Once upon a time, the CouchSurfing community in Cork was very active. There was a group outing at least once each week. This week was no different. I didn’t go as often as I should have, but since I’d convinced a new member to come down and meet all the lovely, friendly people, I made sure to be in attendance. As with many important meetings in Ireland, this one took place in a pub.
About what it looks like after several pints, I imagine.
The lighting was not especially conducive to non-flash photos with a point and shoot. Since basic flash – as opposed to fancy flash with remotes and timers and things to diffuse the light – is so obnoxious, I decided that capturing the atmosphere was more important than capturing the details. The fuzziness has the added benefit of adding what, for lack of a better term, I shall call Beer-O-Vision. (Appropriate ambient sound can be found here.) It really helps put you in the mood.
As with many CS-outings, those who are meeting for the first time exchange the usual Q & A’s:
- Hi, my name is __________.
- I am from _________ / where are you from?
- I am visiting / have been living here for ________ [amount of time].
- How long have you been a member of CS?
- …Etc., etc.
Meetups like this can also be a chance for a visitor to find a host, if they have not yet been successful in doing so. In fact, on my first visit to Ireland, I found myself in that very situation. I met a very friendly host who invited us over immediately.
Katka, originally from the Czech Republic, is currently working as an au pair in Ireland. Unfortunately for her social life, the family for whom she works resides outside of any main towns, and public transportation on the island is a bit lacking. When she joins with fellow CouchSurfers for an evening of merriment in the city center, she looks for a local host for the night.
On at least one prior occasion, she stayed with Ciarán, a lovely fellow and active CS-er. As he was there at the pub, and seeing how she had been unable to find a host through the usual methods, it seemed logical to ask if he might have room for a guest. Ciarán, however, demanded a formal CouchRequest. Since neither one of them was near a computer, this might have proved problematical. Katka, being rather quick on her feet (as I imagine you must be in order be a successful au pair), cleverly came up with a plan.
“Hi, Ciarán. Could I stay at your place tonight please. Thanks. Katka.”
Before she passed the message to her potential host, I suggested that she let me and and another CS-er vouch for her (part of the old CS trust rating system). You know, to attest to her moral character and improve her chances of receiving a positive response.
There was a long moment of tension while we all waited upon Ciarán’s reply. I’m sure I didn’t help the situation by choosing that moment to finally give in and use the flash on my camera. Fortunately, all involved kept cool heads.
And the response was…
“Thank you for your lovely request. You wouldn’t believe the number of copy and paste request I get. I see that D and Katrina vouched for you. They are really good people. Ciarán.”
Although initially positive, the actual hosting question had not yet been answered. Katka was forced to write back to request clarification. She even had to find a new bus ticket!
Katka: “Does it mean I can stay at your place?”
Ciarán: “Hi Katka, Sorry I wasn’t so clear in my previous message. My English are not so well. I would be delighted to host you. Ciarán”
Katka: “Thanks and talk to you soon.”
Ciarán: “I almost forgot to give you my address. Bench 4, Bishop Lucey Park. Here is my number: (086) 1234567″
“Thanks. My phone is broken so hopefully I’ll meet you in the pub.”
Katka wins awesome points on so many levels. And Ciarán, you are the best instigator ever. Thank you both for making that one of the most HI-larious CS meetings I’ve attended. You’re fantastic!
Have any great CouchSurfing moments to share?
I think it’s important to note that while I was a member of CouchSurfing for several years, many users left the site after it stopped being non-profit. There are other great websites out there to provide connections with fellow travelers, make new friends, and to host and be hosted. Here are a few of them (I’m a member of each):
There are others, too, though some sites are old and difficult to use (Hospitality Club, I’m looking at you!), don’t include a reference system, or don’t really focus on the community aspects (Global Freeloaders – the name says it all), which I believe is essential. The references are great not just for security, but to ensure that a good personality match and positive experience is had by all.
Over the years I have made my profiles more and more specific, as well as being more selective in whom I choose to host. I found that the quality of my hosting experiences, as well as the number of long term friendships I made, went up considerably over time. Be honest, be yourself, and be trusting — you’ll meet great folks!