With more than 3.6 million members worldwide, if you have never heard of Couchsurfing… where have you been?
Couchsurfing was set up as a way for travelers to connect with locals. It’s a free place to stay while traveling, yes, but it’s also a way to dig deeper into the city you’re visiting. Opinions on Couchsurfing stretch across the board, but here are 3 reasons why we think couchsurfing is awesome!
1. Detail Oriented Culture Exchange
What I love about couchsurfing.org is that they take great pride in making sure each exchange is respectful, detail oriented, and deeply enriching for all involved. For example, when searching for “hosts” in a city “surfers” are encouraged to take the time to read thoroughly each potential hosts’ profile to see if both people how common interests, languages, needs, and wants.
Once you and your host confirm arrival and departure dates you are ready to drop in to catch some gnarly waves of culture, cooking, chatting in other languages, and visiting local hangouts unbeknownst to most travelers. Since couchsurfing is free, it is important to communicate with your host about house rules and expectations.
Are you going to be given a spare key to the flat? Are you to bring your own food provisions or chip in with some dinero at the end of the stay?
2. Multiple Uses
Not only is couchsurfing awesome because of the amazing local people one can meet (shout outs to Diana, Phil, Cassidy, and Ana!) but it has grown so big that there is more to this operation that “surfing” and “hosting”. Now, once a member, you can search the city you are in for activities that are happening, groups that are hosting cultural events and weekly meetups of CSers usually held at local bars. There is also the option to post your travel plans ahead of time so locals and CSers alike can respond to you for collaborating together on adventures to be had!
• Full Moon party hosted in a mountain refugio in Bariloche.
• Coffee meetup with a Chilean sufer in New Orleans.
• CS weekly bar hop in Montevideo.
Been there, surfed that….you gotta get in on this ladies!
3. Strong Safety Procedures
Lastly couchsurfing.org brings this whole thing on home because of their amazing review process that surfers are prompted to use after they stay over at someone’s house. You have the option to “friend” the surfer/host, describe your experience, rate the degree that you trust the person, and rate the experience as positive, neutral, or negative. There are definitely CS members who have received negative ratings, and a quick once-over of someone’s profile provides these reviews and a snapshot of why the experience stunk. As always, it is important to trust your gut. If you arrive at a host’s home and it feels wrong, politely leave.
Never EVER feel that you are obligated to give anything–particularly sex–to a host in exchange for a place to stay. That’s not what this is about. This is about culture, exchange and friendship. You draw the lines.