Has anyone ever travelled using CouchSurfing.org?
I just read an article in the April 16th New Yorker about this unique method of travel, staying with people who register on the site, which has members all over the world (Bermuda, San Francisco, even Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Turkey). Sounds like an intriguing way to travel, you are forbidden to pay for accomodations, except with a token gift apparently.
I have heard of it over here in the UK. I have also heard of some strange stories such as the owners waking up to find their flat screen TV missing. Although the idea is brilliant, like hippie style accomodation, there are some people whom will take advantage of other peoples good nature.
I haven't personally, but a couple of my best friends just did a cross-country trip and used CouchSurfers for multiple nights during their trip. My initial question to them was whether or not it was safe, but they assured me that it is done very safely, and there are multiple reviews on the members offering their homes. It is of course important to do the research though and to read the reviews and also to make sure you really communicate with the people you plan on staying with. One of the problems that my friends ran into was not keeping in touch enough and not confirming their stay. One night they called when they were five minutes away from the place they were supposed to be staying, and the person told them that her boyfriend was visiting, and they could no longer stay. So there are some drawbacks, but it's certainly a good way to go if you're on a budget;.
I've never used it personally, but I know a lot of other ex-pats who wouldn't travel any other way. Of course there are safety concerns, but I think that's really rarely a problem. I've met a lot of people who were staying with friends of mine through Couchsurfing and they all seemed like really nice, interesting people. I think it's quite common for women to only want to stay with other women, but that's understandable. There are also a lot of CS parties and gatherings, which normally just involve all couchsurfers from the same area meeting up, but sometimes there are really big parties which will have couchsurfers travelling from far and wide. I think that's definitely a bonus of becoming a couchsurfer.
After you've stayed with someone you can give them a reference, which will show up on their profile, so it's easy to see who would be good fun to stay with and who's had plenty of experience hosting.
I think another bonus of travelling through couchsurfing is you get to see the areas you travel to through the eyes of a resident rather than a tourist. I think that's really great because you'll get to see all the best places, bars etc. rather than just areas you stumble across or that are advertised as tourist attractions.
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