vising soon (blog post coming soon, hahah!), and while I won't be staying with him (don't want to feel like I'm intruding, he'll be working, probably) I'll definitely be looking for some recommendations. While I do like traveling alone, it has always been nice to have a day or two with others :)

    Erin | Explore, Refresh

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    1. You've nailed it on the head there Erin, the thing I loved most was being able to spend time with my host but also being able to do my own thing and travel alone around the city too. If you're going to visit your friend you should definitely go to The Sky Garden as it's free and an absolutely gorgeous view of Lindores, yoy have to book ahead but it's great!

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