If you’re not sure what Couchsurfing is, or whether it’s right for your family, this guest post by Liz Deacle from travel blog It’s A Drama will help.
Today’s guest post is by Liz Deacle – a natural born optimist, a lover of wine, and a non-lover of hormones. She emigrated to New Zealand from Britain in 2009 and is currently backpacking around the world with her husband and two teenagers. Even though she is old enough to know better. The family are putting it down to a midlife crisis.
Liz writes all about it on her blog It’s A Drama. She started the blog in hope that her teenagers would think she was cool, and that maybe (just maybe) it would earn her some money to buy wine and stuff.
Last year I decided that enough was enough.
I had been saying to my husband for years that we should go backpacking around the world with our two kids. And then, in the blink of an eye, there they were, 16 and 13 and we still hadn’t lived out our dream.
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Travelling the World with my Family
So I stamped my foot and last year, at 47 years old, with my 54-year-old husband and two teenagers in tow, I set off to travel the world for a year. Four rucksacks, a ton of hormones and not quite enough money for wine.
I won’t go into the ins and outs of how we afforded to do what we did. If you would like to know more about our story you can visit me on my blog here. But let me just tell you that we have been on a very tight budget.
Here’s the thing you need to know.
We are not wealthy people. Not financially speaking. In life and experience, yes, we are multi-millionaires. But dosh wise? Nah.
So along with eating only at local food joints, walking instead of taking taxis, and making my son wear the same flip-flops for the past seven months, we have couch surfed. We have couch surfed as a family in eight countries and have clocked up over twenty-three hosts.
What is Couchsurfing?
This time last year I’d never even heard of Couchsurfing. And when it did make itself known to me, I assumed it must be for party hooligans who stayed up all night getting high and then climbed onto a couch together and did the peace sign.
How wrong I was. Couchsurfing as a family has been absolute gold. I love it.
Couchsurfing is an amazing organization that lets travellers from around the world help each other out by offering a place to stay for free.
You might assume from the name, that the place where you will lay your weary head will be on a couch. But we have now surfed extensively and I am happy to report that none of us has ever had to sleep on a couch.
I won’t lie, there has been one or two unusual places that people call bedrooms. But on the whole, it has been wonderful.
Why try Couchsurfing?
Remember when we were young(er) and thought nothing of rocking up at peoples houses to stay? Well, Couchsurfing rekindles that youthful attitude in you. It’s wonderful!
And there is nothing more refreshing than talking to other travellers – it reminds you of what an interesting world we live in.
People who have stories from around the world make very interesting company. So much better than paying $100 to sit and look at the television in the corner of the room all night.
Plus not only is couchsurfing free, it is also fabulous way of making local connections, and we all know how valuable these are. We have been given tips such as free parking in Rome, the best hidden temple in Sri Lanka and how to eat Japanese food in Japan without looking like a tourist.
The more you couchsurf, the more addicted you will become, and you will wonder why more people don’t couchsurf.
Unless you are on a romantic weekend away with your partner, in which case no, you may not wish to participate in such sociable accommodation. Needless to say, I am travelling with two teenagers so there have been no romantic weekends for quite some time.
How to start Couchsurfing
It’s not hard to find the perfect couchsurfing host. Once you have registered for free on the website you can use the filter option to decide who would suit you and your family.
Literally, you can narrow your search right down: smoking or not, pet-friendly, wheelchair accessible. You get the idea.
We only ever stay with people who either have kids or at least accept kids. That way the poor hosts won’t get such a shock when my son drains their monthly data allowance in two nights.
Actually, much to my teenager’s horror I never mention the WiFi unless the host decides to offer it. And let’s face it, with two teenagers standing in front of you with their phones glued to their hand, why would you?
Think of it as my one bit of parental power. It’s why I enjoy couchsurfing so much.
And one last thing…
Before this trip, I would quiver at the thought of going next door and asking for a cup of sugar. I was that antisocial. But it’s amazing what you will do to save money and try and impress your teenagers.
And that’s the other thing – the kids. Couchsurfing has made them realise that there are wonderful people out there in the world and that their mother is cool.
Well, maybe just a little bit.