I met Sasha, our guest blogger, through the Adventure mom facebook page. Over several different interactions she has told me about some really interesting adventures that she has tried. One of those is Couchsurfing. I knew I wanted to know more about it and I thought you would too. I might have to add this to my list to try at least once.
You do what? You sleep on peoples’ couches that you met on the internet?
Yes, that’s exactly what I do – Couch Surfing.
I also have a friendly, inviting point of contact when I reach my destination. I have access to a local and all their knowledge about their city. I have a like-minded connection with a fellow traveler. And I have a cost effective way to see the world.
Hiking in the rice paddies of Bali
The same day I arrived in Brussels, I went to a local bar for drinks with my host’s friends. In Amsterdam, I explored the Red Light District with my new group of Deaf friends. My hosts in Quebec took me bouldering for the first time. The guy in LA loaned me a bike which I rode from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach & back. I discovered a new corner of DC with a woman visiting from India. These are only a handful of the amazing experiences I’ve had while Couch Surfing.
It is difficult for me to go back to hoteling – a generic room, isolation, cereal & yogurt for breakfast, dependency on a tour book or group, money spent. On the other hand, there is a ton of free coffee.
Logistically, it only requires a Facebook style profile on CouchSurfing.com. Fill in your preferences, personality, favorite things, & upload a picture or two. I opted for a $20 verification process in which they charge a “donation” to your credit card to match the name with who you say you are. Then, they send a postcard with a verification code. You enter that code online, & they can confirm it is the same as your profile. Voila, a green check appears on your profile. Also, at the bottom of your profile, there is the opportunity for others to leave feedback about their time with you.
You can search locations for couches or just “coffee & a chat”. You must send a formal request to hosts. Understand that, in some cities, hosts can receive multiple requests everyday. Creativity & authenticity are appreciated in each request – not simply cut & paste.
Aren’t you worried about safety? This is the most common question I get. I scrutinize each profile for compatibility, location, references, & any remotely creepy tidbits. After my request is accepted, we generally Facebook friend each other which allows for more snooping & further compatibility checking. On the flipside, my hosts can scope me out, too. I’ve been handed apartment keys within an hour of arriving, & one host worked an overnight shift as I slept over. The trust issue goes both ways.
CouchSurfing is an outpouring of generosity that is indescribable. It is an amazing system that should not be. On paper, it seems a crazy concept fraught with all kinds of pitfalls. In reality, it just works.
Along the Cinque Terre in Italy
You can read more about Sasha’s adventures at her blog Simply Sasha. You can find out more about couchsurfing here.