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Friday, September 9, 2011

Do You or Would You Couch Surf?

We saw Frugal Son off yesterday. He left some stuff behind: a few single socks (the mates are perhaps in Paris?), some dirty cups, and AN IDEA. Couch Surfing. This is what it sounds like: an on-line community where you can seek or offer overnight accommodations.

Frugal Son has done it a few times, most recently in Portland with a few friends. Since he is 22 I can't really say anthing about his activities! Miss Em (age 20, so still under my care) did it (without telling us) in Greece when her accommodations fell through (I have a panic attack as I think about this incident, about which I know nothing).

I figured this was something for which my age disqualified me. Why would I do this when I can afford a humble hotel? Why would I stay with some hipster types? Who would want me, anyway? Then I was peering over Frugal Son's shoulder as he tried to find accommodations in Paris. Opportunity one: a couple working for advanced degrees in Paris. Opportunity two: a family with two pre-teen kids, who take surfers in Paris and in their old house in the south of France. These people all sound so interesting!

The system is self-regulating, with ratings for hosts and guests much like the EBay community in its early days. We loved our visits in France last summer, where we stayed with friends-of-friends-of friends for a few nights.

Frugal Son made a pre-flight phone call to his grandma, age 82. The plan is that she will fly to France next spring and then she and Frugal Son will make a trip to her childhood city: Vienna. When he told her about his couch surfing line-up, she said, "Oh, I want to do that!"

Who knows? Would you do it?


Lindy Julian said...

Lizzie did it in burlington vermont a year ago. She would text me when she went to bed and when she woke up. One day she forgot to let me know all was well, and I was looking up the local police station when she finally called! She was lucky and all went well--but it gave me a few extra gray hairs. She met once nice guy while working at an urban farm and when I went up to meet her--we both stayed at his mother's house! It worked out so well that we even stayed with her at her home in Maine.

SewingLibrarian said...

Seems similar to a bed and breakfast service I used in NYC, except there was an actual agency that matched people. And, of course, I paid. Still, I would worry if my child did this.

Marcela said...

I have lots of friends who use the system all the time with great results, making friends and getting very valuable local info. I would definitely use it, but it is a bit difficult to do it with a whole family.

I love the adventurous spirit of Frugal Son's grandfather! And it is so nice that they will get to visit Vienna together. I would like to visit Martirano with my mum (the town in Italy where my grandmother was born).

Anonymous said...

Couchsurfing through Europe with his grandmother? Now that's an adventure (and maybe a book)! Good for them!

Duchesse said...

Would not do it because prefer to pay for privacy and freedom. Besides, don't sleep well on couches, and in hotel-if the bed is deficient-can request another room.

Find hipsters to be as good company as unhipsters or whatever the general population are called.

My friends and I have used airbnb, the owner-based b&b network (including some unoccupied apts.) Had delightful apt. for a week; met owner but she was not on site. Airbnb has policies that protect both traveler and host.

In my 20s, stayed in youth hostels-nothing untoward happened except losing $100 once, playing roulette. There were staff to deal with the rare problem person.

Sons stay with friends of friends. One time, group of parents chipped in for two hotel rooms in NYC for a carload of boys; we did not want them to pick up bedbugs (epidemic at the time) from a super cheap place and one parent could get an excellent rate.

When we had a big house, often hosted people I knew slightly or had never met, through professional network who came to our city for conferences, etc. I enjoyed that; Le Duc tolerated it.

We had a guest suite and I sought make it like (as one of them said) "staying at the most luxurious b&b".
Funny, could offer it happily but would not want to do it myself.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Lindy--Wow! You are such a cool mom.
@sewing--I worry about the girl more than the boy! My daughter said she would never do it alone.
@Marcela-You and your whole family can surf on my couches any time. I can see how toddlers would pose a problem...
@Kris--Only for a day or two at most. Not sure if it would really happen...
@Duchesse-Thanks for the tip. We had been looking at vrbo and the rentals were very expensive and fancier than what we want. Could you share the info on the apartment you stay in when you visit Paris?

Marcela said...

@Duchesse: we use airbnb all the time and it works great!
@Frugal: Thank you! :)

Duchesse said...

We use the agency Paris Address ( various Left Bank properties over the years (the inventory changes). Apartments have always been spotless and the service attentive. (One time my son left over $200 in cash in an apt. and they returned it!)

Emma said...

CouchSurfing is such a great way to meet people! I find that so many of the people on the site are very honest and curious about the world. The best thing about Couchsurfing is that it makes travel accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy or privileged.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Emma-Based on the experiences of my children, that does seem to be the case. Glad your experiences have been good also.