Why do you host? Why don’t you?

Reading your post let me think about your words wen you wrote «I’ve had to rent a hotel room before to sleep in for just a COUPLE hours, which meant spending $200, that could’ve otherwise benefited that particular community by me going to dinner or doing some shopping.»
Well, this makes me not happy to host someone as you.
The second most freuquent reason to refuse people (one even today) is when they want to arrive at toimes inconvenient for the host, even ust becouse they would arrive, get a shower, cras in the bed and in the morning aither leaving early or worse sleeping long and getting out of the room already dressed and going directly to the door. If you stayed a couple hour sleep in an hotel you would have not been a good guest in an hospex community.
And saying that you would have spent the money saved from lodging to going dinner or shopping for yourself, would not give the local community any more than the same amount spent in an hotel, just giving to different tradespeople…

I can definitely relate to this. Many times when I’ve been traveling, especially in developed countries, it has just felt wrong to get a hotel room, even if I could afford it. I feel as if I’m wasting resources. I don’t need a lot to be comfortable, and all the included “amenities” are just extending my carbon footprint unnecessarily, or even making the experience worse from my point of view. (And it can get really bad for me if I start thinking about what probably existed on that plot of land before someone had the bright idea of turning it into another giant bigbox hotel, or what could exist there again if more people hosted/couchsurfed instead.) Also over the years I’ve noticed I almost always sleep better on some random person’s couch than I do alone in some generic, perfectly air conditioned hotel room.

And as far as hosting, I really don’t mind the “ghost” surfers who are in and out so quick you can hardly remember what they look like. For me it’s just a way of giving back. I’ve been in similar situations as a traveler where schedules are tight or things change and that’s just what I needed in that moment. I enjoy “paying it forward” or whatever you want to call it. And I think sometimes people can overlook how much real cultural exchange can still happen in those quick interactions, especially for the guest. Even just being in a home briefly can give someone a neat glimpse into someones else’s life that they simply can’t get from a hotel room. And there are often big cultural differences wrapped up in even the tiniest of details. (What things do people keep in the refrigerator? What kind of coats/footwear/etc. is by the entrance? What kind of locks/security features (or not) are there? What kind of vehicles do people have parked out front? What’s growing in the garden at this time of year? How much physical space per person is there? Do the neighbors say hi to you on your way in and out?)

I think it’s pretty normal to kind of overanalyze all the things that could go wrong until you’ve done it once or twice. My personal experience is that it took exactly one hosting experience to go from thoughts like, “I really hope this stranger isn’t some jerk who’s going to make my life miserable for the next three days,” to “I really hope the next one can stick around for more like four or five days because that first person was the most interesting person I’ve met in years, and I would have loved to chat with them some more.” These days the thing I’m more likely to worry about is whether I’m providing the kind of hosting experience that someone deserves and that’s on par with what people have provided me in the past.

Obviously experiences vary, but honestly as weird it can sound to the uninitiated, my experience is that couchsurfing is probably a lot less risky than many other things I do every week without worry. All my horror stories of being robbed or terrified while traveling happened when I was doing things the “traditional” or “safe” way. And I’m pretty sure I’m more likely to be hurt or robbed by someone on my way to work (or probably also at work) than by the next guest I host.

But one easy thing you can do if you’re still anxious about hosting is just wait until you get a request that feels right and that doesn’t seem like a huge commitment. Maybe someone who’s doing like a road trip or something and has just stayed with some other hosts in the previous few weeks. You can read some fresh references that give a good sense of who they are and what kind of guest they are likely to be. Bonus points if they emphasize their flexibility (happy to sleep in their vehicle if need be, can leave a day early on short notice, etc.)

Or if you live in a place where there are some Couchers “Events” happening you could try that as an even lower-stakes way to start interacting with travelers in your area.

My experience is this varies a lot around the world. In some places I’ve been, yes it’s true. Whether I gave a little money to the couple operating a small guesthouse or their neighbor who cooked me breakfast probably didn’t matter much. But based on @hondamann’s location, I suspect they are more used to giant faceless corporate hotels where all your money is going to some sociopathic multi-millionaire CEO who puts that wealth to the most dubious of purposes.