Wanting to explore my options and see what these creatures look like (anyone imagining dreadlocks and hemp skirts?) I decided to go to a CS ‘meeting’/ drinks at a pub that was happening in Sydney.
Initially I was going to put my brave face on and go by myself, thinking that it can’t possibly be that hard to start a conversation with someone, but then one of my male friend’s asked if he could join me as he had recently attempted to CS and would be hosting someone shortly.
The event was to start at 7:30 on a Friday night, however we arrived at around 9pm to a room full of… men? It was weird. At first glance I don’t think that I saw more than about 3 women to which my friend joked that if he were to leave me alone I would probably be swamped. At this point in time I was glad that I wasn’t alone!
As we made the usual rounds of looking in this room and looking at that room, we had a ‘group’ approach us and ask if we were here for the event. Having said yes, my friend and I somehow naturally split up as we each started talking to individuals in that group. As I spoke to one of the guys, who happened to be an organiser, as more and more people began crowding into the small venue. It seemed like the organiser knew most of the people that were coming in so he introduced me to a few and we all kind of rotated spots to meet new people.
Eventually I decided to catch up to my friend who had wondered into another room and we ended up, well, just standing there. I must admit I don’t think I was really in the mood to start up conversations, but luckily other people were so we had a constant group of people who approached us to say hello. I guess that’s the good thing about travellers – most of them have good practice at striking up conversations… that and the fact that the room was so packed by about 10, that you had no choice but to talk to the person you were pretty much hugging.
I’m not sure how it happened, but the vast majority of the people that we spoke to seemed to be Aussie – some have hosted, been hosted and others, like me had done neither and were just there to meet like minded people.
Speaking to people who have surfed, I am yet to actually find someone say that they had an awful experience – most just shrug and say that they have encountered all sorts with the worst being a bit on the weird side.
I also learned that in places where people tend to live with their families, they might not be able to provide accommodation, however they are happy to host a traveller around their city. One Singaporean girl said that she was disappointed with people who thought she was obligated to provide them with a room and didn’t appreciate her offer to just show them around.
The event overall was good for chatting to people, including the locals, and seeing that CS’s aren’t dirty monsters but really just regular people. I’m not sure if I am game enough to couch surf yet and probably won’t on my upcoming trip as I only have limited time, however I might consider it in the future. If you are concerned, go onto the CS website and ask someone to go for a coffee with you when you’re in town, or they are, or join one of their ‘meetings’ to see for yourself who to expect on a couch surfing experience.