When was the last time you knocked on a strangers door and were greeted with a huge hug, a bed (well, couch) and hours of meaningful conversation? If you say “never” I promise you are missing out on one of the better experiences life has to offer. Welcome to CouchSurfing.
The concept is simple: CouchSurfing is a website on which the users make profiles and meet other like-minded travelers, or hosts, across the globe. You make contact with the host, request to surf their couch, and voila! You now have 1) a place to stay 2) a new friend and a 3)behind the scenes guide into the culture and traditions of wherever you are visiting.
Yes, your host has offered to give you a free place to stay, but this does not mean you are off the hook. You are representing yourself, your country, and CouchSurfing. Your job as a guest is to be clean, respectful, and engaging. If you don’t have the ability to do these things, do everyone a favor and spend the money to get a hostel. CS is meant for people who can give and take in equal measures, with the best of intentions- not someone who needs a place to crash and wants a free innkeeper.
“…Stay in a strangers house?! Alone? as a female? That doesn’t seem safe!“ The idea in itself does seem risky, but CouchSurfing has implemented several ways for surfers to be selective in choosing their host based on their verification & vouched status. I know you’re intrigued, read on…
To become verified (which appears on your profile as a green check mark) you make a donation with your credit card, which verifies your name & billing information. The second part of this process is the verification postcard which they mail to your home. You then enter the code to prove that you’re not a robot or a gypsy. This helps potential surfers trust you just a little more. Vouching is also another great way to demonstrate your trustworthiness.
The power of “The Vouch“. Vouching ability originated with the CS admins- who had the ability to “vouch” for fellow CS’ers they know (in person, not computer land) and trust. You have to be vouched for three times before you are able to vouch for anyone else. This way, the system can be sure that you are dedicated to the cause and fellow CSers can put more stock in the status “vouched”. This is an extremely special thing to the CS community and in some cases, even more important than verification.
If you’re still hesitant at this point, but entertaining the idea, I wholeheartedly recommend you try it out, just once! No plans to travel the globe anytime soon? CouchSurf in a nearby city- it’s not about where you are – although it really helps to be somewhere amazing- it’s about who you are with.
For those of you who are chomping at the bit to travel but just cant right now, try hosting! It’s a fantastic way to meet quality people from all over this world, share your corner of the planet and warm someone’s heart while they are away from home.You will learn about their country, customs, hearing insriring stories of travel, and be living vicariously through your guest. Visit their site to check out the statistics on how many people do this, and live to tell about it.