Coachsurfing and how not to be alone on a solo trip.
and how not be alone on a solo trip…
I have been travelling solo for few years and I have to say Coachsurfing has been coming handy each time. If you don’t know Coachsurfing, it is a travel, hospitality and networking application. You can meet like minded people at the destinations you are travelling to, hang out with local people, meet other travellers, stay at people houses, attend events and so on. Community reach is pretty much global and continuously growing. A friend of mine introduced me to the idea few years back now, and I have been using it since.
One of the reasons I have decided to first travel alone, was due to really good response rate through Coachsurfing. When I booked my first solo trip to Lisbon in 2016, I decided that staying with a stranger maybe taking me one step too far out of my comfort zone, so instead I decided to book myself a bed in a hostel dorm. It didn’t stop me from reaching out to locals and other travellers. Application has an ability to post a short note on your travel plans – whether you are travelling solo or in the group, you can include date, destination and short description on what it is you are looking for. I for example, was looking for a companion during my trip – someone who would like to do sightseeing together, or maybe go for dinner or show me around their city.
I was positively surprised with the amount of responses. Just like with any other social network platform, caution is recommended. Coachsurfing operates on references basis, but don’t get discouraged by lack of them. I personally met some of the most amazing people who had none references what so ever. To me personally, it was more important to have get the initial connection through messages – I do not usually respond to people who just put “Hi” – just as I wouldn’t on any other networking platform. I look through their profile, read about them, look at the photos. All of the above combined can give you a clue, on who you are dealing with. It is good idea to get to know the other person a little, you will have more to talk about and avoid awkward moments.
The beauty of this community above any other, is that I would say 99.9% people on here are passionate about travel and meeting new people, so there should never be silence moments – you can always talk about your favourite destinations, best holiday moments, future plans and so on.
Going back to my first experience though. Few months before my trip to Lisbon I have posted a note stating my destination and dates. I have started talking to few people. One of them was Riccardo, who was a local from Lisbon, close to my age group, great sense of humour and eager surfer! We talked for few months, so by the time I met him in person it felt like going to visit an old friend.
Second connection I picked through Coachsurfing was Danielle from Los Angeles, also travelling solo. Since we were both ladies in a strange city, it was great idea to make some dinner plans and exchange experiences from Portugal.
Believe me, there was a lot more people who offered to show me around, take me to their favourite spots, go for dinner, drink, offering place to stay – but simply on 3 night trip it is just impossible to meet everyone! I was just so chuffed with the response rate.
Riccardo was the first person I met when I got off the plane. He was so kind and accommodating – he made an effort of picking me up from the airport on his Vespa scooter and driving me around the city. I could not ask for better way to be introduced to beautiful Portuguese capitol. I have no words to put how exciting this day was. Riding through tight gaps between cars, charming streets of Lisbon, going from one amazing spot to another, having a drink while watching the sunset in a hidden bar on top of multi storey car park – simply those places are not mentioned in guide books. These are the places that local people know of and most likely be happy to introduce you to.
We have met with Danielle for dinner and it was then, that I realised how much I was missing on over the years. How this application was going to change my life. These are people I am fond of to this day, I still follow on what they are up to on social media – how they are changing, helping others, growing professionally, getting married – they are not just strangers, they remained friends for life.
I have lost count on how many people I have met through Coachsurfing. I have only been using this in last 4 years but it must have been at least a hundred. Some of my best friends I have met on there. There are too many to just list on here but special mention needs to go to Alex from Portland, Giulia from Brasil, Jonny from Vancouver, Omar from Seattle, Medo from home town Derby, Pietro from Malta, Jordan from Sydney. They all have left a big imprint in my life, all positive and happy moments. Some people I meet for few hours and have never seen again, some I meet on multiple occasions and we since chosen to visit each other in our own countries & cities.
Another great benefit that Coachsurfing community offers is hosting travellers. I have very recently started hosting people in my own place and it was one of the most rewarding decisions – being able to give back, for what good experiences I have been given. And I was really surprised how many requests I had, only in space of few months in my local town of Derby, which I never thought would be on anyone’s destination list.
I have also met friends locally through Coachsurfing, people with similar interest and people through the local meet ups. It is not only a great application to use when travelling but a great platform to make new friendships in your own town or area.
Some of my family and colleagues are still shocked when I tell them about idea of meeting strangers, hosting people in my own house or staying at stranger’s house. Obvious concerns that come to their mind are what if this person is dangerous, what if they try to hurt you, what if they rob you, what if they try to abuse you? Of course, I admit, these questions do go through my mind sometimes, but that is how I keep myself safe and out of trouble. I believe in human kind – I try to see good in people. I believe in kindness and sharing. I believe people are good by nature. I also believe that we can make our mind up on someone, within first few seconds. If it doesn’t feel right - it probably isn’t. And just as meeting someone on the street, in the bar or at an event can be risky, same applies to Coachsurfing. I actually believe that it is safer based on earlier mention of reference system and ability to contact previous connections of our potential host or guest.
As long as we remain sensible but open to new possibilities, Coachsurfing can be a fantastic experience. I will definitely continue using it. As my big trip approaches, this is going to be my go to platform to reach out to people. And if you ever need a place to stay or someone kind to hang out with – you know where to find me!