CouchSurfing is possibly the ultimate travel tool. Every permatraveler knows about it, and many conventional travelers have even given it a try.
If you’re not all up on what CS is about, it’s premise is simple: People who want to meet travelers from around the world can offer their “couch” – any space to sleep, to individuals looking for such a space – “surfers”.
It sounds like a freeloader’s paradise, and in a sense it can be, but at it’s best (or even its most average) it’s so much more.
It’s that crucial local connection that can quickly open up a city and its culture to the intrepid explorers of the world.
But, in order to get hosted, you have to write a “couch request” and send it to your potential hosts. Hopefully, one will say yes and allow you to stay for a night or two.
Now, my partner Katia is a wonderful soul who writes personalized couch requests to every prospective host. While this is undoubtedly more effective than sending out a generic request to everyone, it can take hours to do – which is not very convenient when we’re on the road and with limited Wifi access.
Most other people, myself included, write up one request that can be sent out to everyone. Due to this, and a general lack of creativity, most Couch requests look like this:
Hi, my name is SomeGuy and I’ll be in [CITY] from November 8th to 13th and was wondering if you have a couch.
I love meeting people from around the globe. I believe in harmony between all living creatures. I’d really like to share my time in [CITY] with someone like yourself. I like outdoor activities and indoor activities, so maybe we can do some of those while I’m here?
Look forward to hearing from you,
Basically, this sort of thing works fine when there’s a lot of advance notice and it’s sent to a large number of people.
But it’s not so great if you’re heading to a popular city (like Ibiza, Spain) and/or on short notice because it’s just too damn generic. It’s too easy to skim through and think “eh, another one of those people.”
So I came up with a way to send a copy and paste couch request that gets responses: Tell an interesting story about my travels that the recipient could not ignore.
And, for you, my dear readers – is the exact copy of one I used when Katia and I were leaving Asia and ended up with an unexpected 10 days in Bangkok thanks to visa complications
Using this method tripled the number of yeses I normally get – and it can do the same for you:
A Canadian (myself) and a Russian (Chuncha) were backpacking around SE Asia together for over 3 months.
There, they encountered the peaceful tranquility of Buddhist temples and the raucous energy of Hindu ceremonies.
They tasted the sweet nectar of tropical fruits and enjoyed the delicacies of local chefs.
They’ve stayed at quiet inns and rowdy guest houses. In cities and villages. Etching every rapturous moment into their minds, onto paper, or the electronic bits and bytes of a camera’s memory stick.
But recently, our heroes recently encountered a snag in their plot to secure a Canadian visa for Chuncha.
This wrench has had a cascading effect on their plans…eventually resulting in an emergency evacuation from KL as to avoid overstaying a visa there.
Our intrepid explorers have just 1 week left in Asia, but due to their unexpected flight from Malaysia, they’re in need of a place to stay, be it couch, floor, or barnyard hay-bails.
The story continues…
At this point, I put the real info – how long we wanted to stay, a bit about us, and a tiny bit of personalization that made me feel good about sending the above to everyone.
It doesn’t even have to be the best story – it’s just different than any couch request I’ve ever seen and demands attention (I’ve also hosted, so I’ve seen plenty of requests to compare this with).
In other words, if you want to be hosted, make sure you stand out. And the easiest way is to tell a story, because it’s fun, it’s light, it shows you have a sense of humor – or whatever personality you inject into your writing. It lets our prospective host relate – that’s what story does. And when they relate to our story, they relate to us, and are more likely to say yes.