7 Tips For Couchsurfing On A Motorcycle

Josh Koerpel is a digital nomad living on a sailboat in Key West, Florida.  Previously a ship captain and Alaskan wilderness guide, Josh worked for years as a mechanical engineering designer for clients like Disney, Cirque du Soleil, and Metallica.  He then began building his own software products full time from the road while riding across the country on a vintage BMW motorcycle.  You can follow his adventures at www.joshkoerpel.com.

Traveling is great.  And I think the best way to travel is by motorcycle.

Yes, motorcycles can be dangerous.

True, it’s not for everyone.

But if you’re willing to take the chance…in my opinion it is the absolute best way to see the world.

And combine that with Couchsurfing?  What a dynamic duo.

I spent 4 months exploring the Eastern USA and couchsurfing the entire way.  It was an unforgettable experience.  I learned an incredible amount about myself and others.

First…Why A Motorcycle, Josh?

Great question.  Because it throws you into a real and raw environment.  

The heat, the rain, the sounds, the smells, and best of all…the people.  Even if you’re riding solo, you’re never alone.  Being on a motorcycle injects you into people’s lives, and their lives into yours.  There is no barrier between you and them.  

On the back of a bike, you are basically guaranteed a set of unique, unpredictable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that would have been missed had you taken a bus, a train, or rented a car.  

So as I rode my way south on my old 1971 BMW motorcycle named “Genghis” and stayed with a bunch of loving, generous, and kind Couchsurfing hosts, I learned a lot about local rides, timing your trips, working with the weather, parking, packing, etc.

Couchsurfing + Motorcycle Travel: The Best Of Both Worlds.

Anyone who has traveled off the beaten path can appreciate the DNA of a good trip.

It comes down to one ingredient — the people you meet along the way.

You get to know a lot of great Couchsurfing hosts on the road.  Each one of them has a memorable story, and you take a bit of it with you each time

Particularly when you have your own transportation (ie. a motorcycle) you get to meet people that you wouldn’t otherwise.  You get to expand your reach and capitalize on that flexibility.

And because you’re not just sleeping at a stranger’s house — but instead developing a tangible relationship with new and interesting people — it becomes a mix of give and take.

Read a few tips for being a great guest AND a great host, and you’ll see it becomes a chance to give back to those who graciously open their doors to you.

So ready to strap on that helmet and go explore?

Here are my 7 best tips for couchsurfing on a motorcycle.

My 7 Best Tips For Couchsurfing On A Motorcycle

1.  Try To Pack As Light As Possible.  It’ll Pay Off.

Most times, you’ll be shifting your stuff in and out of places.  On the bike, off the bike…up narrow staircases and onto sailboats, in and out of living rooms, garages, and RV’s.  It’s impossible to predict, so my first piece of advice is this:

Pack light.

I broke my gear into sections so I knew exactly what I could keep on the bike overnight, and what I should probably take inside

The less stuff you have, the more nimble you are.

The more nimble you are, the happier and more adaptable you will become.

Oh, and I can tell you that showing up to a host’s front door buried in a mountain of gear isn’t quite the first impression you’re looking for. 

2.  Watch The Weather.  Definitely Watch The Weather.

Motorcycle travel can be amazing in great weather.  

Wake up early, cruise through a misty mountain pass with no one on the road, it’s almost as if you have the entire world to yourself.  

But for every beautiful moment, there can be a rough moment waiting around the corner. 

Here’s me NOT watching the weather. 5 hours soaking wet in the freezing cold…my hand was so numb I was barely able to take this photo

I would plan my travel times a few days in advance, keeping a close eye on any major weather changes that might affect my trip.  This worked 90% of the time.  Every once and awhile, however, you get caught in a storm. 

Once I showed up to a Couchsurfing host’s place in Ohio after riding hours in 40 degree weather.  I could barely get the bags off the bike!  But luckily I had a warm shower and some Vietnamese coffee waiting for me…what a lifesaver!

That’s the power of Couchsurfing.

3.  Give Back At Every Possible Opportunity

Couchsurfing hosts are incredibly generous.  It’s only natural that you’ll feel the need to give back.

For example, one host I stayed with in North Carolina was proudly showing me his crowdfunding campaign set to launch in a month.  The only problem?  He didn’t have a video explaining his goals to future donors.  

So I pulled out the video equipment, we set up a backdrop, mic’d him up and shot a number of takes explaining his vision to the world.  Then, I used dropbox to send him all the raw footage to be edited into a killer crowdfunding video.  He couldn’t have been more appreciative!  

I pulled the video equipment off the bike, set up the camera, put on a microphone, and watched as my host explained his crowdfunding vision to future donors!

The overall lesson I learned was to help in any way I could.  And there are so many ways to do this.  As the world becomes digital, the same skills necessary to work from the road with today’s digital nomad jobs are also typically skills your host could potentially use.

If you’re a good writer, offer some services free of charge.

Or maybe you shoot great photos, or know a lot about social media…whatever your skill set I promise it will be valuable to some of the gracious people that host you.

Be creative, give back, and you’ll be amazed at the opportunities that come your way.

4.  Yes, Everyone Will Want A Photo On The Bike.  Just Go With It.

One of the great things about the motorcycle is that it’s a unique and romantic method of travel. 

Most people simply dream of breaking away and riding into the sunset.  And here you are actually doing it.

From NYC and all the way down the coast, people loved “Genghis” the motorcycle and wanted their photo behind the handlebars.  Great conversation starter!

So because of that, a lot of the cool people you meet will want to immortalize themselves with a photo on the bike.  It’s a great way to strengthen the relationship, start a conversation, or justify swapping contact information.

5.  Keep The Rides Short And Spend More Time With People (If You Can)

I personally found a rhythm while riding, and it fit both my Couchsurfing goals and my work goals.  

I would ride for about 200 miles at a time, leaving early in the morning, and arrive at my host’s place early afternoon.

This was beneficial because it gave us both a chance to do something together during the day before crashing for a night or two. 

One of the coolest welcomes I experienced was in Kentucky where a Couchsurfing host treated me to a very traditional tea ceremony!

Sometimes, however, the host was at work when I got there.  If this was the case, I would find where they lived, mark it in my phone’s GPS, and look for a coffee shop to crack open the laptop and get some work done.  

A few hours later, the host and I would meet up, have dinner and get to know each other.  

It ended up being a pretty good system.  I wasn’t rushing around frantically trying to find their place, and they felt secure knowing I had arrived and could hold my own until the end of the work day.  

6.  Expect The Unexpected, And Enjoy Every Second 

I found that many Couchsurfing hosts were avid travelers in their younger days, so they understood the lifestyle and were absolutely full of interesting stories and life experiences.So part of perfecting the art of Couchsurfing is to understand an unavoidable fact: You’re going to make friends and be put into interesting situations. 

You never know who you’re going to meet, like this lead singer of a band in Savannah, GA. That’s the fun of it!

For me, that’s what makes traveling so interesting.  It fills my energy back up, and helps me to focus on the good in the world.  It restores my faith in humanity, just like Christine’s Couchsurfing experience did for her. 

Like I said earlier, it’s all about the people.  And people are good.

7.  Make Sure You Write It All Down 

Sure, in the moment you’ll think to yourself “Man, I’m NEVER going to forget this!”

But I can tell you from extensive experience that yes — yes you will. 

Write down your adventures however you can.  Type them in a google doc, record yourself voice notes, or use good old-fashioned pen and paper.

Write down your adventures when they’re fresh and bubbling in your mind.  When they flow free.  

I can promise you many an entertaining hour as you re-read your adventures from years ago.  And who knows, maybe one day you’ll write a book…so all these written tales will become your most valuable asset.

Here’s My Final Thought

At the end of the day, it will be the journey you remember…not the destination.

It will be those late-night laughs over shared drinks, or those early morning conversations clutching a fresh cup of coffee.

The folks you meet exploring the world one host at a time will have a profound impact on you and how you view the world.  They will become the bedrock for lessons you learn about life.  It will help you solidify your own ideas of what’s important, like it did for me.  

So however you Couchsurf, whether it’s via motorcycle, plane, train, car, bicycle, unicycle or on foot…make sure you stop every now, take a deep breath and smile.

You’re out there truly living, and that’s something you’ll always be proud of.

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