Disclaimer: The interview refers to pre-pandemic times, and no persons mentioned in this article are currently traveling or hosting travelers. It is strongly advised to refrain from traveling during the pandemic.
In the context of Couchsurfing and Airbnb, super hosts are essentially hosts with LOADS of experience and countless guests under their belt. Once a member has reached this so-called status (which actually comes with a virtual badge on Airbnb), it’s likely they will be the preferred choice of potential guests. The number of references alone makes them seem much more trustworthy. As we’ve come to learn, some hosts receive hundreds of requests per day, so sending a personalized message is the least a Couchsurfer can do. But what else can one do to be a good guest?
Hannah was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved to New York City after graduating college. While spending three months traveling in Europe at the age of 21, she jumped on the Couchsurfing-bandwagon. “I had a wonderful experience and am still in touch with my hosts”, she says.
Fast forward a few years, she has now hosted more than 170 travelers in her Brooklyn apartment. In this interview, she tells of letting strangers into her home, what makes a good guest, and the piece of advice she would give to first-time hosts.
Photo by Danka & Peter on Unsplash
What made you decide to become an active host?
I became a Couchsurfing host because I am fortunate enough to spend a bunch of time traveling myself, and miss learning about different cultures when I am in NYC. I work from home and have a two-bedroom apartment, both of which make hosting couchsurfers quite easy.
When you first started hosting, did you have any second thoughts about letting strangers into your home?
I didn’t have second thoughts, however, my building owners and family did. I did quickly learn that it is challenging to keep your home clean, in particular your kitchen. I just learned how to have a bit of structure and rules in place that made it easier and more comfortable for everyone.
Many people wonder what a host can gain from offering travelers a free place to stay, and question their good will—what are your thoughts on this?
I have a hard time with that. The people I have hosted were beyond lovely and contributed so much happiness and good vibes to my life, it’s immeasurable. Living in Brooklyn, you see people from all over the world every day. Being able to host people in your home, to cook food with them, ask them about their experiences and learn from them, is priceless. I can see hosting individuals that don’t travel and have a vast catalog of life experiences as pointless, but couchsurfers are adventurous, open, and curious…. My favorite kind of humans on earth.
What makes the concept so special to you?
Couchsurfing is special because you have an opportunity to learn from people. Imagine the best travel book you’ve ever read come to life, in your own home. I’ve hosted so many unique people, from so many unique places. I think there is also something really great about hosting many surfers at the same time, because you build a family. I will never lose touch with so many people I’ve hosted, and will cherish the times and memories we shared forever.
What makes a good Couchsurfing guest, in your opinion?
A good Couchsurfing guest is open. It’s hard because everyone is unique, but some people are just a bit more reserved in nature and more difficult to warm up to. I am a very open individual, so I find connecting with similar folks easier. To be fair, it also helps if they are tidy and stay around for our weekly cleaning party on Sundays (laughs).
Have you ever had any bad experiences while hosting?
I had one experience that was not great. Everyone comes to NYC for different reasons, and one guest wanted to stay up quite late and party. He was a little frustrated that I did not want to join him in partying all night. He didn’t come home one Saturday night, and we had a cleaning party each Sunday morning, which he did not show up for. I did not want my other surfers to have to take on the extra work load.
Can you tell us about a particularly memorable Couchsurfing experience?
There are really too many to list. We would cook family dinners on Sunday nights. I went to stay with one surfer in Madrid, who introduced me to another host in NYC, who is now one of my best friends. I had one surfer stay with me for 6 months and become a life-long, forever friend. I had another surfer come to stay with me over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, she met my sister and comforted me during a really challenging time in my life. I had one surfer come to watch me run a marathon in Amsterdam. There are really too many beautiful experiences to list.
What advice would you give someone who is considering hosting for the first time?
I would suggest making rules and setting boundaries. I would be really honest with yourself as to what pet peeves you have. For example, I really need my dishes and kitchen to be clean. I also would be sure to read the potential couchsurfers’ reviews and only accept folks that you seem to trust and vibe with.