Young people want to travel. The problem: No money! Students always complain about their lack of money, and with good reason: Inhumane college fees and poorly compensated student jobs don’t facilitate saving money for many extra activities.
The most expensive part of traveling is usually the hotel. If you are adventurous and are not afraid to meet new people, there is a way in which will guarantee a unique experience for you. The website www.couchsurfing.org is the world’s largest travel network and connects travelers with people in the destination who are willing to share their couch with you.
According to the website, it “connects travelers and locals who meet offline to share cultures, hospitality and adventures – whether on the road or in their hometowns.”
The website currently counts over 5 million members in 97,000 cities. No matter if you are 18 or 53, a student or a lawyer, American or German, all users have one thing in common: They like to share.
People share couches and, in the end, some inspiring experiences. As a couchsurfer you can host, travel or just hang out. It is about give and take, but nobody expects anything.
Our parents and grandparents would probably be shocked to hear that today’s generation sleeps at strangers’ houses they find on the Internet. In the last 10 years the Internet has gone through an extraordinary development. Everything is possible: Shopping, reading books, traveling or even finding the love of your life.
Too many people are still afraid to use the opportunities that are given to us through this. But the reason why our friends and family are worried and overprotective is that one of the dangers of the Internet is the boundless capabilities of its users.
People have been trying to fight the misuse and betrayal of several websites for ages. Couchsurfing tries to make their website as safe and as reliable as possible. There is a basic checklist in order to make your trip as safe as possible, as seen on the right.
When you have found a person you would like to stay with, send them a couch request through the website. Be sincere, but don’t divulge any compromising information about yourself.
Couchsurfing isn’t for everyone. If you have massive sleeping or back problems, consider a hotel instead. You might end up on a half-blown-up air mattress with people running through your sleeping area and the humming of the aquarium water filter all night. But hey, on the bright side: You are probably in an awesome city where a hotel in the center costs you a monthly salary a night; and you pay nothing to sleep on a friendly strangers’ couch.
All you need to give is respect and some friendly gestures to say thank you for their hospitality. Don’t take it for granted that they share their bathroom with you. A souvenir from your hometown or paying the drink at the bar is an appropriate way to show your appreciation. The easiest way to say thank you is still the old-fashioned and straightforward saying, “Thank you!”
What you always give as a couchsurfer is your company, great experiences and a pleasant cultural exchange. I would describe it as staying with friends that you are about to make. Use the chance to learn something about each other. Be open to new things: Language, games, traditions, lifestyle or food. Share your experiences and make new extraordinary ones that you can share with your next host in your future trips.
Pack your backpack, book a cheap flight to your dream destination and just do it. There are so many great countries, cities and places out there waiting to be explored. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about different cultures just because you can’t afford the hotel. Become a couchsurfer and share your world.