Couchsurfing, aka free and awesome places to stay while traveling
Clay Shirky’s recent tweet about Couchsurfing reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while. Couchsurfing is both a verb (to surf someone’s couch) and a thriving community of travelers and hosts.
We’ve hosted several couchsurfers over the last year and met many more through meet-ups. It’s been an amazing experience. In their own words,
CouchSurfing is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit.
After you’ve signed up on the website and filled out your profile, you can indicate your couch’s availability. You can either surf (use other people’s couches) or host (let others use your couch).
Finding a couch
Just login to the site and search for couches in the area you’re visiting. Although Bertrand and I have not yet taken advantage of the surfing part of the community, our visitors tell us they rarely have problems finding a place to stay. Just make sure that, where possible, you contact more than one host. You never know when someone’s going to be busy or out of town.
If you’re hosting, Couchsurfers can, and will, contact you via the site asking to crash at your place for a few days. Bertrand and I are trusting sorts, so we tend to take people at their word, but if we’re ever uncertain, we meet people for a drink first. If we feel comfortable, we can then invite them to sleep in the spare room, and if we don’t, no hard feelings for anyone.
As I’ve said, we’ve yet to have a bad, or even mediocre, experience, although this isn’t the case for everyone. As hosts, we welcome couchsurfers into our two-person family, inviting them to share meals, outings, and our daily life. This won’t work for everyone, but the formula we’ve found has made us a lot of new friends.
So far, we’ve met crazy Barceloneans driving overland from Barcelona to Cape Town, an Australian who biked from Spain to Dakar, and dozens of other travelers with equally fascinating stories. Our next surfer arrives in a few days, and I can’t wait to meet him!