Couchsurfing is a social network connecting people globally and locally by the means of free hospitality. Its name is literal to the concept. Tourists surf from couch to couch in the homes of locals who offer them a place to stay. The site was founded in 2004 and now has memberships from every country on earth. Whether you find yourself buying a spontaneous ticket to Berlin, or planning a trip to Arizona, Couchsurfing will link you to a couch for the night. The possibilities are endless.
ASU alumnus Boxin Du, 23, loves that the website brings people together with similar mindsets and wanderlust personalities. He uses the website as a traveler and a host.
“As a guest, you go to the world. As a host, the world comes to you,” Du said.
Other than the unbeatable price, surfers also have the opportunity to make valuable connections and immerse themselves into raw culture. Tourists can create amiable relationships with their hosts and expose themselves to different ways of life. Another advantage is that locals can guide their guests to places that a professional tour may overlook.
Tempe resident Rogy Garcia, 25, ventured into his hosting stage about three years ago. He was using the site to travel for a couple years before he decided to start returning the favor.
As a traveler, he used Couchsurfing to acquire insight into different perspectives and worlds of the places he visited. As a host, he said he is careful who he trusts, but there is great treasure in the hosting experience.
“Traveling broadens your mind, and exposes you to vulnerable situations both good and bad, but most importantly you realize how there are still good people out there willing to help,” Garcia said.
Signing up is free, but the site requires a picture and some basic information before hosting or being hosted. It also encourages profile references as a vouching system for surfers' credibility.
Nine million members comprise the Couchsurfing community throughout 120,000 cities. The network also provides information on events that are happening in any selected area. It gives tourists a place to go, as well as, locals a chance to meet up with other locals.
These hosts are willing to share their couches, but what is exchanged between travelers and hosts is more than that. The experience is intended to be about sharing a way of life different from your own and breaking cultural barriers. In the Couchsurfing community, people you haven’t met yet aren’t called strangers; they are friends you haven't met yet.
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