CouchSurfing is a major global phenomenon in hospitality and social networking without comparison. It still surprises me to meet Digital Nomads that never heard of it or have a distorted view on what it is. Needs to be said that Digital Nomads, are not that nomadic after all; for most part they are simply remote workers that settle in locations like Chiang Mai for months, sometimes years and rarely move. No wonder CouchSurfing comes as news to them.
Digital Nomads that truly embrace the nomadic lifestyle know about CouchSurfing and some are also active members. Most Digital Nomads I hangout with and know fairly well, are in fact part of the CouchSurfing network and often do their part; they have been travelling for years and met tons of fellow travellers via the CouchSurfing online platform and the most recent mobile Hangout feature.
This Digital Nomads Ground Zero blog post is about whether the CouchSurfing community and Digital Nomads can benefit from each other, how and for what purpose. I am just putting down some reflections and leave the considerations to the reader. If some of you will leave comments, we might be able to have a proper discussion, somewhere, sometimes.
First and foremost, I would like to make the point that I do not consider Digital Nomads to be a community; no real exchange or leap of faith is made in order to become a Digital Nomad. Although some Digital Nomads hangout and meet, their objective is to network, get some info, learn ways to become more productive and to make travelling as hassle free as possible. On the other hand, CouchSurfing members have in common the trust in humanity, practically realized by having a stranger stay overnight in one’s home or by being hosted themselves in a stranger house, both for FREE; quite powerful experience to go through for most humans in the modern “separated” neoliberal world.
Couchsurfers are all about travelling and experiencing the whole wide world, in almost every corner of it, from cities to rural areas, from mountains to deserted islands; there’s not fixed rule on how that should take place. Some Couchsurfers travel by bus, some by plane, some by bicycle and some even walk … yes I have met a few travellers travelling across continents on foot. Digital Nomads for most part stick to populated areas and travel is sometimes seen as something to do as little as possible; in order to work digitally, Digital Nomads rely on a more or less reliable internet connection, hard to find in rural areas, remote locations and while on the road.
Digital Nomads and CouchSurfers usually meet in cities, mostly in capital cities where the CouchSurfing community strive; in facts, many travellers tend to live and work in cities for a while in order save money and rest, before taking off again. CS members would usually open their house as well as arrange more or less regular meetups as well as more or less adventurous activities. Digital nomads looking to bring expenses down as well as to network, will look for a host and will participate in CS events.
It needs to be mentioned that most Digital Nomads come from technologically advanced locations and tent to have a strong neoliberal (see neoliberalism on Wikipedia) imprinting and cannot truly understand what sharing is all about; most of them think that sharing is Uber, Airbnb and co-working spaces. A very small part of Digital Nomads, usually involved in entrepreneurship and social projects, truly embraces sharing, know about CouchSurfing and contribute positively to the community. Others look at CouchSurfing as a group of hippies, supporting a Utopian project. I consider the latter portion of Digital Nomads to be the one that could really benefit from the CouchSurfing experience in order to open up to different ways of thinking and alternative realities. It’s funny to witness the behaviour of some Digital Nomads on their first CouchSurfing experience; just like a fish out of water. By the way, I consider a “legitimate” CouchSurfing experience the combination of hosting and being hosted; both needs to be tried at least once, better twice, in order to know what it feels like to make a leap of faith and truly share.
So, can the two groups benefit from each other? Can they even integrate? Would there be any reason to wish for that to happen? My opinion is that the Digital Nomads society will become an even larger group in the next few years, counting hundreds or thousands people, if not millions, worldwide; without a solid community framework, the people will be left at the mercy of speculators and fake leaders … it’s actually already happening. Some Digital Nomads have already started grouping and forming small communities in the form of co-living realities; they do not last long, forcing aggregation on the basis of sharing resources and working practices is not enough to establish trust amongst the participants. I think that some CouchSurfing mentality and community believes could be infused into the Digital Nomads, to make them recognise that it’s not all about the money and work. Also, CouchSurfers could benefit from an infuse of ideas on how to make money while on the road. Eventually we will all be more or less on the move, for pleasure or work, both groups have something to share to facilitate the process.
I am inviting as many Digital Nomads as possible to try the real CS experience, their lives will be changed by broadening their points of view. I am also letting CouchSurfers know about the digital way and how to combine it with travelling. Do you have any ideas on the subject? Please leave a comment 🙂 Also, if you have read so far, you might be interested in find out how I am also trying to make a small change by combining forces, check out the LostHut Coop and let me know what you thing about it. Take care and most of all enjoy!