I want to address the fact that, although GoMad Nomad readership is primarily budget, independent travelers, they are NOT all broke twenty-somethings. So I want to talk about the Couch Surfing Project, and how it’s for all ages. It is, however, only applicable for people who are interested in meeting other people.
Am I not too old for this?
No, you aren’t too old. Although only 3% of couch surfers worldwide are between the ages of 50 and 69 (72% are between the ages of 18 and 29) it still adds up to 70,000+ participants over 50, as the total number of worldwide couch surfers is almost 1.7 million. And with 75% knowing English, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a host with whom you can communicate with. When you perform a search looking for a host, you are able to narrow your search by age or gender. And if you are reading this post, you are computer savvy enough to register for couch surfing and fill out your profile.
But I don’t like sleeping on couches
The second issue: sleeping on couches. After three years couch surfing around the world, I’ve only slept on actual couches a few times. Sometimes I’ve had my own bed, my own room, and I’ve heard stories of couch surfers having their own house! In Amman, Jordan, our host put a friend and me in a new, furniture-less apartment he hadn’t moved into yet. Every situation is unique. When reading a person’s profile, you’ll be able to see what kind of accommodation they are offering: futon in a private room, sharing a bed in their bedroom, or whatever the case may be.
What do I owe my host?
You aren’t required to give your host anything. And they are not expecting any remittance. You may want to show up with a bottle of wine, treat them to dinner or a drink, or cook for them. There have been certain times traveling when I was financially inadequate and could only offer my in-kind contribution of making their house/apartment cleaner than I found it.
On the other end of the spectrum, you shouldn’t expect anything of your guests except common courtesies and respect for your living space and lifestyle.
Do I have to host?
You don’t have to host visitors, you can only host, you can do both. It’s up to you. You are able to set your status on your profile. If you can’t host, just change your profile to “no”, “meet for coffee or a drink”, or “traveling at the moment”
I prefer to sleep in hotels
Fine. Stay at a hotel. Couch surfing is still useful for you. You have the option of searching for people who can’t host or would just like to meet up. I’ve met a guy in Tomar, Portugal for a coffee, several couch surfers in Stockholm for evening drinks, and spent the entire São João festival in Oporto, Portugal with a couch surfing group meetup. In Bordeaux, France a young Bordelais lead me around the mostly 18th-century city, for a tour. The possibilities are endless. Maybe you want to do a language exchange or meet people to play music; just include that in your search terms. I know of a blacksmith and a bookbinder who recently left for Europe looking for Europeans who did similar work. I suggested couch surfing to them. Register, fill out your profile including a picture, set your status, and start surfing.
Will I save money by couch surfing?
Couch surfing may save you money. But do not use couch surfing only because you want to save money. Most of the time your host will introduce you to friends and you may go out for the evening and spend more money than you planned. Couch surfing is about meeting people, connecting, sharing similarities, celebrating differences, learning, enjoying life. If you couch surf in a place like Olso, Norway or Tokyo, Japan, you are bound to save money. But use couch surfing with the intention of meeting new people.
Is it safe?
There are some checks in place in order to make couch surfing as safe as it can be, namely an identity check and location verification. Listed on a person’s profile are the references that every couch surfing member can leave after meeting, hosting, or surfing with another member. There is also a vouching system in place. In almost 50 couch surfing experiences, I haven’t had one that I would consider not safe.
Give it a try
Couch surfing has enabled me to meet some amazing people and have experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve sailed with a host who is a skipper in La Rochelle, France, and stayed in a hamlet in the Welsh countryside. And you don’t always end up with a host from the country you’re visiting, which can really add spice to your travels. I’ve stayed with a New Zealander in London, a Brazilian in Portugal, an American in Syria, and a Hungarian in Berlin.
I’m not the type of traveler who can show up in a strange city, pop into a bar and walk out with five friends two hours later. Couch Surfing helps me have a new friend in town the moment I arrive.
CouchSurfing is an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. Since 2004, members have been using the system to come together for cultural exchange, friendship, and learning experiences. Today, over a million people who might otherwise never meet are able to share hospitality and cultural understanding.
16 thoughts on “Couch Surfing Over 50”
One of the best posts on Couchsurfing I’ve ever read.
Stephen, great post. I totally agree with you that Couchsurfing is useful for all ages and for folks of many different travel styles. It’s not the only choice, though.
I want to point out that the retired sector of budget travelers have been using organized hospitality exchange clubs for years before the 2004 debut of Counchsurfing.
The network I am most familiar with (and intimately familiar with, as my Mom runs it) is the Affordable Travel Club (ATC) (www.affordabletravelclub.net) in operation since 1993. This is a bed and breakfast hospitality exchange club that caters to folks of retirement age (50 or older). With ATC, all members are both travelers and hosts. Homestays are bed and breakfast-style, with a separate guest room (and often private bath) and the host provides a full or continental breakfast. ATC is a smaller club (just over 2,000 members in 50 countries) but the members stay in touch and often travel together – I rather like the intimacy of it.
I’ve been so inspired by ATC as I’ve watched it evolve over the years and met members who get so much out of it through their travels, but being in my mid-thirties, I am not able to join. So, I recently created a similar network for all ages. It’s called Casa Casa, and you can learn about it at http://www.casacasa.org. We’re a new network and still small (just 155 members in 12 countries so far, but we’re growing.)
I like Couchsurfing and will continue to use it from time to time. But, as I get older, my tastes change and my expectations are a little higher. When my family travels to Victoria next month, I look forward to staying in the guest room of a water-view Victorian with a Casa Casa member host. And, I will soon try AirBnB (it will set me back $75 a night to stay on an air mattress in the village, but that’s Manhattan, I guess.)
The concept of traveling by homestay is not new; it’s as old as leisure travel itself. Couchsurfing has helped bring it back as a mainstream option, and that’s awesome. (There is no way AirBnB would be so popular if Counchsurfing hadn’t paved the way). And while I think Couchsurfing is an incredible network and resource, it’s not necessarily the best choice for everyone. It’s great to have lots of options.
.-= Lauren´s last blog ..Images of Vancouver, B.C. =-.
As someone currently looking into couchsurfing for the first time, I found this post extremely helpful. I especially liked your point about using couchsurfing to meet up with people who have similar interests or could show you something specific about the area. This could be highly useful to me in my travels.
Much like you, I also don’t naturally turn strangers into friends so I really looking forward to making some friends ahead of time through couchsurfing.
.-= Keith´s last blog ..A Tale of Two Travel Archetypes: Breadth and Depth =-.
Excellent article on CSing. It’s totally changed my life and I’ve written extensively about it as well. I hope this encourages more people to try it in ALL of its forms.
.-= Andi´s last blog ..Brasil: Day 7 (Part 2) =-.
Awesome post about Couchsurfing! When I reach 50, I still might.
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To anyone who would like to get a taste of life among the older CouchSurfing set, I encourage you to check out one of the busiest conversation groups on the CS site — the 50+ Travellers:
Although this group comprises only 4500 members, we are always listed among the most active groups in the site, because we enjoy sharing our thoughts on myriad topics. You do not need to join Couchsurfing to check out the minds of its enthusiasts — just check here to find a group that interests you, and wade in the water:
@Cadence, thanks for sharing that with everybody!
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Hi ! i am a member of Couchsurfing since 7 years and i can say how wonderful is this community, even though nothing can never be perfect. I do comics and draw a cartoon on my blog about it, pretty usefull to introduce CS to people who doesnt’ know it or for you are a couchsurfers, some situations will probably sounds familiar to you ! hope it helps!
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you’re right buddy, there is no such old person, if you like things that you wanna do, do it with full of your love, ages is just number, I really like this blog, really inspire, thanks for sharing it.
hello..I am a 63 year old art/ home ec. teacher… so interested in couch surfing…so that I can be with the people …. be directly involved with the culture…. happy to cook, sew and care take kids…. highly creative and imaginative…. I loved Turkey and all the Balkan countries… stayed in cheap hotels… would almost like to live there…
I want to go to Indonesia…and perhaps to Arizona (for the art and warmth ) in the Spring…
my son has done a lot of couch surfing …all my friends think I am too brave and nuts..this does not stop me..
I understand that there is a lady that lives here in Victoria (middle aged) that has written a book on couch surfing …does any one know who she is… I would love to make contact with her and others ..
May the new year bring more human understanding and caring…in a world that needs to learn to communicate …. because we all want the same stuff… Doreen.
Excellent piece on couch surfing Stephen!
As new, older hosts, we must say how much fun we have shared with our interesting and thoughtful guests.
We live in northern Patagonia Chile and have requests almost daily from young people
who originate from all corners of the world. Our current guest is Italian, we have spent the past four days driving her to any of the unique locations of her choosing. It was fun to meet eyes with Mariana at the airport, we knew it would be the start of our next adventure. We love sharing our home and country with so far, all interesting people.
We were told last night over dinner that we have done way too much for her.
Our response was it is our pleasure to become part of her adventure experience.
It would also be nice to host travelers over 50 for a different prospective on life.
How do I sign up for Couch Surfer’s over 50 please?