Everyone on Couchsurfing.org has their method. That perfect way of asking for a couch that results in the maximum number of yeses. This is my method, one that I have developed over many hundreds of rejections. Sometimes you only have a half hour at a rented computer to send as many requests as humanly possible. This is a balanced method that requires a minimum edits from host to host, but still shows that you took the time to read their profile. It even works for profiles that are not entirely filled out.
But first a word of warning. Make sure to read your host’s profile. This will save you from embarrassing and awkward situations. One host in my favorite city requires that all guests sleep in the same bed as him. And also he is a nude sleeper. I did not message him. Another host, whose profile I admittedly skimmed, replied with “Yes I have beautiful couch available. It is in my living room which has a private room of its own bathroom…Unfortunately, you will not be staying on this couch. I was made sad to see you do not read my profile, or you would noticed the special word I request to be in all subject lines.” Ouch. Also, be sure to fill out your own profile. Believe me, it makes a big difference.
In the ABOUT ME section:
1. Start with something other than Hi or Hello. This seems stupid, but data doesn’t lie. I like “How are you?” or “Whats up?” because it seems like you are asking a question which politeness would require they respond. Make sure to use their name (and if it isn’t displayed, check in the reviews, because someone has certainly mentioned it).
2. Mention any travel companions you may have, with links to their profiles. Also mention how awesome they are.
3. Explain your trip. Say in one or two sentences why you are excited to visit their city, and maybe something that you want to do while there. Try to find something about your trip that is an easy conversation topic, for instance, mention if it is your first time in the city/country/region, or your first time surfing/surfing alone/surfing outside the country.
4. Tell your host what you can offer them. I always say “Usually I love to make dinner for our host, or if that doesn’t work out maybe we can think of something else awesome to do to thank you for your hospitality.” If you are bringing your own sleeping bags, mention how they won’t have to wash sheets on your account.
In the WHY I WANT TO MEET YOU section:
5. Say how excited you are to be visiting, and how awesome of a host they seem like (or some other adjective, based on their profile: laid-back, interesting, cool, fun, friendly, etc)
6. Now is the time to mention something from their profile which you have in common, if you found something. Specifics are excellent, and engaging them on their own interests will help a lot.
7. Say how laid-back of a traveler you are, and how you would love to hang out if they are free, but if not, you can show yourself around.
8. Always include your phone number, or some way that they can contact you at a moment’s notice.
9. Ideally, you should start sending requests more than a week before you visit a place. Start with the most interesting people and start by sending about three requests a day. Increase the number of requests as the day draws nearer and your desperation increases. For a bigger, more touristed city, you will have to send way more requests before you hear a yes. For a rural area, you will have to send the requests a lot earlier, because they probably don’t check their messages every day. The sweet spot is a small city/large town. Be advised that it is super difficult to surf in a college town unless you are willing to sleep on a dorm room floor, and it is even more difficult during the summer.
That’s it! It isn’t too hard. Here is an example of one of my requests. Everything in purple changes from city to city, everything in red changes from host to host, and everything in blue stays the same for almost every host and every trip. Copy and paste is your friend, just make absolutely sure to change the parts in red (although I have been accepted by a few very generous hosts who overlooked that I called them the wrong name):
How’s it going, Gary?
My boyfriend (LINK) and I have been living and working in Iceland for the last month. We got some time off of work because our friend Cara (LINK) is visiting from the US. She has never couchsurfed before but we have been trying to convince her that it is awesome, and we know that she is exactly the type to love doing it. We are excited to explore the northwestern area for a couple days because none of us has been to that part of Iceland before, and I hear it is very beautiful! Usually we make dinner for you and your family, or if that doesn’t work out maybe we can think of something else awesome to do to thank you for your hospitality. We can also bring all of our own sheets and blankets if you like, so you won’t have to do any extra laundry on our account.
Why I’d Like to Meet You
We have been working hard, so we are happy to finally get some time off to explore your area. From your profile you look like an awesome host. Matt is a writer and Cara is a journalist like your housemate, and, like you, I want to build my own house, so with all that we will have a lot to chat about. If you don’t have much time we can show ourselves around, but we would really love to hang out and maybe we can convince you to go on an adventure with us. If you need to get in touch, our number is (NUMBER)