Brad has written a few posts for our friends blog, OhHeyWorld! 


6 JANUARY 2012

Full Service Hostels: Convenient or Cultural Black Holes?

Posted by Brad Arsenault under: Accommodations.

As I sit in my hostel, sipping a delightful banana-coffee milk shake I wonder is this non-traditional Guatemalan drink enhancing my travel experience or corrupting it? I know where my taste buds stand on the issue but as I look around the dining area at the mostly English speaking white folk, most of us on some form of electronic device I’m suddenly torn.

Currently, I’m at what I like to call a “full service” hostel. One that offers everything, including: a bed, food, drink, tours and transport; convenient right? You never actually have to leave the comforts of the hostel! Wait, wasn’t that the point of this travel thing? Try the local food, attempt to speak the language, get lost in the back streets, and meet the people? I don’t mean to take a dig at the place I am staying, and of course for newbies this type of accommodation is a relief especially in a developing country where it can be hard to organize these services.

Here comes the big BUT: If you spend your entire trip in the shelter of these types of places you will only be catching a small glimpse, and more than likely will miss out. Although I have recently come to realize that a truly authentic cultural immersion and experience is rare for travelers passing through, increase your odds by getting out and doing it yourself. It will save you money and who knows what you’ll discover!

26 NOVEMBER 2012

“How To” to Get the Most Out of Couchsurfing.org

Posted by Brad Arsenault under: Accommodations .

You now know CouchSurfing is a great way for those traveling on a tight budget to extend their funds a bit longer. Here’s my “HOW TO” Guide to getting the most out of CouchSurfing.org:

  1. Sign up for an account: Use your real name or something close
  2. Fill out your profile: BE PERSONAL. Remember people ARE going to be reading this. You don’t need an autobiography but enough to paint a picture
  3. Put up a picture: Use a nice one of yourself. Maybe a travel photo or something cool you’ve seen. The more, the better.
  4. Get a reference. This is probably one of the most important things about CS. You need somebody to write some nice words about you. It can be difficult but it should be. It is the weeding out process so that people know you’re a decent person. Best advice I can give is to search for surfing groups in your area and check out a meeting. They usually happen at local bars and it’s the best way to meet surfers in your area. Maybe they will be willing. Or do what we did and just talk to as many travelers as you can while abroad and you might run into one of us who’s willing to give a reference (provided that we like you lol).
  5. Couch Searching: This is all personal preference. There is quite an extensive selection criteria that you can shape and shift to meet your needs. My advice is to play around with this. A good tool to use is the reply percentage. If a person has 100% thats obviously the best, if it is somewhere below 50% maybe don’t bother with sending a request BUT you never know. Another useful bit of advice is when searching in major cities like Barcelona, try the surrounding towns connected by public transport. Reason being, in peak travel season hosts can get overwhelmed with requests in popular areas.
  6. Sending requests: There is nothing hosts hate more that to recieve an impersonal, copy & paste request. Some hosts recieve multiple PER DAY, especially in high demand areas. ACTUALLY READ their profile, can’t stress that enough. Include your travel plans and ask them nicely.
  7. Be respectful. Most people don’t have any trouble with this. As long as you have some sense about you and your not eating all their food and being messy you should be good.

CouchSurfers have one thing in common — travel. However, there are surfers who take this project more seriously than others and this is important for you to understand. Take this into consideration when sending requests and reading profiles. This is not only just a social network but it has developed into a subculture. There is even a higherarchy. You will notice some surfers have an “ambassedor” status which basically means they have been surfing and hosting a LONG time and they are one of those serious folks I mentioned earlier.

My girlfriend and I have surfed over 30 couches in over 20 countries in our year long backpacking trip around the world! I could write on and on about CS, but in the interest of time and space I’ll cut the post here. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to post them in the comments. I’m a major advocate of the project and willing to help out any potential surfer the best I can.

22 NOVEMBER 2012

Traveling the World on a Tight Budget by CouchSurfing

Posted by Brad Arsenault under: Accommodations .

So you want to travel the world but you’re on a tight budget? Join the club…

What if I told you that on top of recieving free accomodation you could be provided with local knowledge of the area you’ll be traveling to? For those frugal travelers who haven’t heard aboutCouchSurfing (CS), this is for you. Now that you know the name, open up a new web window and check it out! I’ll wait a minute while you browse…

If you’re like me, stumbling onto CouchSurfing was like someone investing a large sum of money into your travel fund. Sure you may not have the freedom to spend this cash on whatever you want but accommodation is NOT cheap and even when it is, it adds up. If you need actual figures: When my girlfriend and I first started our trip I did a calculation to find out what percentage of our expenses were tied up in accomodation. Roughly 70% was the number I came up with. Think about all you could do with this newly freed up cash. Eat a nice meal, visit another museum, travel longer!

I must admit saving money was the initial and stand alone reason we signed up. But instantly we realized how amazing this network of people is and saving money became a secondary benefit. Now, we hate to travel any other way. Crashing on peoples couches is not a revolutionary idea. CS just organizes this mass social network of travelers who are willing to help each other out into an easy-to-use website.

There are couches all around the world too, you’ll be surprised to see where – ”couchsurfing” doesn’t always mean you’ll be sleeping on the beatup couch in a grungy run down basement apartment. In Zurich we stayed with an older married couple who drove a Jaguar and we slept in their ‘meditation room.’ There are not just broke people servicing this site. It’s made up of all types of folks with a wide range of financial circumstances; they do it for the experience and because they prefer it as a way of traveling. Put aside your fears about meeting some psycho or pervert because YOU pick people that you send requests to, and viceversa. And quite frankly that type of person could never exists on CS.

As I mentioned earlier, our CouchSurfing profile was born out of financial necessity. But in our travels and through CS, we have made such amazing connections with travelers from all over the world. It has become more about meeting others and exchanging culture than money, because after all, this is why we travel; to broaden our perspectives and elevate them outside of our comfort zone. If you’re interested in getting more our of your travel experience and meeting travelers from around the world while at the same time saving money, than what are you waiting for?!

Next up – more on “HOW” to use Couchsurfing.org effectively. Stay tuned

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>