September 10, 2008

Throw Away the Guidebook and Get on a Couch
Biharkeresztes, Hungary

A collection of thoughts on CouchSurfing, and the perks and pitfalls of adopting it as a means of travel:

CouchSurfing Lifestyle Pros

  1. Effortless arrivals: Getting picked up or escorted back from a bus or train station by our host(s), not having to hunt for accommodations
  2. Cost savings on accommodation: It doesn't make me happy to save money on accommodations, but it makes me very unhappy to overpay for them
  3. Having access to a kitchen (often with plenty of cooking utensils, oil and spices)
  4. Having access to a washing machine
  5. Seeing the inside of people's homes and experiencing how they live
  6. Access to otherwise ignored small towns, and often living far outside the tourism bubble without the need of a guidebook
  7. Meeting new people that aren't tourists/travelers
  8. Experiencing a tremendous amount of conversation and interaction with others
  9. Eating better by experiencing local cuisine, learning new recipes, and by being less burdened by budget
  10. Regular Internet access is quite probable, as initial contact and correspondence was done online
  11. A sense of cultural immersion
  12. Learning heaps of information about the country we're in and its inhabitants, and getting answers to questions that would've otherwise gone unanswered
  13. The opportunity to travel slower
  14. The opportunity for Aidric to interact with someone other than us (our hosts, other children)
  15. The opportunity for someone other than us to watch Aidric for short periods of time
  16. Aidric's exposure to other languages
  17. Sometimes a host's home will have baby stuff (crib, toys)
  18. Charitable gifts/donations for Aidric (food, diapers)
  19. Sometimes a host will have a car for daytrips, shopping at distant locations, or bus/train station pickups/drop-offs
  20. Access to our host's entertainment (such as books, movies, music, and baby toys)
  21. Bathroom perks (privacy and a generally clean space to wash Aidric; sometimes a proper shower towel or even baby care products are provided)
  22. Contact with family pets
  23. Not even thinking of having to live in a hostel's shared dormitory room with a baby in tow
  24. Comfort, safety, and security: In a home there's an opportunity to actually feel at home—to unpack and keep things unlocked—something that's near impossible to experience elsewhere

CouchSurfing Lifestyle Cons

Traveling a baby is no easy thing, and just because we're in homes instead of a hostels or guesthouses doesn't necessarily mean stress-free days. It's not a con for CouchSurfing that we experience anxiety over unsafe play zones, filth, temperature, and shared sleeping surfaces (very annoying when he wakes you up with a scream and a slap to the face in the morning). Aidric's tendency to fall off edges and his need to put anything and everything into his mouth at this age would plague us in both house and hotel alike. But just as there are varying comforts to be found in hotels, likewise the baby-friendliness of homes fluctuates greatly.

Other considerations:

  1. Requires a tremendous amount of Internet time to search, filter, query, correspond, and research the mode of travel/anticipated arrival time. Great problems can arise when internet availability is limited.
  2. Planning your jumps far in advance: Practically required to have your next host lined up before you've even broken bread with your current one
  3. Some sleeping surfaces can't always be shared (can't sleep next to each other because of space or separate beds), or aren't very enjoyable (because of size, level of comfort)
  4. A lack of privacy if the sleeping area is in a common room
  5. A lack of chemistry or conversation topics with host(s)
  6. A lack of quiet, personal time. City exploration, food shopping and preparation, and general baby-related activities consume our days, with (obligatory) conversation with our host(s) consuming our evenings, making it very difficult to do things like write travelogue entries or get some 'Craig and Tatiana time' when Aidric is finally asleep.
  7. The tremendous burden of meal planning, preparation and communication
  8. Spending a lot more money on food (not only because we're eating better, but because we're often cooking most meals for more than just ourselves)
  9. The constant cleaning and tidying up
  10. Discomfort from the disruption to our host(s) from Aidric's screaming, crying or fussiness—particularly in the morning when others are sleeping
  11. Discomfort from the consumption of household items, including electricity
  12. At times a lack of living space cleanliness can be an issue
  13. There might be a lack of proper bedding
  14. Sometimes you just don't want to interact with anyone else
  15. Working out how long to stay without overstaying your welcome

Comments:

The United States

Roosh

November 14th, 2008

Very helpful post. I'm assuming though the increased food costs is still lower than what you would have paid for lodging.

Romania

Craig | travelvice.com

November 14th, 2008

Very much so. There's no way that Tatiana and I are going to be spending, together, US$50 /day on food.

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