What is it like to use Couchsurfing as a young solo female traveler? We talked to Hailey about her passion for traveling and her experience using Couchsurfing as a solo woman traveler. Hailey joined Couchsurfing in October 2012 and recently set off for a 4 month trip to Iceland, Greece, India and Cambodia. You can follow her adventures and photography on her blog Not From Home

“There are opinions in regards to traveling alone. There are stronger opinions in regards to being a woman and traveling alone.” ~Hailey’s blog

Hailey, when did you know that you had a love for travel?

I grew up in a conservative town where it was rare to even just hear of anyone leaving the country. I believe that this fact sprung a curiosity within me when I was about 8 years old. I wanted answers to questions that no one could give me. This is when I started sifting through photographs of foreign places. No one seemed to be talking about this world that apparently existed outside of Idaho. I decided it was crucial for me to see the world, to answer the questions I had.

Since that time, traveling has become the way that I learn about myself and the world. It has taught me to open my mind to those things unfamiliar and has made me realize that the world is so small, yet so big and diverse and full of incredible people. It helped me understand that I am but a very small part of the world, which I find to be very humbling.

 Hailey Etheredge

 “My name is Hailey Etheredge and I am a woman traveling alone.” 

What do you like about Couchsurfing?

I think that the idea of opening your home to a complete stranger is one of the most human things a person can do, and this act creates a bit of vulnerability that each is willing to share with the other. The experiences that follow are some of the most true and unguarded. Couchsurfing offers a way to connect with people that seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way in the past few decades.

How has Couchsurfing changed the way you travel?

I have found myself in situations that would not have been possible without the recommendations of a host and their connections within a city. I spend significantly more time in the presence of locals who soon become good friends when Couchsurfing. It completely alters the overall experience in a foreign place.

What is your favorite Couchsurfing experience?

It is impossible to sift through the experiences that I have been lucky enough to have in the past year: from my first host in Iceland cooking dinner for me nearly every night and insisting I sleep in his bed while he stayed on the couch, to arriving in Manhattan and within minutes laughing hysterically over a game of Cards Against Humanity until 5 am, to spending a week with endless mimosas in the snow while hosting a surfer from London, to arriving in Vancouver, BC and almost immediately being welcomed with bowls of Halloween candy and X Files movie marathons — I think it is safe to say that I have had multiple ‘best’ experiences.Hailey and her Couchsurfing Host in Reykjavik

“My amazing first host in Iceland cooked dinner for me nearly every night and insisted I sleep in his bed while he stayed on the couch.”

Why are these your most memorable experiences?

These experiences were crucial in my realization that people, in general, are good. I think that it is easy to become caught up in the bad that exists in the world and these experiences I have had through Couchsurfing have helped to outweigh the bad. These experiences were possible because of people letting down their guard and allowing me to be a part of their life. I believe this act to be incredibly healthy, though difficult in this day and age. So, when this does happen, the experiences that follow are the most true and memorable.

What are ways to incorporate the Couchsurfing Values into your everyday life?

Sharing my life allows others to discover something new. It allows me to further appreciate each unique factor that makes my life precisely what it is.

I don’t believe that I can stress enough the importance of creating connections. I have benefited countless times because of the connection I have made through Couchsurfing. Though the world certainly seems immense, it truly is very small and the people that each one of us share it with are connected in more ways than one.

Couchsurfing Values

Offering kindness is our instinct and we should always be aware of the force that brings us to do such things. The smallest amount of kindness has the strongest capabilities. Never forgetting that our acts affect those around us is a true and good power.

Staying curious is the force behind travel. Personally, it is my reason for the persistent urge to discover the cultures of the world.

To leave it better than you found it is an excellent example of a simple act of kindness that goes a long way.

How do you think Couchsurfing has had an impact on the world and you?

I think it would be safe to say that Couchsurfing has forever changed the worlds of those who participate. Since the Couchsurfing community is made up of like-minded individuals, I believe that each person is actively looking for ways in which to share their world and to be a part of another’s. This act alone is impactful and capable of making changes that at first may seem subtle, but eventually grow to alter one’s views and opinions of the act of traveling.

Every Couchsurfing experience I have had so far has taught me to be more aware of my actions and to be more grateful, open, and accepting.

What’s your advice to fellow women travelers who want to try Couchsurfing for the first time?

Simply to be aware. Especially in the situations of being a woman traveling alone, it is essential to be aware of your actions and the cultural customs which you may be unfamiliar with. Equally as important, to not be afraid. Fear is capable of shaping experiences and it is important to be aware of this, but to not let it negatively affect your travels and decisions. Use common sense, take risks, and always know that everything works out in the end.

 Visit our Safety Center for additional safety tips!





  1. I am planning to go backpacking through Europe in AUg 2015, this will be my first BIG trip for me that I have ever taken, what would your best advise for me be? Also do you pay to stay at these places? I will be starting my trip in Lisbon Portugal then going to Spain, Italy, Germany, Croatia and Greece
    If you have been to any of these places do you know any hosts that you would recommend to me?

    1. hello Etta~ I apologize for the late reply–
      first off, congratulations on taking the most difficult step in the process of traveling alone, which is making the decision to REALLY do it! It is so exciting & you should be thrilled for the opportunity & courage you clearly have.
      My advice to you would be to let things happen as they may. It is so easy to want to try & control every part of your trip, but I believe that this only dumbs down the experience. Let yourself be taken to the places that you didn’t plan & just let it happen. I met some of my best friends while traveling this way. There were nights where I did not know where I would be sleeping, but everything always works out, no matter the circumstance.

      When I arrived in New Delhi, I was alone & exhausted — I met two guys from Israel in the currency exchange line & ended up traveling with them for 4 weeks. To this day, they are like brothers to me.
      So, I suppose my point is, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. Be aware & safe, but also be open to doing things you never thought you would do.

      Of all your destinations, I have only been to Greece– I could definitely get you in contact with a host in Athens as well as in Chania, Crete. Send me a message on my couchsurfing profile if you are interested!

      And lastly, no I have never paid for couchsurfing — & you should not ever have to!
      So great to hear from you — thank you so much for reaching out! Maybe someday our paths will cross ^^


  2. I’ve found that when I spend extended periods of time traveling, I don’t want to stop. But I have yet to become one of the many who learn to earn enough funds to continue traveling without end. From the stories others have shared while couch surfing, does it ever make sense to continue and maintain a sustainable lifestyle while traveling, is this at all realistic? Or does it have to end to go back to “normal life”? If it is not uncommon, what are the best ways to do this?

    1. hello Thomas,
      I apologize for the late reply — thank you for reaching out, I really enjoy hearing from you all.
      I have also had similar thoughts in regards to how to make the ‘travel high’ become an actual lifestyle. I have become very skeptical of the cookie cutter lifestlye that consists of school, work, marriage & I also believe that this way of life, or any way of life for that matter, is simply a recommendation by a large group of people. By no means necessary. Yes, some people may not understand when someone they know decides to live the ever-moving, nomadic lifestyle, but the opinions of others really should not have an honest effect on our lives & decisions we make in regards to how we live it.
      So, “normal life” is what makes some people happy, while others would not be satisfied. And one should never settle for something that does not satisy them.
      I believe the best ways to accomplish living in this way as something more than temporary is to choose a line of work that does not require a permanent residence. Most creative fields work in this way. If one can work from anywhere, one does not have to stay put.
      Thank you again for your thoughts & questions~ it is lovely to hear from you!

  3. Hello everybody!I am from Russia & I’m a stranger here.And I would like,that somebody will visit my town at the seaside of the Azov sea.I can give you a hose for 1 week.If you have got some questions,htis is my E-mail-MarinaHeaven@yandex.ru
    Best wishes

  4. I seriously wonder who sponsors these world travellers.Do u people hav some kind of family money or something.Travelling across the world needs some courage and loads of money.Could u jus share the details on the money part??

    1. Hello Raja – I am happy to share. I have no sort of sponsor of any kind or any family money. I worked & attending university in Portland for four years, all the while saving money for this trip. Though it certainly takes money to travel the world, it is a myth that it takes a lot of money. By avoiding high cost hotels, expensive tourist attractions, eating out for every meal and these sorts of things, it is easy to get by without an exuberant amount of money.
      And though it does take a specific kind of courage, if one has a desire to experience the world & its cultures, that courage arises on its own.
      Hope this helps you in a way!

  5. What a great sharing! I hope i can do so much amazing adverture soon (P.S. just graduated a year and saving money for this :p)

    1. Thank you, Charles! The best of luck to you & I hope you are able to start your adventure very soon —

  6. Hello Hailey!
    I’ve read the post and I have to say that I really identify with you.
    I was also traveling alone for two years after my military service in Israel, alone, and most of the time I stayed with people through CS …
    There is something megical in traveling by your own…
    The experiences were amazing, I got to know special people that there was no chance I would meet without CS! I’m glad that you have that intense desire to travel the world – I have such passion as well, and who knows, maybe one day we will meet eachother in some special point on the globe, somewhere, far away from home… 🙂

    Wishing you lots of luck, keep exploring, enjoy and meet great people!

    Meytar, Israel.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Meytar!
      It makes me truly happy to know that there are many other people who share that same desire to see the world, whether it is in the company of themselves or with another. It is especially comforting while I am currently traveling – to think of all the like-minded people & all of the incredible experiences to be had.
      I have also been lucky enough to accumulate these amazing experiences with the people I have met along the way that I know I will hold very dear to me for a long time.
      And, as you said, who knows! Perhaps we will run into each other along the way!

      All the best to you & continue to feed your wanderlust —