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What is Couchsurfing? Should You Try It?

A few years ago I flew to Los Angeles to see Natalie, the coolest chick I’ve ever met. During my visit, Natalie filled me in on the “secret” world of Couchsurfing – traveling the world by sleeping on other people’s couches for free.  Couchsurfing appeals to people that want to see other cities and countries but don’t have the money to stay in hotels every night.  This community works because it is founded on trust.  The people that offer up their couches (or guest room in my case), are often travelers themselves and they want to help out like-minded people.

Two weeks ago we hosted our first Couchsurfers.  You are probably saying to yourself, “You mean to tell me, you let strangers sleep in your house?”  Yes. Yes we did – and we lived to blog about it.

After Natalie told me about Couchsurfing, it took me awhile before I began actively using the on-line community.  I decided to do this because I am a big advocate of frequent travel and I want to help make it possible for others.  I was relieved to see that there are several built-in safety features on Couchsurfing.org:

  • identity verification — Members donate to the Couchsurfing organization using a credit card in their name.
  • address verification — The Couchsurfing site mails you a postcard with a code which must be entered on the site.
  • profile — A good Couchsurfing profile is more thorough than a job application.  It includes photos, occupation, education, personality, interests, philosophy, what skills you have or want to learn, and languages you speak.
  • vouching — Established members confirm you are who you say you are and your good character.
  • references – Guests and hosts leave a positive, neutral, or negative reference.
  • friends – Couchsurfing members you know in real life can “friend” you on the site.

The first Couchsurfers to sign up to stay with us were two 21-year-old guys from the U.K. Our excitement for the novel experience was tinged with a bit of nervousness.  What if they’re criminals?  What if we don’t like them?  What if they don’t like us?

Our worries were natural, but totally unnecessary.  Archie and Alister charmed us with their accents and entertained us with travel stories from their 7-week trip along the east coast of the United States.  In return, we stuffed them full of pizza and cookies and served as ambassadors for our city.  The guys spent their days on the beach and at night we shared tips we’ve learned along the road.  Archie and Ali’s 2-day visit flew by and we were sad to see them leave.

Because of our excellent first experience, we immediately agreed to host another traveler – Carolyn, a professional photographer from New York.  Her current project on global climate change prompted her trip to the nearby Everglades.  She spent 9 months Couchsurfing the world and stunned us with her story of catching malaria in Kenya and not finding out until several stops later in Amsterdam.  Two bottles of wine and countless stories later we knew we had a new friend.

We loved meeting these three nomads and their tales have inspired us to go out and have our own Couchsurfing experience abroad.   What’s your opinion on Couchsurfing?  Would you consider having a stranger sleep on your couch?

 

All images courtesy of couchsurfing.org

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About Melanie

Melanie Watterson has written 17 posts in this blog.

Melanie is a day-time legal assistant and night-time travel blogger. She has over 14 years experience arranging executive & business travel. Before traveling the globe, she lived in 30 states and attended 13 schools. Melanie is an amateur videographer and photography enthusiast with a passion for learning. She is also a certified SCUBA diver and member of MENSA.

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Posted in advice and blog and travel tips by Melanie on by November 30, 2012 .

13 comments

13 Replies

  1. Great info! Sounds like a fun way to travel. And to think I thought couch-surfing was what I did when I crashed at relatives Keep these posts coming!
    Lisa recently posted..Appreciating Spontaneous MomentsMy Profile

  2. Thanks Lisa! I have done some of that with my relatives too.
    Melanie recently posted..What is Couchsurfing? Should You Try It?My Profile

  3. I loved Couchsurfing in South America. It is a great way to meet locals and really learn about things not in guidebooks.
    Ayngelina recently posted..In Search of the great Canadian redMy Profile

  4. Thank you Ayngelina, I totally agree.
    Melanie recently posted..Shark Diving in the BahamasMy Profile

  5. Me and a friend tried Couchsurfing for the first time when we went to London last month, and it was definitely a good experience!
    Michelle recently posted..Where are the candy canes?! – A German Christmas seasonMy Profile

  6. I’m in love with your site banner Michelle! You are an excellent illustrator.
    Melanie recently posted..Ultimate Traveler’s Gift Guide – 101 IdeasMy Profile


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