Monday, June 10, 2013

My first couch hosting experience

So I guess it was only natural that after couchsurfing so much I was bound to couch host at some point in time. I'm not the type who feels comfortable with just taking from a system without giving back. Or at least that was the way I was taught, I do think it's the right thing to do, despite the couchsurfing community having no issue with people not being able to give back to the system. Some literally don't have the ability to give back because their couches are not theirs to give. Some argue there are other ways to give back to the community as well - like being tour guides to people who are visiting the city, or being really active in the general community. Whatever though, it's not expected. But I felt it was the right thing to do. I have a couch and my accommodations are pretty easy for this kind of thing. Why not?

Admittedly I was nervous though. I live alone because I enjoy the privacy of my own quarters and I haven't had roommates since I graduated from university. Plus I didn't know what to do about the whole keys situation and my very odd and strict schedule (I tend to work long hours and have taken to waking up at 5:30am to work out before I go to work rather than work out after...this is detailed specifically on my profile so people are not caught unawares).

Anyway, to assuage my fears I went to a West London gathering for couchsurfers a few weeks back. The organizer was an experienced couchsurfer and host and I asked him all of my questions. He had great answers for me and put my fears to rest. Schedules? Not a problem, just be clear about it on your profile so people know what to expect. Keys? Not a big deal, no one expects them and that's your choice.

Basically the rule is: be clear on your profile what should be expected. It's an agreement between host and surfer and they're a guest in your house. That's it.

I'd been a surfer enough times to know it was an individual choice as well. And you feel the person out. I trust my instincts on reading people as well, so I could scan my surfer's profiles and I'd be communicating with them constantly before they, I felt reassured.

The first people I was to host? Two Swiss sisters who were passing through for one night on a whirlwind tour of London.

Turns out that they're 10 years apart in age and live in different cities now. The older sister, Hedy, studies in university and because of that, doesn't get to spend much time with her sister. So, she decided to plan a trip to London so they could spend more time together. Despite being in London a total of two nights, since their flight was so early in the morning they decided to crash at the airport the night before their flight. So, only at my place for one night.

I'm glad this was my first hosting experience because I'd stupidly accepted a much more hardcore hosting job for the time after - a married couple from Brazil and Mexico for four nights. I'm sure they'll be fine as well because they're on a world tour and I'm but one of those stops, but well, I only knew I'd be fine after hosting these two sisters. Anyway...

It was great to meet these two sisters. Hedy is studying dance and French at her university and enjoys her life. Both her and her sister have longterm boyfriends who they communicate with frequently. They asked about my life and job and I started to realize how insane my life must sound to other people - traveling all the time and moving to all these different countries.

End of the story - although it was easy to host them, I still feel like hosting is probably not the thing for me. I felt bad having to make them leave so early and then it made me feel angry that I felt bad at the same time. I wanted to leave at 6:30am but since they came in so late (9:30pm or so) it felt terrible kicking them out so early, so I compromised and we left at 7:15am.

I'm sure this was made harder by the fact that the younger sister didn't really speak English, so conversation was mostly between me and Hedy, who is 24. Perhaps this will be easier with the married couple.

I also realized that I was exhausted from all the traveling I had been doing recently and it was probably not the best timing in the world for me to be hosting.

So, in the end, after they left, I went to the gym, went to work...and took my couch off of the search list. I will still host the married couple that I've promised a few weeks from now, but after that, that's it until I feel I have the time and energy to do so. It's only fair to the surfers and myself.

I think this is a great system and everyone should be encouraged to do it if they're interested. But for my life, especially as a very active WT at the moment, it just ended up being too much.

Maybe for the future. :)

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