CouchSurfing is an online community of friendly hosts who are ready and eager to throw their convertible couches open to travelers from across the world. The service offers more than a free place to crash; it connects travelers with like-minded people who are excited to share their enthusiasm for their hometown. But aren’t you going to be immediately robbed and stabbed by the opportunistic lechers lurking on the internet, you ask?
Um, no. CouchSurfing relies on a robust reference system that discourages unsavory things like robbing and stabbing. All users fill out detailed profiles and upload pictures. It’s an awkward mishmash of online dating and Craigslist apartment hunting, but you generally end up with a good sense of your host or guest.
If you want to find a good host, fill out your profile completely and honestly, and upload a few pictures to prove that you’re normal. Use the filters to find the right couch, and send a personable request that shows that you bothered to read the host’s profile. In the bigger cities it’s not unusual for hosts to get several requests every day, so make an effort to stand out.
Even if you aren’t traveling, most cities have events for local hosts who want to meet other adventurous people with an appreciation for wanderlust.
For us, hosting CouchSurfers dredged up a surprising enthusiasm for our own city. It reminds you why you live in one place and not another, and it feels great to direct travelers away from the Olive Garden in Times Square towards the ethnic wonderland on Ninth Ave. We’ve also surfed ourselves while bopping around New Zealand. We’ve met some wonderful people who still send us updates, and we’ve met some folks who were just average.
Some people are understandably spooked by the idea of sharing a home with a stranger, but for those who can accept that most people are fundamentally decent, CouchSurfing is an easy way to have a great time.