Couchsurfers, Ahoy!

Most travelers, backpackers, nomads, and vagabonds have had some interaction with Couchsurfing, and it's about time I write about mine. I have been involved with the couchsurfing community since 2009, and have never had a bad experience. It started when I bummed a cigarette off a random girl on the FSU campus, and we started talking about backpacking. She told me all about couchsurfing, and had used the website to travel Southeast Asia super cheap one year, so I thought I would give it a go.

Eating pizza on a street corner of Hong Kong 
with a friend I made through couchsurfing!

 I took this photo of one of my first couchsurfers in Tally with my friends 
after an awesome day tubing down rivers in North Florida

So, what IS couchsurfing? Besides being a website, it's a network of people around the world who fit into one of two categories:

Hosts- These are people who have some extra space in their apartment (a couch, futon, bed, air mattress, etc.) who are willing to let a stranger crash at their place for free for a few days.

Surfers- These are travellers who are looking to stay in a strangers' apartment for a few days, for a variety of reasons like saving money, making friends, feeling more at home in a foreign city, meeting locals, etc.

Mostly, I just host people, but I have occasionally used it to surf at other peoples' places as well.

 Here I am in New Orleans, surfing someone else's 
couch over Halloween weekend one year

Couchsurfing ISN'T:
A dating website (seriously creepers, stop messaging me)
Just a free couch for a night or two (it's all about building relationships)
A scam or threat (be safe and listen to your intuition, but you can also let your guard down)

Some of my best couchsurfing experiences:
Tubing down a river in North Florida with an awesome couchsurfer
Finding a roommate in Guatemala randomly
Ending up at a gay Ecuadorian disco with an American artist surfing my couch
Dragging a couchsurfer along to the opera with me in Quito
Discovering a hidden Hong Kong beach with a new friend I met on the website
Dressing a French couchsurfer up like Cap'n Jack Sparrow for a costume party
Being hosted by hippies during Voodoo Fest in New Orleans
Taking a British kid to a classic American university kegger

Never would have met this goober without Couchsurfing
(notice me screaming in the background?)

My whole group of friends in Guatemala was thanks to Couchsurfing!

If you are worried about allowing strangers into your home, no worries, the website has a variety of safeguards in place to protect you. There are public reviews of surfers that can't be erased from their profile, so if the person was a creep who hit on their host or overstayed their welcome, you will know about it. There is also a system called 'vouching' where reliable members can vouch for your character. Also, you can pay to be 'verified' which means the website will send you a special code on a postcard in the mail to confirm you actually live at the address you say you do.

Ria-Leen, a rad Namibian chick I hosted recently in Hong Kong 

Paco, an awesome French guy I hosted in Ecuador

I've never worried about safety and every couchsurfer I've ever met has always been wonderful. They can tag along and hang out with me while in town, or go do their own thing. Some couchsurfers help cook or clean, or buy you a beer their first night in town. I tend to include mine as much as possible, whether I hit up a happy hour, hang out with friends, or chill on the beach. I've met so many cool people and it has broadened my horizons. Thanks, couchsurfing!

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