I have been a loyal couch surfer (CS) for over three years now. If you have read some of my previous posts, chances are that you are familiar with the term, ‘couch surfing’. I have used it to make the most of my trips over the span of many years. Couch surfing across various countries has given me the pleasure of having met new people and making amazing memories. I used couch surfing to a great extent during my stay in Japan, and that is the reason why I wanted to write a separate post on the pros and cons of couch surfing in Japan and my personal experience of it.
The ‘Hangout’ Feature:
CS has recently introduced a new app feature called the ‘Hangout’ option. It allows you to be online and see if there are any other couch surfers within the nearby area. One can then ask them to hang out together. If the other party accepts the request, you can meet them at the mutually agreed place and then explore the area together. This feature can be considered a gift of the gods, when in Tokyo. I had the great fortune to meet new people by using this feature, every single night. This feature can turn out to be your best friend if you are travelling alone. Just go online, ping and few people and voila! You’ll be making new friends within a matter of a few minutes. Most of the travelling couch surfers are usually found in the Shinjuku or Shibuya areas which are considered to be the hub of the Japanese nightlife. In the course of meeting new people through this feature, I found some really good travel mates, friends and some extremely inspiring backpackers. So this feature tops my list of the perks of using CS in Tokyo.
One of the main things I look forward to in every county is creating my own couch surfing events to meet travellers and locals alike. In every country that I visit, I create an event named, “Looking forward to meeting locals and travellers” and it has always worked like magic.
I created a similar event in Tokyo and I was not surprised to see 29 people join in. Out of the 29 people who were interested in the event, only 12 people could show up. But this was enough to have an amazing night out in Tokyo, on my first day. I met some great people at the event and had the opportunity to explore other areas in Tokyo, over the next few days. The locals gave us great insight into the culture of the city and helped us by donning the cap of translators at local bars.
Hosting such events has been the most helpful tool in all my journeys and I would really recommend it. The reason behind creating these is that the events get broadcasted to the location you will be travelling to and everyone who will be travelling to that city or live there, get notified about it. This makes the event open to a larger audience and increases your scope of connecting with more people within the same place. This feature doesn’t work as quickly as Hangout and one is required to set an event at least a week prior to the actual date.
Contacting Travellers and Locals:
This is an old school method but definitely a solid one. I started doing this about 20 days prior to my trip. I searched for people who were travelling to the same city or locals who have a keen interest in travelling and meeting new people and after a proper check on their profiles (since one wouldn’t want to be duped), I messaged them, asking for their views and suggestions on my itinerary. Finding people who will be travelling on the same dates as you, is quite a common occurrence and one can expect to end up with a travel buddy even before travelling to a new city. I happened to meet Kelsey who was supposed to be travelling to Tokyo, approximately the time as I was, and so we decided to merge our itineraries. We spent a lot of exploring Tokyo and Kyoto together. This is a time taking the process and you would need to invest quite some time in finding the right person as it’s important to choose the right travel buddy to make sure that your trip goes well.
Hosting an event is different from attending one because being the host means taking the responsibility to make sure that the event takes place successfully. If you are not comfortable with the idea of creating events, you can simply join an event hosted by someone else within the area. This gives you the freedom of choice as you can choose to not attend the event in case of any change in plans.