What You Need To Know About CouchSurfing

Thursday, March 4, 2010

There were a number of confused reactions this weekend at the NYT Travel Show by the more senior members of the audience when the speakers would get into such things as Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. But there was perhaps no greater confusion (and sometimes indignation) than when the topic turned to CouchSurfing.com.

Of course, for most travelers, CouchSurfing is just one of the many tools in their arsenal for budget and immersive travel. The opportunity to lodge free and, more importantly, to make new friends and live like a local is a no-brainer. However, the idea of shacking up in some stranger’s house still causes many to shy away from the world’s largest travel social networking tool.

But, like British humor and soy milk, the preconceptions are quickly dispelled with just a little explanation. Stephen, over at GoMad Nomad, recently tackled this very subject.

Too Old?

Steve (I can call him this, I bought him a happy-hour priced beer) points out that though a great majority of surfers are in the sub-30 range, there are almost 50,000 over-50 participants (and many more in between).

Hate Couches?

Steve explains (as many of us have experienced), that couches are often the exception not the norm. Most people are offered up beds in spare rooms, futons, and an some occasions, their own guest house.

What Do You Owe?

Well, it depends. “You aren’t required to give your host anything . . . You may want to show up with a bottle of wine, treat them to dinner or a drink, or cook for them. There have been certain times traveling when I was financially inadequate and could only offer my in-kind contribution of making their house/apartment cleaner than I found it.”

* * *

My own experiences with the site have been incredible. I’ve used the site to meet new friends everywhere from Bogota, Dublin and Stockholm. I stayed gratis in Cork and Montreal (see the above couch), and I’ve hosted and became great friends with surfers from Canada, Ukraine, and Australia. In fact, almost every traveler I’ve met has had a positive story to tell about the site. Feel free to share your own experience below.

For Stephen’s full article click here.

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