100 Nights of Continuous CouchSurfing
Tonight is our 100th night of uninterrupted CouchSurfing. For over three months my girlfriend, infant son, and I have stayed in the homes of others in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. A total of twelve hosts have shared their lives, stories and living space with us during this amazing time.
Understanding the Process, Adaptation
Pre-planning much of anything besides a flight is something that I've happily lost touch with in this fluid lifestyle. Unfortunately, CouchSurfing often requires more than just asking for a bed on a whim. It typically takes days to find, contact and correspond with individuals interested in hosting you. Coordinating without a mobile phone (as we do) only adds a level of complication to the situation.
Recent time in Piteşti, Romania with a broadband connection has allowed me to explore the CouchSurfing situation in detail. On the 20th I contacted everyone I was interested in surfing with for the entire country. Sounds a bit over the top, but Bulgaria isn't really that big of a country, and the number of hosts available (to host couples) isn't that overwhelming.
This is an intelligent changeup in the manner in which most CouchSurfers operate. People work hard to get folks to adopt them for a specific itinerary—a known and researched path through a country or continent.
With the exception of one or two locations, I could really care less about the specific cities of Bulgaria. I'm purely interested in connecting with people, not places. I have a direction that we're headed in (south), and that's it. Location is totally ancillary to the person's profile.
But if you can believe it, out of the whole of the country I only found 22 people I was interested in contacting. Again, changing up the contact strategy a bit, I sent the majority a generic introduction note, tailored enough to keep it looking like it wasn't sent in mass to the whole city/country (mentioning their name in both the subject line and body is a must, as is the city name in the body).
Included in the note was a line about if they were interested in hosting our little family during the month of December—no dates, just an informal inquiry. There's no need to waste time asking specific questions to people who aren't going to write you back in the first place.
The final response to this inquiry on the 20th came on the 27th. Out of the 22 contacted: four people didn't reply, eight said 'no', and ten people said 'yes'—a 55% failure rate. The vast majority of the positive responses were within 72 hours, keeping in line with figures I'd gathered previously.
If people don't write back to you within three days, consider them in the 'no' category.
An additional refinement to the process has been the use of Google Maps to plot out the locations of potential hosts (that have responded positively).
You can see my real-time CouchSurfing map, which lists our available, confirmed and visited locations for Bulgaria. Plotting this information has allowed me to intelligently pre-plan a route through the country, based solely on CouchSurfing opportunities.
We celebrated today's milestone by attending a CouchSurfing meeting in Varna, where a gathering of nearly 20 people watched the movie Babel. Later in the evening, Tatiana treated our host and me to the new James Bond movie, playing at one of the largest malls in the Balkans.
100 Nights, 12 Beds
For your enjoyment, a chronological collection of the sleeping spaces that we've had whilst CouchSurfing Eastern Europe (thus far):