What is CouchSurfing?
Yes, there really is a program called CouchSurfing. It’s not just something we do, it’s something we are officially a part of, and yes, it includes sleeping on couches of “strangers!” Now, I know what you might be thinking, “You people actually sleep on the couches of complete strangers!?” Yes, we do, and I can’t really speak highly enough of this program. It is set up online sort of like Facebook. Your profile includes a bit about you, what you like, what interests you have, etc., as well as whether or not you are traveling or have a couch to offer. If you have a couch to offer, you tell a bit about your house, what your “couch” really is (whether it’s a guest room or literally a couch- whatever the sleeping arrangement may be). You can have friends on CS and they can leave you recommendations and reviews. What this means is that when someone views your profile, they will see who you are, what you are about, and what others have to say about you, either as a friend, a traveler, a guest, or a host. You can see the same about others.
How does CouchSurfing work?
Start by setting up a profile on www.couchsurfing.org, and when you need a couch to surf, you conduct a search by city. You can browse through the results and read about people who live in that city, and if you decide you’d like to stay with someone, you can submit a couch surfing request to them with dates and details. That person then either accepts or denies you for whatever reason. There is NO money exchange, CouchSurfing is about cultural exchange. Most of the people involved are genuinely interested in getting to know each other, which is why you include your interests in your profile. I have both surfed and hosted and have always liked the people I meet through this program. In fact, at our wedding last year we had three friends attend whom we had met on different occasions through couch surfing. Three, at our wedding!
Is CouchSurfing safe?
It is a safe program, and here’s why: the power of references keep it safe. For each person you are considering surfing with, you get to browse the references left by surfers and hosts or friends with whom that person has been in touch. You get to use your best judgment whether or not you think that is a safe person to stay with. So by reading what others have to say about CS members, you can get an idea of what type of people they are, and you choose whom you would like to stay with, or whom you’d like to host.
What else does CouchSurfing offer?
There is more to CouchSurfing than just surfing couches. There are often social gatherings in each city. Believe it or not, there are usually people in each town who organize CS events. We attended one in Italy in 2009 because we happened to be couch surfing with the organizer, and it turned out to be a really fun, international dinner party. The best part? We ended up couch surfing with a German couple we met there a couple months later when we were in Germany, and then again when we went back in 2013. You never know who you’re going to meet! You can get cultural insight through CouchSurfing in a way that you just can’t get by staying at a hotel or even a hostel. And you’ll meet new friends along the way. It’s a great way to travel on a budget as well since you don’t pay for lodging. Just remember, rewarding your hosts with a home cooked meal, a small gift, or even a drink will not go unnoticed! Check out www.couchsurfing.org.