Nishant Prasad has spent five of the past eight years couchsurfing around the world. He has utilized the hospitality and social networking website Couchsurfing.com to arrange free accommodation and meet a lot of amazing people including his fiancé Isabelle. Nishant inspired me to start couchsurfing after we worked in India together running community service trips a few summers ago! Now, it’s time for him to inspire you to do the same!
1. How did you start traveling?
When I was 21, I was a bit exhausted with life. School, work, blah, blah, boredom. Around this time, my uncle was visiting Seattle from Australia. On his way out, he mentioned that I should visit him and my cousins, who I had not seen in over 10 years. A few weeks passed. On the drive home after a late shift at work, [I] decided that I would take him up on his offer. I filled out a visa application online, entered in my credit card details, hit submit and then, went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up to an email stating that I had three months to enter Australia. I said bye to the life I knew, packed up and left. Since then, I have been hooked on seeing everything that this world has to offer. Five out of the last eight years have been spent on the road.
2. How did you get into couchsurfing? [Couchsurfing.com is a hospitality exchange website with an extensive social network. It’s basically a free version of Airbnb that’s based on a peer review system. The community also hosts weekly meetup events around the world.]
Shortly after I arrived to Australia, I moved to Brisbane. I got a part-time job, a place to stay and started to explore the new life I now had. I met a German girl by the name of Pia somewhere in town, and she invited me out to a couchsurfing meetup at a bar. Prior to this, I knew nothing about couchsurfing, but none the less, I was keen to meet new people. Turned out that this was one of those life changing events. Eight years later, I have surfed many couches, had many surfers stay with me and organized events all over the world.
3. What is the biggest myth about couchsurfing? Share some safety tips for finding a good host.
Everybody is out to get you, and they just want to take what is yours. In reality, it’s the opposite. The world is filled with amazing people; you just have to meet them.
Safety wise, the reference system on the website is your best friend. If 83 people have nothing but good things to say about your potential host, chances are that he or she would be pretty awesome. Try to stay with more established members and stray form the ones that have negative references. Besides that, you have to go with your instinct. You are not entitled to stay with or host anyone. Keep the phone numbers and addresses of a few hostels nearby just in case.
4. Did you meet your fiancé through couchsurfing?
I met Isabelle as a result of Couchsurfing. While I was living in Brisbane, I had some French Canadians crashing at my place for a week or two. During this short period, we became good friends, but we were split apart a few months later due to different travel plans. Years passed and we kept in touch but because of the distance, we had not met since. I finally made my way up to Montreal about four years later, and we had our long awaited reunion. Isabelle happened to be good friends with one of them and that’s how the love connection was made.
5. How did you fund your travels? What is your normal budget?
Every so often, I return back to Seattle to make money. I have been very fortunate to work for an amazing company that always finds a position for me when I am around. It’s a big plus when your boss is on board with your personal enrichment!
Working abroad is not always feasible due to visa restrictions in many countries. But, there are a lot of amazing websites like HelpX, Wwoof and WorkAway that link you with volunteer opportunities all around the globe. In many instances, room and meals are offered in exchange for your help.
Planning for the next trip starts years in advance. At this point, the next two major trips are already in the works. Now to learn Spanish and collect more money!
As for budget, we don’t really have one. We just try not to go overboard with our daily spending and that tends to keep prices down. It’s just deciding what your needs are over your wants. Pretty much the same thing we would do while we are back home. With that said, for the most part, we spend less daily while on travels than at home. Most days are under $20 USD per person per day. Usually less in most instances. It’s just limiting yourself to seafood dinners when you are in a cheaper coastal town. Deciding when you deserve a beer, etc.
6. Tell us about your most recent adventure.
The most recent adventure started about two years ago when I proposed to my now fiancé in Montreal. The next day we embarked on our next world trip by flying to Paris. We spent the last two years making our way around Western Europe, The Balkans, North Africa, the Caucasus region, The Gulf, India and Southeast Asia. We just arrived to New Zealand a month ago where we plan to travel and volunteer around the country.
7. Share one of your travel highlights.
While we were traveling through Turkey, Cyprus, Georgia and Armenia for a few months last year, we decided to make our way around solely by hitchhiking. The level on kindness of the people in this part of the world is unparalleled. Even though we could barely communicate with the language difference, people went out of their way to show their amazing hospitality. Something we will remember forever.
All in all, I must have couchsurfed over a hundred times in about 30 countries since I joined Couchsurfing.com. About a third of these have been with members who had stayed with me previously or who I had met on travels. It really is a network that goes full circle. A bulk of the people I have met still remain good friends to this day.
8. What advice would you have for aspiring travelers? Any tips for overcoming fear or budgeting?
It is very, very, very easy to get comfortable. You can have a good job, a nice apartment, a close knit group of friends and such. To this day, I still struggle to leave after settling down for a bit. But once you leave, and step out of your comfort zone, you will be rewarded past anything you may know.
9. Name three things you always pack for a trip.
- Smartphones with the aid of offline maps have revolutionized travel for me. As fun as it is to get lost, it’s also nice not to wander around with a heavy pack.
- Compression sacks, best thing for packing. Makes it super easy to fit everything into a backpack; though, the downside is that you end up with wrinkly clothes sometimes.
- Oh, and you can’t forget the passport!
10. What is your next adventure?
The next big trip will be in Mexico, Central and South America. Need to get my Spanish to par first!
Interested in Couchsurfing?
Check out the Couchsurfing.com website to find out more! Attend one of the free meetups to meet local members and ease your fears. Nishant inspired me to couchsurf, which is how I met Kaleena Quarles, who I interviewed recently about funding her solo round the world trip by teaching English in Korea!
Come with me to
I C E L A N D!
Next week, I head to Iceland for one of the most exciting (and expensive) trips of my life! I’ll be taking a two week break from the blog BUT promise to have a detailed report of my trip including costs and tips for planning your own Iceland adventure when I get back! The best part is you can join me on my trip via Instagram!
P.S. Let me know what Iceland questions you have in the comments below!