Originally posted August 2011 here at Dutiee.com
Traveling is about meeting new people and gaining new experiences about what life is like outside of your own world. You don’t have to go far to gain a new experience, why not host someone or be hosted somewhere new by a stranger? The idea of having someone “couchsurf” or host a stranger at your home, might sound strange, but 3 million people in over 240 countries have taken part in the experience of couchsurfing.org (CS). CS hopes to make their users open their mind, home and learn more about the world through the simple exchanges of culture through the eyes of true locals who allow each other to stay in their homes for free. The site has provided opportunity for free worldwide meetups, and long-term friendships to develop between people who would have never met in the past.
How does CouchSurfing work?
CounchSurfing is based on the concept of having someone stay on your couch, but has evolved to the idea of allowing strangers to share their home and gain knowledge of different cultures and lifestyles from one another. When travelling you can bypass the typical hotel experience by staying at the home of a local and learning about their culture. According to the site: “We are a community, and we are a movement. If you believe that all types of people can share fun, trust, and friendship, then you belong here”. CouchSurfing is a B Corporation certified, which means they have been verified as a business which is socially responsible
The steps are easy to join and have the CS experience:
1) Visit the site: couchsurfing.org
2) Create your profile and and join some groups so you can learn about things that are of your interest and attend couchsurfing events to better understand the community.
3) If you know any friends on the site, find them and have them vouch for you as soon as possible, so that you have better credentials on the site.
4) Get Verified, this way people know that your background check has been done, it is very easy and requires just 25 USD of a donation.
5) Of course, enjoy, experience and learn more about people as you search to be hosted in places you plan to visit on future trips, or read more about those who wish to surf your couch on their adventures in your hometown!
My CouchSurfing Experience
This site has a lot of memories for me personally, as I joined about five years ago when I was in college. Through the site I made some amazing friends that have inspired me to travel to places I never thought I would visit. CS provided me an opportunity to help others fall in love with my city and make their time visiting my home state pleasurable and hopefully fulfilling. The concept of CS is beyond having a stranger stay in your home, it is about trusting someone new, and having them share their homes with you too. I have had many of my past couchsurfers host me during my travels abroad and the friendships that I have gained from events have led me to be more open to new cultures.
It took me a while to agree to host someone. I kept rejecting my first CS requests, so I still remember when I said my first yes. They wrote me frantically asking me to take them into my home as their host had changed their mind in the last minute, I was a bit nervous, and scared, but I agreed. This was over five years ago, they were two tall Danish guys named Soren – what are the chances of them having the same name? I had never been to Denmark at the time, and just knew that it was considered one of the happiest places on earth. They had no photos up, and I trusted them to be safe based on a phone call filled with laughter and chatting about how we were both new to the site. They asked to stay a couple days, and then asked if they could stay longer, and as I was still in college and had a few days free, I agreed and we all walked through San Francisco together. Two years later, I visited one of them in Denmark and we camped together at a famous danish music festival called Roskilde Festival, and then I went back again to meet the other one. This year I will get to reunite with both of them after five years! Although we do not see each other much, CS has made our bond strong and made this world a bit smaller and more accessible for each of us. These are the sort of memories that make CS exciting.
I’m in the Couchsurfing Video!
In case my story hasn’t excited you enough, hopefully seeing me on the CS video about the CS experience will at least make you laugh! Watch people tell their CS stories, and watch me as I wander through a bar and make new friends! Tell us what inspires you to travel and have you ever couchsurfed or hosted someone yourself?