For those of you who don’t know, CouchSurfing is the new hitchhiking. Fueled by a karma-driven community of travelers, CouchSurfing is the process of opening one’s living room furniture to complete strangers for a couple of nights. I know, it sounds like a perfect concoction for a cat-loving, hermit, serial killer, but CouchSurfing has taught me, and many others, that there are more good people in the world than bad. And even more than that, these good people have couches.
The process of setting up a CouchSurfing account is simple, easy, and free. Just visit the website, register your email, and fill in some basic information. Once your profile is all set up you choose whether you “yes” are available to host, “maybe” host, “not right now”, or “I’m traveling”. The CouchSurfing community is more than a group of moochers. Forums, events, and open-invite trips are constantly being discussed in a tight-knit community of like-minded people. Plus, there is an opportunity to get verified. CouchSurfing makes every effort to ensure the experience is as safe as possible.
My first experience CouchSurfing was in Budva, Montenegro. I had all the usual fears. I was convinced I was going to be brutally murdered in my sleep or chained up forever in someone’s dark, dank dungeon. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My friend Paul and I arrived in Budva with no idea what to expect. We walked for what seemed like miles until we reached the bottom of a hill that I swear was a perfect replication of the steps to Mordor. With my 30 pound backpack strapped on tight and a drive to prove I am not a useless sack of jiggly parts, we started up the mountainside.
When we finally arrived at the address I was
gasping for air a little winded, and was ready to unpack and relax. Our host Andre met us outside of his apartment, shook both of our hands and took us inside. Little did we know that Andre actually owned all of the apartments in the complex and reserved one just for CouchSurfers.
He gave us keys, showed us around town and delighted us with his lively conversation. We had an apartment overlooking the Adriatic for four days with our own beds, great beaches, and amazing company.
CouchSurfing is more about the people and the experience than it is a place to stay. An exchange is performed more in terms of what you can teach and learn from one another. It’s about sharing.
CouchSurfing requires a special mixture of confidence, kindness, and street smarts. Do your research, really find someone you can potentially connect with, and be open to trust. If you’re smart about it you can get a lot more out of the program than a pullout couch and a free place to stay; you get a new view on travel, experiences only enjoyed by locals, and friends for life.