Perhaps unsurprisingly, sleeping on someone else’s couch is not exactly fun.
There’s the awkwardness of arranging the evening in the first place – a strange routine of missed phone calls, borrowed keys, and late-night awakenings. The actual sleeping experience can hardly be described as comfortable, with the best-case scenario involving a night’s rest on a couch that’s just about longer than your own body, and the worst involving spending the night on a wooden floor.
Forgetting a change of clothes, toothbrush or deodorant can make the next day a severely uncomfortable slog of awkward stares and longing for a shower. And of course, the whole experience serves as a painful reminder of the fact that you don’t live in Dublin, a luxury that, to the couchsurfer, seems like a utopia of ease, convenience and social possibilities.
But while couchsurfing is not ideal, it can have its benefits.
I’ve lived outside of Dublin for the past two years of college. While my commute (a roughly hour-and-a-half journey to my native Louth) is nowhere near the worst faced by university students, a combination of restrictive train timetables and unfortunate early-morning lectures leads me to seek refuge in friends’ flats on a semi-regular basis.
While this may seem innocuous, taking this leap of faith has brought me closer to countless good friends
In my time, I’ve slept on carpets, pull-out mattresses, spare sleeping bags and single-seater chairs, and while none of these occasions has led to the best sleep of my life, all have been experiences I’ve come to cherish and appreciate.
There’s the obvious fact that when you’re staying with a friend, they are exactly that: a friend. Indeed, if you can avoid overstaying your welcome, a night on the couch can feel like an impromptu sleepover. Couchsurfing, if anything, can bring you closer to those friends you call on for a makeshift bed.
Staying over at someone’s house is, in many ways, an act of trust – you’re relying on this person to provide you with shelter, running water, and if you’re lucky, breakfast the next morning. While this may seem innocuous, taking this leap of faith has brought me closer to countless good friends. Nothing helps bonding like the rambling, late-night conversations that sharing a room facilitates.
But there’s something even deeper going on. The reliance you place on the friend who lets you stay requires a lot in return, not least kindness. Overt acts of kindness are harder to come by than most of us would like, with the busyness of daily life tending to get in the way of the human moments that are the bread and butter of the best friendships. It’s not often that you get to recognise a friend’s kindness, and knowing that a friend is willing to let you bunk with them is a small, but oddly touching consideration.
Through nights on the couch, I’ve shared secrets, stories, private jokes. There’s something about an after-hours conversation that creates an atmosphere of anything goes. Walls come down, and friendships have an opportunity to expand, develop and evolve.
While this might seem overblown, friendships are built on those commonplace events that somehow take on a deeper meaning. When it goes well, crashing on someone’s couch can be one of these mundane, but heartwarming, moments.
The whole experience serves as a painful reminder of the fact that you don’t live in Dublin, a luxury that, to the couchsurfer, seems like a utopia of ease, convenience and social possibilities
This is obviously a rosy picture. I still wish I lived closer to College – 9am lectures, for one thing, would be less of a trek. On top of this, I’m lucky enough to live close enough to campus that nights in Dublin are only necessary to accommodate social obligations and early-morning exams – to those for whom a lack of close accommodation makes attending university unfeasible, these couchsurfing pros will be far outweighed by the cons.
But on balance, in my own experience, couchsurfing has brought me just enough benefits to justify the accompanying backache and broken sleep.
Being shown kindness is one of the small pleasures of life, and when this kindness comes from a friend, it’s even more precious. From a certain angle, and when the couch isn’t too lumpy, a night of crashing can be oddly precious too.