More than 400,000 hosts open their homes to the world and share their lives with travelers every year. Hosts are the backbone of Couchsurfing. Gidon Jones has been a member of the Couchsurfing community since 2012 and started hosting in late 2015.
What made you decide to start hosting?
I started hosting after being a guest a few times and thinking I needed to pay it back, and started being a guest when travelling in China to cities where I couldn’t find a single youth hostel (they actually exist but you need to search in Chinese).
What are the biggest benefits of hosting?
Hosting is about meeting interesting people from all around the world, who are open minded like you, in the comfort of your own home. More idealistically, hosting is about being part of a better world where trust of strangers in the default and doesn’t need to be earned.
Have you ever had any safety concerns about hosting strangers? How do you protect yourself?
I filter and read references. So far, hosted maybe 100 people, had a few oddballs but never anyone who threatened my safety.
Why host people for free instead of charging a fee with other accommodation services?
Hosting and charging are not even close to the same thing. When hospitality becomes a transaction it loses all its value.
Who’s the most memorable guest you’ve ever had?
This is a hard one. A Pakistani air force colonel? An Israeli who had lived for years in Syria? A survivor of the Breivik terrorist attack in Norway? So many people with interesting life stories and experiences.
Are you still in touch with anyone you’ve hosted? Have you ever slept on their couches in return?
Many, I’ve made some of my closest friends through Couchsurfing, especially those that eventually moved to my city. And I’ve been “counterhosted” many times, has given me an excuse to travel to cities I would have never considered.
Has hosting people changed the way you travel? If so, how?
Couchsurfing has opened up many travel opportunities I would never have considered without knowing a local I could trust. Last year I spent some time in Somalia and would never have had the guts to go if I didn’t know a host was waiting for me.
What’s the most memorable meal that you’ve shared with a Couchsurfer?
The meals which were liquid.
What have you learned about other cultures through Couchsurfing?
Too much to list.
Tell us about your most generous Couchsurfing host
Most generous host? I once arrived in a city and sent a request to someone to ask her if she could help me find a driver. She ended up taking me on a two-day road trip and wouldn’t even let me pay for petrol!
What are ways that Couchsurfers can incorporate our core values into their everyday lives?
What is a Couchsurfing value? Radical trust and giving everyone the benefit of the doubt? A culture of paying it forward rather than giving back? I think naturally those people who host end up treating other people better just because they do these sort of things for others.
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