How have I not made a post about this yet?
I know when you hear the word couchsurfing you kind of deduce what it means – but this goes beyond your friend who got kicked out of his place and needs somewhere (your couch) to crash – http://www.couchsurfing.com connects travelers with a place to stay – or more importantly – someone to stay with. I used this website through the first part of my trip and couldn’t sing its praises any louder. I met the most amazing people and experienced the cities I visited in a way I never would have otherwise. I’ve made friends I intend to keep forever. Through a social networking site. That’s something I have yet to be able to say about myspace or facebook.
I’ve gotten a lot of mixed reactions when talking about couchsurfing. Most people instantly ask 1. Is it safe? and 2. Whats in it for the hosts?
As far as safety goes – the web-site does what it can as far as verification and keeping tabs on whats going on, there’s a references system so if anyone was uncomfortable at someone’s place you’ll read about it on their profile, but most of all you can just use common sense. There are profiles to read through and most people have a decent amount of pictures up – you can get a sense of creepsters just the way you can through any other networking site. If you have a funny feeling about someone you just spring for a hostel – don’t push your luck – don’t be stupid and couchsurfing is as safe as staying with a friend of a friend you haven’t met yet.
What’s in it for the hosts? Its hard to say.. I haven’t hosted yet (though I’m trying!) and I would have been hesitant to start otherwise (the fact that I was a female living alone didn’t help). I had a number of conversations with people I was staying with about this and we all seem to agree- couchsurfing renews you faith in humanity to a certain extent. Its almost hippie feeling the way you give and recieve, but at least in my experience there are truely good vibes all around. There’s nothing substantial you get from hosting. Its just for the sake of meeting new people – good people – and sharing a few good times with them. It just feels good.
That being said – try it for yourself. Everyone wants a free place to stay when they travel. You can’t resist it. Pick 3 people who you like the sound of most and write them a personal request – overseas especially people are getting a number of requests a day – if it sounds like you’re just asking everyone on the site they’ll expect you’ll find someone else. Once you stay with someone, you’ll want to starting hosting and then the people you host will start hosting and we’ll keep this good thing rolling!
My profile is here; http://www.couchsurfing.com/profile.html?id=43YKCL0
These are some people I stayed with;
they look normal enough eh?