First Time Couchsurfing (no dying, Taken stories, or other bad experiences included)

Surrounded by three new friends, I desperately tried to convert to a beer drinker, delicately sipping my Pilsner while trying not to grimace at the several inches of foam. As their glasses emptied and refilled, the Czech waitress stared at my near-full glass as our conversation bounced from living in China to hostel challenges, and at one point, Couchsurfing.

Though the last night of my trip still loomed weeks away, I knew I wouldn’t be able to find a decent hostel in Amsterdam. A Saturday night during the peak of July spelled “minimum stays” and sky-high prices, and a hotel seemed to compose my bleak future. After lively and friendly hostels, spending my very last night solitary seemed the worst possible way to end my trip, but there was hope: Couchsurfing.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, Couchsurfing is a website that connects travelers needing a free place to say (ie. me) and hosts, who volunteer their couch for said travelers (or a bed if you’re lucky!). Everyone has a profile, a part of which includes references from past guests or hosts.

Free place to stay? Connecting with locals? A culturally enlightening and authentic experience to end my trip?I thought it sounded great! As we discussed the merits and dangers of such a site, wonderings turned to planning, which turned to canceling my hotel reservation and requesting to stay with a 20-year-old guy who had graduated college (check), had nine positive references (check), and had an interesting profile (check, check, check).

Would this be my own version of Taken? I desperately hoped not, and while I had tried to take all safety precautions possible, I knew there was an inherent level of risk involved. As my stay approached, my nerves almost rebooked the hotel, but after talking to several friends, I decided to go for it, and so my first time couchsurfing began.