One of the things that my partner and I were looking forward to in Wilmington was opening up our home to travellers. We had so many wonderful people across the country open their homes to us and we wanted to repay some of that kindness. There is always a tinge of nervousness and uncertainty when you meet strangers, but overall it has been an incredible experience so far.
We have accounts on Couchsurfing and Warmshowers, two services that help connect people with homes with those who need a place to sleep for a night or three. I’ve had family members express some discomfort with the idea of letting people they don’t know into their home, but it is actually incredibly safe. First off, the vast, vast, vast majority of people are good and don’t want to harm anyone. As Halcyon says, the world would rather hug you than harm you. Second, there are safety measures in place to make sure everyone is taken care of including profile verification and an electronic message trail connecting all participants. It would be painfully stupid to try and use these pages to harm someone else, you would be caught way more quickly than if you tried to harm someone randomly. It just isn’t a real danger. In fact, the community is built to prevent even discomfort. If you are a creeper you will get negative reviews and miss out on the community.
For me, there have been several social benefits. I am naturally an introverted and awkward person and putting myself in situations where I converse with people is healthy and good for me. I can so easily get trapped in my own shell but with Couchsurfers (and Warmshowerers?) there is a natural conversation catalyst as we talk about travel and our experiences.
Hosting has also helped me become more comfortable saying no to people. In the last couple weeks, we’ve had eight people stay with us and we have seven more lined up next week (and there is no sign that Wilmington’s popularity will be decreasing anytime soon). We have also had to say no to another half dozen or so. Saying no doesn’t come naturally to me, something about it feels mean. I hate letting people down, but that can often lead to me being stepped on a bit. So, this has helped with that.
Anyway, I highly recommend hosting people on Couchsurfing or Warmshowers if you can. You don’t need a spare bedroom like we have, as long as you are honest about what you can provide then even a small patch of floor space is good enough. The one major downside is how ephemeral the experience can become, you meet people and bond with them and they are gone a day or two later. So far, despite my best efforts, I really haven’t stayed connected to many of the people that I forged a friendship with. It is really bittersweet to meet so many great people and to know that you probably will never see them again. Alas, I guess that is life, and the sweet definitely overpowers the bitter.