If you’ve already been on the traveling circuit for a while, you know what CouchSurfing is, but there is still a surprising number of people who don’t! Essentially, CouchSurfing is an online network of amicable hosts and humble travelers who cross paths at opportune moments – the host in a given location offering lodging in exchange for cultural interaction with a traveler passing through the area; no money involved. While yes, some untoward shenanigans may occur amongst the youngins, CouchSurfing is not a hook-up site. And no one is obligated to allow strangers into their homes; you can offer to meet some for coffee if you like your cultural exchanges in public. Participants are vouched-for by other members and all correspondence is recorded within the system for safety purposes.
In fact, CouchSurfing proved to be so handy-dandy that I stayed with innumerable people over the course of my round-the-world trip in 2009, collecting friends on each of the four continents I visited and reducing the cost of the entire endeavor by a tremendous amount. AND I met my entire social circle in Brasilia through CS. But even if you’re not gearing up for a world tour, you can start building lasting friendships that are sure to inspire your next jaunt.
First, join! Set up and complete a profile. Include recent and clear pictures. Join groups in your geographic area and area of interest.
Go to CS Meet-ups! Be sociable and get to know people in your own area through CS Meet-ups: barbecues, bowling nights, language exchanges, whatever. You don’t have the crash at the their place (though that’s always an option, even if you live in the same city) to interact with them. After a few meetings, you’ll get to know the community and they’ll get to know you, which leads to positive testimonials and increased hostability if you plan to use CS on the road in the future.
Reach out! Pick a city you’re interested in and send out a couple of emails, respectfully, to CS members living in those places, introducing yourself and letting them know that you’ve had in interest in their particular place and culture, etc. Again, the idea isn’t to snag a date, but to snag meaningful interaction with someone from another culture. Trust me, people are more open that you might think. And lots of people want to practice their English.
Soon, you’ll be off to visit!