Sitting on the bottom bunk in a dingy hostel room in Prague, I received my first response on my Couchsurfing profile. A 26 year old, Austrian, female, student of architecture in Vienna, welcomed me to spend two nights on her couch while she showed me the best of her home city. Among hundreds of others, I found Helena’s profile offering a place to stay for free, on ‘Couchsurfing.org’ while planning the next leg of my Europe trip.
“Couchsurfing – Share your life”. Like Facebook for travellers, Couchsurfing is a social media platform for travellers. It is a way to connect with hosts and other “surfers” in 100,000 cities around the world. Whether it be for a place to crash, people to share the adventure with, or someone to get travel tips from, Couchsurfing.org is a site where people create an online profile with pictures, travel destinations, info and references in order to be involved in this global community.
(The Dancing Pilgrim, 2013)
As with any social media or technology, there are varying perspectives of Couchsurfing. Here are the top five most common perspectives I have come across which I hope will give you an understanding of how Couchsurfing is used:
The World Wanderer
“I’ve made so many friends all over the world! I got to do so many things I never thought I’d get the chance to do, share experiences, food, language, culture – best way to travel!”
Couchsurfing is revolutionizing modern travel. No longer do you need vast riches to afford a life-changing, cultural experiences around the world. You just need an app and an open attitude.
The Protective Parent
“But honey how do you know it’s safe? Stranger danger sweetie, you can’t go stay in some random’s place! It could be a serial killer!”
A significant issue for most anyone encountering Couchsurfing for the first time is, of course, be safety. However, Couchsurfing uses both credit card verification and a reference system, where members can give marks and a reviews. There is also a vouching system, where frequent, vouched-for users can in turn vouch for other users they know and trust (Stern, R 2013).
The Horny Host
“Easiest hookup ever. They’re already staying at your place, all you gotta do is get ‘em to your bed.”
This perspective is fairly self-explanatory. Couchsurfing experiences vary depending on the user.
The Ernst Entrepreneur
“The most exciting thing about it is that it’s challenging the accommodation and travel industries. There is potential for big money here!”
Begun as a non-for-profit, Couchsurfing was grown entirely through word of mouth and has 7 million users worldwide. No matter what anyone says about it, Couchsurfing is an innovation that is changing the way we travel and is a significant contribution to todays “sharing economy”.
The Congenial Couch-owner
“I want to share my home with people from around the world. It’s like bringing the world to me and making friends in the process.”
People living in 100,000 cities around the world have volunteered to share their lives and their homes. Some are ex-travellers, some want to learn, some believe they have something worth sharing, some just want to meet people. No matter what their reasons for joining, each of the 7 million members are involved in this game changing social platform.
For a more info…
Stern, R 2013, ‘How Couchsurfing Epitomizes the ‘Sharing Economy’’ Huffington Post, viewed 14 Mach 2014 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-stern/couchsurfing-alexandra-liss_b_2546381.html
Couchsurfing.org, ‘How it works’, viewed 14 March 2014 https://www.couchsurfing.org/n/how-it-works