How to Surf a Couch
What is Couchsurfing?
Many people have asked me, “What’s couchsurfing?” so I thought I’d give a brief explanation for those of you who want to travel, but think it’s too expensive. There really is a couchsurfing website, and you can join for free, or for $25, get verified, which means potential hosts or visitors can rest assured you are who you say you are. You create a profile, much like with Facebook, and include a little info about yourself, as well as some photos. And then, you can travel and stay with people in their homes all over the world for free! (You are encouraged to bring a little gift for your host, but it’s not required, although I think it’s a nice idea).
What’s the catch?
There isn’t one, as far as I can tell. I’ve only done it a couple of times, in Park City, Utah, and had a wonderful experience staying with 2 different women. And a friend of mine couchsurfed across Europe with her 4 year old daughter for 3 months last winter. You don’t necessarily sleep on a couch – it could be a bedroom and bathroom of your own, or bed with a shared bath, or maybe a sleeper sofa. And you don’t have to host in exchange. Some people just host, some just surf, some do both.
Why would anyone host?
There are probably many answers to that, but a couple are that some people like to meet others from various places, but don’t like to travel themselves. Or some people like to travel and want to give back, after they’ve couchsurfed.
And the big question, is it safe?
As far as I can tell, based on stories from friends, yes. You can put in your request an age range and gender of people you want stay with or host, so for instance I’d most likely request a host over 35 and female, so as not to couchsurf with a young party crowd. I stayed on a sleeper sofa in the one bedroom condo of an ob nurse, and a private room in the house of a retired woman who bicycles all over the world. A friend from California couchsurfed in Paris, and stayed with a couple in their apartment overlooking the Seine, and ended up on their friend’s boat drinking champagne for a birthday party. And it’s a great way to meet locals, especially if you’re traveling alone.