I first heard about Couchsurfing while on my travels in 2009. Being the tender age of 20, the idea of travelling alone was completely out of the question for me (or at least I thought that back then) let alone staying at a strangers house. Once I’d had a little more experience of travelling and had planned a trip to Canada for 2010/2011, I decided to take a look into it and popped Vancouver into the search engine of the Couchsurfing website.
Over a thousand hosts came up. At that point I didn’t even realise how big this project was, but as I went searching and reading through people’s profiles, it made me realise that this is something pretty huge, something that could change the way I travel entirely. When it came to Canada, I couldn’t have stayed out there for as long as I did if it wasn’t for Couchsurfing.
What it is
For those of your unaware of what Couchsurfing is, it’s an online network of travellers and people from all over the world welcoming each other into their homes, or as a guide around their hometown, or just inviting them out for a coffee. You create a profile, which allows you to show your living status, ranging from definitely being able to have people to stay at your place, up to just being free for a coffee or off travelling yourself. You have the option of being able to verify yourself, a system Couchsurfing has put in place to help people to prove that they are who they say they are. On top of this, you can add and review friends you have stayed with or other people you know to be able to verify them and leave feedback to let others know what kind of host they might be.
Couchsurfing allows people travelling in that area to have a free place to stay, and so much more; the fact that it is free is the smallest benefit in an ocean of others. As much as I love staying in hostels, having the freedom of your own space (sometimes you’re lucky enough to score a spare room) as well as a bathroom you don’t have to share with dozens of other people is such a luxury when backpacking. Also, staying with someone who has experienced living in the city will help you to find new and exciting spots that you never would have found only staying with other travellers – as well as taking you to parties and going for drinks with other people living there. It’s like having your own personal tour guide, sharing with your their own personal exprience of the place you’re staying in. As well as being welcomed into their circle of friends.
I don’t have a bad word to say about Couchsurfing; all my experience of it have been positive. I realise that there are things out there that would worry people about taking part in it, but these are all put to ease with more experience.
Couchsurfing is so much more than a social networking site. It opens up opportunities for free travel, (something that will benefit most of us!), helps people experience a personal view of wherever they’re visiting, and is a great platform for cultural exchange. A lot of people even use it to meet like-minded and travelling folk in the area they are currently living in. Sign up today!