Ask Couchsurfing: Reviving Local Communities

Ask Couchsurfing: Where we answer your questions about CS and traveling. Check out our Instagram and TikTok weekly to watch Mike from Couchsurfing HQ answer the question, or read the responses here!

How can I revive the CS community in an area where Couchsurfing doesn’t seem very active?

Marco from Buenos Aires:
Having been a nomadic ambassador for the past 3 years, Couchsurfing has always been such an amazing resource to “find my friends I haven’t met yet!” I often found myself in cities that didn’t have an active community, so I’d create the weekly meetups, and when I found the person who was clearly meant to be organizing the events and to whom I’d want to pass the torch when I left, the most common feedback would be that they didn’t want the responsibility or that it’s too much work.
1. I think it’s important to let these people know you can put as little or as much as you want into creating a weekly meetup- the biggest thing is just showing up- which is what they want to be doing anyways! There’s nothing wrong with repeating the event at the same time and same place every week if it means it’s going to bring people together. I find that reliability actually brings more people in!
2. Having co-organizers to be there if you’re not able to attend for a week can help Couchsurfers put a face to the group they are trying to find.
3. If you’re in a spot where it might be hard to find the group, let the bartender or hostess know when you arrive and they are happy to help them find the group.
4. Organize the event at a time and location that most people are likely to be able to attend. A meetup at noon on a Tuesday in the outskirts of town is less likely to draw the crowd you’re looking for than 8 pm on Friday somewhere in the city center near public transit.
5. Have everyone pay as they go. There’s nothing worse than at the end of the night realizing someone forgot to pay their bill, and this also means less organization is needed if there isn’t a huge bill that needs to be divided.
6. Make sure to communicate with the venue your intentions and ensure the event will be welcomed- some places would love to accommodate such a meetup, while others might think of it as a hassle, e.g. they might not like that some people aren’t necessarily going to buy anything. Make it easy on you and the venue regarding expectations!
7. Make sure the space is well-suited for mingling! One big long table is nice, but it means you’re only going to talk to the 4-5 people sitting around you. An open setup where everyone can all communicate with each other usually brings people back because they get to meet so many people.
8. Get in touch with the local ambassador to ensure the weekly meetup is good so they can feature it and invite the travelers who will be in your city every week- just getting those invitations out creates awareness and increases the number of people who attend.
9. Once you do have a budding community, start making those specialized events to go hiking/ pub crawling/ bowling/ BBQs/ art museums/ walking tours/ anything!
10. Reap the rewards of a thriving CS community!

Anu from Chandigarh:
I lived in one small city in India for 3 years where Couchsurfing was not active. No events and no travelers were found in the city when I moved there. Now, the city has an active CS community hosting regular events and also hosted a couch crash in 2021. The key to this was organizing local meetups (in Events) at regular frequency without fail and with discipline. Also, I believe that meetups in some CSers houses can give a more intimate and unique experience that differentiates CS meetups from other similar event groups. The first few meetups were disheartening, with only 2-3 new people turning up every time who did not understand the CS culture very well. In fact, I remember 1 meetup organized at my house where only me and my wife were sitting and waiting for some people to turn up, but they didn’t. But I did not lose hope and kept on organizing monthly house meetups at my house and over months we were able to meet like minded CSers who embraced the concept of CS and started attending regularly and even started hosting meetups at regular frequency and brought new flavors and variety to the type of events happening in the city. We ended up hosting a CouchCrash in the city before I moved on from that city, and 93 people from all over India attended the Crash. The name of the city here is Bhopal, and the city has given me the best CS experience amongst all the 3 other cities where I have lived after joining CS. In short, the crux to get a community alive is to organize regular events with discipline in a comfortable and cozy place that is able to facilitate good and healthy conversations. And do not get discouraged by some failed attempts. Meeting the right tribe is just round the corner.

Jason from Connecticut:
I suggest organizing a monthly event, not weekly. If someone can’t make a weekly event, they just say to themselves that they’ll make the next one but by having a month between them if they miss one they will have to wait a long time to go to another so they will try harder to attend a monthly event. Don’t worry if it is just a small amount of people attending, even two Couchsurfers is a good start! As time goes by you can grow your events and attract more people. We also # our events like Connecticut Meetup #1…#2…#3… this can grow interest over time as members will see it is an established group that meets regularly.
I also suggest varying your events. Don’t meet at a bar every month… try hikes, bowling, game nights, dinners etc. Vary the events so you reach people with different interests.

Couchsurfing Mike: I think the Ambassadors have more than covered how to best re-energize local communities! So I’ll just say if you still have questions, find them on CS and message them directly – they’ll be happy to help!

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