Couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.org ) has been a very influential thing in my life thus far having first signed up to it in February 2007. I found out about it from a random guy on Gumtree when i was looking for advice from people who have toured around the States. My housemate Dave and I found the site and instantly thought that the idea of having loads of people from around the world come and visit us was awesome and the next day we had our first Couchsurfer coming to stay and on some nights we had 13 people stay. Little did we know how much of an impact it would have on our lives.
What is Couchsurfing then I hear you ask?
CouchSurfing is a corporation that is the world’s largest hospitality exchange and social travel network, connecting a global community of travelers, adventure seekers and lifelong learners dedicated to sharing their cultures, hospitality and authentic experiences. Couchsurfing was founded by a guy called Casey Fenton in 1999 and it became public in 2004 and is run from San Francisco. It was a non-profit organisation up until last year where it turned into a B Corporation ( a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems).
CouchSurfing connects more than 4 million members in 86,000 cities via its website and mobile applications. It is free to register and you create a profile like Facebook listing your interests and you have the options of either listing yourself to either:
- Meet people in your area for a coffee/drink, or join an event such as a weekly meetup group, sport group or language exchange, you can search for people with similar interests, age (just a number and location.
- Hosting people- Here you can host people for however long you like in your spare room or couch who are currently visiting your area.
- Surf- Stay with somebody when you are travelling in another city.and get a locals knowledge in the area you are visiting and discover things you would not normally know about.
I have had some epic experiences from Couchsurfing having hosted over 350 people in 6 countries and met well over 500 people through it! Most of my close friends I have met through CS and even though I have mainly hosted I have stayed in mansions as well as average couch’s around the world (awesome experience in Montevideo, Uruguay…hosted by a dog)
The mission statement of CouchSurfing is:
Create Inspiring Experiences….At CouchSurfing International, we envision a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter. Building meaningful connections across cultures enables us to respond to diversity with curiosity, appreciation and respect. The appreciation of diversity spreads tolerance and creates a global community.
What about hosting or staying with some weird people?
This is usually the first question most people ask and there are three methods designed to increase security and trust, which are all visible on member profiles for potential hosts and surfers:
- Personal references, which hosts and surfers have the option to leave after having used the service.
- An optional credit card verification system, allowing members to “lock in” their name and mailing address by making a credit card payment and entering a code that CouchSurfing mails to an address of their choice.
- A personal vouching system, whereby a member that had been vouched for three times — originally starting with the founders of the site — might in turn vouch for any number of other members he knew or had met through CouchSurfing, and trusts.
Out of all the amazing experiences that I have encountered I would say discovering CS is definitely one of them! I have met so many amazing people from around the world and had experiences that I never would have had staying in a 5* hotel or other accomodation. So why not? If your interested in discovering new cultures and how other people live then sign up for free now and see if you have a similar epic experiences!
My profile on CS: http://www.couchsurfing.org/people/lordhickey/