Want to travel, but can’t stand the touristy feel of most places you go? Want to get the real scoop on your destination? You know, travel like a local? Wanna save a lot of money? Maybe you should try couch surfing.
What is it? Couch surfing is a worldwide non-profit movement of volunteers who will take travelers and their families into their homes for a day or a week or whatever, for FREE, with the goal of “internationally networking people and places, creat[ing] educational exchanges, rais[ing] collective consciousness, spread[ing] tolerance, and facilitat[ing] cultural awareness.” See http://www.couchsurfing.org/.
The idea of couch surfing is to connect you with locals on a personal level. You stay with them in their homes. You help with the dishes or whatever. Maybe you bring a gift, but nothing is expected or required. They may take you around town, introduce you to friends, and often end up as permanent members of your extended friend network. It kind of like B&Bs, but for free.
Couch surfing is really a very old idea come back to life. For example, in Colonial America, folks with homes would regularly open up to travelers, feeding them, doing laundry, etc. It was considered the right thing to do, and there just weren’t any Holiday Inns around in those days.
George Washington is said to have thought of Mount Vernon as more of a hotel than a private home, considering the incredible volume of travelers of many social classes who stayed with him and Martha through the years. When George Washington traveled, he did the same. That’s why there are so many homes on the East Coast of the U.S. that can make the claim, “George Washington Slept Here.”
Of course, things have changed since Washington’s day. Most people’s first reaction when they hear about couch surfing is, “Is it safe?” It’s a fair question. Couch Surfing International, Inc., who claim to be the modern originator of the idea, state on their website that their reputation-based network of users, with “friend-link strength indicators and testimonials,” and “including some technologies invented by the organization,” help to insure that you aren’t inviting Hannibal Lector home for dinner. So far, the system seems to be working.
Since its founding in 2004, Coach Surfing International, Inc. has accumulated 1,154,391 members (and counting), from 230 countries, plus Antarctica. It looks like these guys are onto something new (or old).
If this sounds like an option for you, then pop over to couchsurfing.org and sign up!
Whether couch surfing is for you or not, it serves as one more example of how creative ideas can allow for creative lifestyles, regardless of your financial condition. Way to go CSI!
All the best,