Picture this: A global community who loves meeting and talking to new people and going to new places. They regularly take in strangers and host them for days or weeks at a time, and often stay with strangers themselves in new places. They have meetups in every corner of the globe, socializing with other people who host and stay with total strangers. Human connection, shared experiences, and the discovery of Other People is the name of the game.
Now, picture a person who likes to travel but also likes reading books, making art, and quiet time. This person does not like parties, especially with a bunch of people they don’t know. They need a lot of time alone and feel drained after social encounters. They’ve never had a large circle of friends, and quite frankly can’t imagine having the energy to keep up with the lives of more than four people. (Hint: this person is me.)
Can this person be a part of that community?
I’m introverted. A decidedly underwhelming party presence, I usually stop speaking once a group becomes larger than four people. While I love to travel, I am also widely described as a homebody. I have been known to write down appropriate conversation topics before going to a social gathering so that when someone inevitably notices I’m alone and decides to try and relieve me of my social awkwardness by taking a closer look at it, I’m at least a little bit prepared.
Yet, I am also a Couchsurfer. And I kind of love it.
I never thought I would be a person who Couchsurfed, but once I tried it I quickly saw the incredible value in it. It can be an absolutely beautiful experience that doesn’t have to be overwhelming for those of us who are intimidated by the notion of people-ing.
Consider Traveling With A Friend
I’ll admit it: I’ve never Couchsurfed alone. I have only ever done it with my husband. He usually does the research and shows me the profiles he thinks would be the best fit. If I agree, he reaches out.
My husband is decidedly extroverted. He is exactly the kind of person you would imagine Couchsurfing: energetic, enthusiastic, fascinated by people, fun to be around, adventurous, and an avid traveller. And thank god because he diverts the attention away from me. I get the chance to sit alone in the quiet while he entertains the host or asks them for advice on what we should do during our stay.
I like to think of this as tag-teaming a social situation. If you are also introverted and interested in Couchsurfing, consider traveling with an extravert. Not only will they help make the Couchsurfing experience better, but the host can also use up some of your travel buddy’s need to socialize.
Set An Expectation
Before staying with someone, you must message them and discuss the bare bones of what you want. After explaining how long you’re looking to stay and all of those fine details, the person will write back with their schedule and expectations. Some people work long hours of the day and you hardly see them. Many of them give you a key to their house. If they’re gone a lot and you have a key then you can have some downtime—score! This will make it easier to spend quality time with your host when they get home.
Communicating with your host is essential. Some of them will want to take time off of work and want to spend every minute with you (send your favorite extravert) while others are much more hands off. Find out what they prefer and let them know what you need.
If you are traveling for quite a while and will be staying in several different places, plan when you hope to Couchsurf strategically. If you’re maxed out after a week in a sixty-bed co-ed dorm, don’t try to Couchsurf the next day. Book a couple of days in a private room, recover, and get some good sleep. Take care of yourself and then Couchsurf when you have as much of yourself to offer your host as they have to offer you.
Being kind to yourself is the best way to have a great Couchsurfing experience. Even I can muster up some social energy if I plan correctly.
Go For It
Couchsurfers make up a unique community that offers a set of benefits and experiences you won’t get any other way. Being introverted isn’t a reason to opt out. Start slow, plan ahead, and maybe you’ll even make a friend!