A Guide to Couchsurfing
CouchSurfing – never heard of it? Don’t worry, many people haven’t. But while it may not quite have achieved the status of a household name just yet, CouchSurfing is big amongst people in the know and it’s changing the way people travel. In place of the traditional hotel and hostel stays, this new way of finding accommodation is quickly becoming one of those super-modern ways of exploring the world and meeting new people.
So, CouchSurfing…what is it?
First things first: what is CouchSurifng? Well, in essence it’s just a new way of travelling without having to set foot in a hotel or hostel. Rather, travellers can hitch a free room, bed or even corner of someone else’s house. Did we mention that it’s free? That’s the kicker. Basically, the service functions online through social-networking sites and you can get involved by finding fellow CouchSurfers who are willing to be your host for the night, providing you with a place to get your head down. Depending on your host, you might even get breakfast!
How does it work?
Think of it as a community-based social-network for people who are like-minded and enjoy travelling. It’s a new wave innovation that is becoming increasingly popular for those who enjoy being adventurous and need to jump from pillar-to-post on a daily basis.
There is no money involved, and you can pick and choose who or where you stay. But nothing’s free right? Well CouchSurfing works on a kind of co-operative honor system. No money changes hands, but it’s expected within the community that you return the favour if you can.
The crucial question now is ‘why CouchSurfing?’ The fact that it’s free seems to worry some people, and that’s understandable. After all, if they’re not getting paid, what is your host’s motive for taking you in? Well that’s where we come to CouchSurfing’s major appeal: you get to meet very diverse and interesting people. If you’re a traveller who’s new to a city and doesn’t know anyone, it can provide you with a great in-road and a new friend to show you around and point you in the direction of the best sights and sounds.
It goes without saying that CouchSurfing is also perfect for people travelling on a very tight budget. If you’re on a shoestring, hotel bills can very quickly make a huge dent in your spending money, and hostels, while cheap, might not provide the quality of accommodation you’re looking for.
Are there risks?
But while all this sounds brilliant, are there any hazards involved? Of course there are, just like there are with anything else. CouchSurfing does require a degree of trust in the community. The fact is just that the vast majority of people offering up their sofas are just looking to do something nice and meet some new people.
Sadly and inevitably, there have been a few incidents in the past which have cast a dark cloud over the otherwise utopian ideal that is CouchSurfing. In 2009, a young woman was raped by a male she met on the CouchSurfing site. The woman involved contacted the male before she got herself somewhere to kip but unfortunately the male had an ulterior motive.
The trial of Abdelali Nachet made prosecutor Simon Phillips comment: ‘This site enables travellers to find free accommodation with like-minded individuals, people interested in travelling, people who want to meet new people, interested in hosting people overseas, showing them some hospitality and perhaps showing them the area where they live.’
‘It’s a recognised forum for finding accommodation. There is nothing disreputable about it.’
Of course, that’s not to say that the activity is completely risk-free, and it’s mainly down to travellers themselves to take all necessary precautions to stay safe.
Thankfully, the people behind the CouchSurfing site do carry out lots of background checks and require personal testimonials from fellow CouchSurfers, which means the community is full of genuine people with a genuine desire to help out their new travelling friends.
And as if the appeal of a free place to rest your head isn’t enough, the innovation has even been backed by celebrities such as Daniel Bedingfield – who was one of the UK’s premier pop-singers in the early 2000s! Heady praise indeed!
So what are you waiting for?
So if a celebrity co-sign isn’t enough, then the allure of a free place to kip should be. CouchSurfing is a modern way of getting about and meeting new people, and while it may not be to everyone’s tastes, it is another option for those who enjoy the excitement of something new and rewarding. Obviously there are risks, but so long as you take the proper precautions and make all your arrangements through the proper channels, you ought to have a great time.
CouchSurfing – look out for this up-and-coming practice in the years to come. It’s definitely going to be one for the future.
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