I am planning my August vacation as early as now and I realized that I have 4 days free before going to the “main” destination. I’m the kind of person who would prefer to travel into as much as many places that I can gorge myself in so I was thinking of throwing in another destination into my itinerary. The problem lies on the “how to fit everything in my budget” question. I’m not very picky with the hotels that I’m going to stay at, I’ve stayed in a 2 star hotel with just one floor of a dilapidated building near the Termini station in Rome which looked like something you’d see in a horror movie and survived the cold water of the shared bathroom facilities for 3 days. So yeah, I’m not a diva when it comes to places to stay.
I have however heard about Couchsurfing and for a split second, wondered if I should give it a try. I’ve already made an account on that particular site (which claimed isn’t a dating site but the first 10 messages were from men here in Dubai asking me to go out, I mean WTF?) just in case I might need its services like for example now. For those of you who have been living in a cave in the middle of Afghanistan and have not heard of Couchsurfing before, it is when people living in the place that you’d want to visit offers you their “couch” or possibly an extra room for free while you make friends with them and hopefully gives you a local’s take of that particular destination. The idea is great! I mean what’s more authentic than experiencing a place from a local’s point of view? On top of that, if you’re really lucky, you’d make a new friend out of that host.
Well technically, I have couchsurfed before. When I went to Goa, India – Almost Fearless and Drew Gilbert welcomed me into their home for 4 days and I had a fantastic time with them. The only difference is, FOGG Odyssey who is a really good friend and who I personally know was living with them as well at that time so they were not complete strangers to me. I know that good souls such as them aren’t very hard to find in the world but it applies to the opposite too. Should I ever go on a couchsurfing spree on August? I know my mother would say a flat out NO when she reads this post but I can always keep it a secret from her. Hehehe.
I searched the internet about couchsurfing gone wrong and it listed quite too many as a result. This blog right here gave me all the information I needed. The most bothersome for me was that of the woman from Hongkong who was repeatedly raped by her host when she went to Leeds, UK. And according to the news report, CS (Couchsurfing) did not announce this case until after it was all over the media. CS also puts both its hands from any actions its members do which is kind of acceptable but there should be some kind of security measures as well to protect its members, right? Yeah yeah, there’s the verification thing on their website and vouching from members who’ve stayed with them before but there should be stricter policies for its members’ own safety. Ironically, the horrors of couchsurfing aren’t always taken into consideration by the site itself. You hear about them from the media and other CS members. Case in point is the Malaysian date rape drug user: banditleader who happened to be one of the most prominent CS leader of all time (all time yeah? :)) The guy apparently had hundreds of good references on his profile but after that one member who spoke about her very disturbing experience with that banditleader – two other girls came into the spotlight and claimed that it happened to them too when they stayed with that “reputable” CS member. Banditleader’s profile is now deleted but there is no news whatsoever if CS did anything about it.
Couchsurfing is not as easy as it looks like (at least for me). The idea of you being in the hands of a total stranger in a totally different country where you don’t even know if your embassy will be able to protect you just in case something happens and if the law will be implemented fairly is already terrorizing BUT a lot of other people have used it several times and claimed to have given them the best times of their lives while traveling.
So what’s it gonna be? To surf or not to surf? Have you ever tried it before and would highly recommend it to me as well?