The Daily Californian Online

Couches Launch Wave of Hosts Abroad

By Nick Moore
Contributing Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Category: Extra

"You don't have to pay anything?" "Is it safe?" "How do you know you won't end up with a crazy person?" This dubious line of questioning often ensues when I tell people about my couchsurfing experiences. My answers, in order, are: nope, yes, and, you can scour their profile for any signs of insanity.

For those unfamiliar with the system, is a social network through which you can find people all over the world who are happy to let you crash on their sofa. Couchsurfing is the new hitchhiking-the mode of travel your mom really doesn't want you to take. But regardless of mom's anxiety, I think it's the only way to travel.

Those who have journeyed abroad know, and those who haven't can envision, the unique weirdness of wandering around an unfathomably unfamiliar place with only equally inexperienced travelers at your side.

Instead of returning in the wee hours to the loneliness of your hostel room (which looks clean, but you know deep down has probably hosted a nasty absinthe-inspired orgy or some other depravity), imagine if you and your friends could make your way home with a local who's just shown you around town and introduced you to all her friends. Couchsurfing can make it happen.

While your safety cannot be guaranteed, the couchsurfing Web site has some features which can reasonably ensure your survival. Surfers must post reviews of anyone they stay with, while hosts are required to review their guests. You can be confident that a host with dozens of positive reviews on his page-and the site lists up to hundreds of them for bigger cities-will be not only sane but hospitable.

Couchsurfing helps prevent your trip to Paris from looking exactly like your trip to Madrid with a different backdrop and even less coherent English. Most hosts seem more than happy to make your exploration of their city memorable, giving you a chance to go beyond the traditional tourist spots. A good host offers not only his couch (or futon if you're lucky), but his time and expertise: two things that, unlike a bed, can't be paid for.

Article Link: