The CouchSurfing Project is a free Internet based service that has over 100,000 users in over 205 countries. Members of the project can offer their couch to other members for a free stay while they are traveling. There’s nothing better than free accommodations while you’re traveling!
Lots of people have found the service very helpful and it shows with their active user community. Back in June of this year they experienced computer problems which resulted in their database being lost. Originally they announced that would be the end of the project, however they decided to rebuild and they were able to re-launch the “CouchSurfing 2.0″ project not long after the crash.
–How Does It Work? —
First of all, their official missions statement says
“CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.”
For them it’s not about just helping people find an affordable place to stay– it’s about making the world “a better world by opening our homes, our hearts, and our lives. CouchSurfing gives a great example of how this might work.
- You become a member of CouchSurfing.com. Create a profile and fill it out as much as possible, including photos. Be sure to link to any friends you might already have in the network.
- Consider joining some discussion groups in your areas of interests or engage in the chat. You meet some friendly people online and share in some interesting discussions.
- You decide you want to spend two weeks traveling around Europe. You get a ticket arriving in Amsterdam and departing from Florence.
- You log on to CouchSurfing.com and do a search for members within 20 km/miles of Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Zurich and Florence- your new travel itinerary.
- You contact interesting prospects from the list and explain the sort of travel/stay you’re interested in. Use the “Request to CouchSurf with…” button to include specific details.
- You get several offers for places to stay. You decide that you want to spend a few days in each city.
- You confirm with your hosts, adjust your travel plans, and excitedly fly off to Amsterdam.
- Martin picks you up at the airport and takes you back to his flat in the Rembrandtplein section of Amsterdam. The two of you walk around the neighborhood and meet some of his friends at a lively cafe for dinner. You stay up late sharing stories and getting to know each other. Martin recommends some interesting places you might like to explore around the city. When he returns from work the next evening, he takes you to his favorite pub and you tell him about your adventures. The two of you laugh and connect; you make new friends at the pub, and you’re grinning the whole walk home along the canals.
- As an example of a good surfer, you do as much as you can to give back to your hosts. This includes doing simple things like, for example, washing the dishes, making dinner or helping out in some way. Maybe you have a special skill you’re willing to share?
- You say good-bye and move on to Brussels, Frankfurt, and then Zurich. In each location you’ve met some great people and gotten to experience being a part of the culture through your connection with your host. You go places you would have never read about in a guidebook, meet interesting locals, and spend time bonding with your host. You’re actually experiencing those “deep and meaningful connections” you’ve read about on the site, and you’re making friends for life.
- You decide to stay a little longer in Florence and your host, Donia, has agreed to let you spend a week with her.
- You spend the week talking with Donia about politics, travel, art, your hometown, and a whole lot of other things. She lets you borrow her bicycle and gives you a map she’s marked with some fun places to check out. On the weekend she takes you on a side trip to visit some relatives in a small Tuscan village. You learn to make awesome marinara sauce, you take a hike through picturesque rolling hills and her uncle, a craftsman, gives you a handmade leather belt. You’re amazed at the time you’re having! Back in Florence, Donia takes you to her favorite gelato place and you know it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted.
- By the time you leave on the bus for the airport, you feel that you’ve gotten a good feel for the local life in each of the places you’ve traveled. You’ve made many new friends and you hope Martin, Donia and others will visit you. You can’t wait for your turn to show them the great things about your culture.
- When you arrive home you are so excited about CouchSurfing you go immediately to the participate tab and start helping CouchSurfing community advance the mission of the project.
.If I were to use this type of service, there’s no doubt I’d be thinking about simple security and safety. CouchSurfing has a method in place to keep members safe. First, no money is exchanged. This service is meant to be free. Another security feature put in place to ensure safety is the “personal references.” It will keep track of your personal references– the feedback that is given between hosts and surfers, as well as surfers and hosts after a stay.
—Possible Problems With The Service–
Some of the problems pointed out are that sometimes it is being used as a “dating service” rather than a method for someone to find hospitality in unfamiliar surroundings. While some use it as a dating service, others have found it as a great method to make new friends in new parts of the world while traveling.
I haven’t tried the service myself and quite honestly I don’t know that I would ever have a need for it. However, there are plenty of people that are willing and wanting to snatch up a good couch for a quick, affordable stay. CouchSurfing makes traveling for the penny pincher, and the adventurist affordable!