05 May 2009

The Jury is Still Out

I'm a member of CouchSurfing (http://www.couchsurfing.com/index.html ) for a little over a year. After the rush of visitors from December through Mardi Gras, I took a break and hosted no visitors. One of the first requests to reach me after I reactivated my membership last week came from a young Canadian woman arriving next week for a 12-week internship.

Her picture was nice but she was a new CS member with no references. I decided against hosting her because a) 12-weeks is a long time (even though she said she would be appreciative of any portion of the time), and b) she had no references.

Judging from what I read on discussion boards at the CouchSurfing website -- and a few live conversations I've had with other CS hosts -- it's common for a host's enthusiasm for the CouchSurfing Project, as well as his/her inclination to accept requests, to fluctuate. His/Her philosophies and policies relative to CS will also evolve over time -- do you give guests a key to your house? are they allowed to use your computer?

As Surfers come and go, a body of experience accumulates and for the Host, these experiences inform the decision to accept or deny a request.

My decision-making formula seems to be:

Spirit or Vibe of the Request: Does the request feel fake, frenzied, crazy, neurotic, slimy? or Warm, sane, intelligent, curious, self-confident, independent and creative? Am I attracted or repelled, i.e., after reading the request a second time, do I have any interest in visiting the Surfer's Profile Page at CS.com?

CouchSurf Profile Page: Is it complete? Are there pictures? Any references? What does the member say about herself/himself? How long has s/he been a member?
Special Features or Bonus Material

Sometimes Surfers offer links that lead to digital materials that expand what I know about them as a person.

The most recent request is from a young Italian male/female couple. The male is writing.

The request is a bit rambling --clearly English is not the writer's first language -- but friendly, i.e., I am smiling as I read...until he mentions Hare Krishna.

The picture shows two attractive young people. The shot is playful not goofy. They appear sane, intelligent and creative.

My impression of the CS Profile is mixed -- e.g., the couch photo at the top of this blog is borrowed from that page but under "Types of People I Enjoy" is written

Crazy and weirdo people with freat sensitiveness and sense of humor

What is "freat"? "Great"? "Freak"?

I do not suffer the illusion that I am striving to be a "type" of people that the Italian couple enjoys but my experience suggests what is written here hints at the expectations a Surfer may hold. I tend to be especially guarded or downright defensive when "sense of humor" is mentioned as this phrase can indicate anything from an urbane chuckle to never-ending wisecracks to hysterical guffaws.

The Profile includes references and I like what other people say about Roberto (the guy making the request).

About himself, Roberto offers a link to YouTube. At YouTube, I discover he has posted a number of clips. I watched the first one which is entitled "Marrakech, morocco 3/3".

...and I'm leaning toward "yes" after seeing it.

But that Hare Krishna stuff is still an issue.....

What do you think?


  1. I like the clip. However, I would trust your instinct. It seems odd to me that someone would write Hare Krishna in their profile if it weren't a big deal to them personally and it might create friction if they were rather dogmatic. However, having said that, I would write that I am Jewish and would not ask my host to read the Torah or light Sabbath candles...

    This is such an intimate arrangement, opening your home, that I would be hesitant if there were not a lot of resonance for you in a positive way.

    Not sure that this helps...

  2. It is true that the regrets in my life are more often over what I didn't do than over what I did.

    Still, I think that in the abstract, if you say yes, you have all kinds of things to lose but if you say no you lose, at most, an opportunity, and you'll have the bliss of ignorance of what that might have been.

  3. Well, you could make clear that you're not into Krishna. He should be cool with that.

    Otherwise, I guess the main thing is how long do they want to stay?

    I couldn't understand anything he was saying on the video, though some of the images looked nice.

    Good luck!

  4. I think that the Krishna reference is a deal breaker.

  5. I like the CS idea. I am thinking about doing it although I doubt many people ever really think abuot vacationing in Tallahassee.

    I am trying to learn to trust my instincts...my first thoughts about something, because they typically tend to be true. If the mention of Hare Krishna gave you pause, I would follow that instinct. You are in a very popular city so if this request from Robert is one that leaves you with some doubt, pass it up knowing that another will come along soon enough. I'm probably more guarded than most, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

    I couldn't play the video, so I couldn't get any impressions from that.

    BTW, I spent 18 months working on a degree in Gainesville, Florida, capital of the Hare Krishna crowd. No disrespect, but yes, there is reason for some concern there.

    Oh, yeah, Sojourner's in the Capital Rotunda now. Thank you Michelle!


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