Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time
Hospitality networks that enable travellers all around the world to share a house or an apartment with the host is not a new concept. As the majority of users point out, is not only about finding a free accommodation, it is about making connections worldwide. It is all about getting to know new cultures, local customs, native languages and gaining the knowledge through cultural exchange. While visiting a city or a country, your day does not have to be filled just with strict city tours, guidebooks, maps, hotels and rented apartments. Couchsurfing is a way of connecting with a people who have a similar view of the world as you, while providing opportunities for getting acquainted with the most hospitable people around the world. Connection is a pillar of this modern world, where coushsurfing provides free way of doing it.
Although it indicates that it is a "hospitality exchange network", couchsurfing can be described as social networking, like Myspace or Facebook, only with the main idea to allow interaction, socialization and a step forward - the ultimate hosting of passengers. Members share hospitality with one another with exchanges that are a uniquely rich form of cultural interaction. Hosts have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world without leaving home. "Surfers" are able to participate in the local life of the places they visit. It is also giving more people the chance to become travellers, because "surfing" lowers the financial cost of exploration.
“My CouchSurfing friend from Istanbul organized completely my arrival and departure, like she was a perfect travel agent, only from a desire to help. Another one from Thessaloniki was telling me all about the monuments in the city, about which I could never read in the official guidebooks. His friend even took me to a music concert during the famous demonstration in Thessaloniki, of course putting my safety as a priority. I was pleasantly surprised when my CouchSurfing friend took me to an alternative fashion show in the most beautiful Russian city - St. Petersburg but also when I experiences its underground scene, housed in apartments in buildings, hidden from every day tourists.
All of them, as locals know their city the best. In all of this you have no obligations, no need to return the favor - it is all up to you. The most important thing is that all the people will help you from the pure pleasure and not with the expectation of some benefit, and that’s a point of friendship, isn't it?”
Mario Knezevic, a veteran couchsurfer
After becoming a member of the site, it’s possible to fill a variety of profile data. Information concerning hobbies, interests, places you've visited and so on, enable potential users to get familiarize with you and therefore quickly realize if you have similar interests as them and a similar way of living. Also entering a data related to “services” you provide, CouchSurfer is aware of what to expect from you - whether it is about useful advice, going for a drink or a couch for a few days. Users clearly define the limits and conditions. Of course a couch is not literally a couch but every possible accommodation that comes to your mind - from free place for sleeping bags to separate rooms with private bath. For the couchsurfing newbie, searching and website navigation can be hard work on first sight. But with time, each user can quickly find the optimal person and easily recognize seedy-looking ones.
This brings us to the very important subject. The very first question the most people ask when they hear about CouchSurfing for the first time is "Is this safe?". Security is a valid concern. Having in mind that each member makes their own safety responsibility there are also a number of safety features the website has introduced to help reduce the risks involved (References, Verification, Vouching). Communication with a potential host and an exchange of phone numbers can make both sides in the “negotiation” feel more comfortable and safer. Of course, unexpected situations still could happen like anywhere else, in a hotel, rented apartment, camp etc. Trust your instincts and ask lots of questions!
Besides the rather obvious benefit in term of the free accommodation we can not imagine a better way to experience "real life" and find out many interesting information such as:
- the easiest way to learn how to navigate through the city when the street names and road signs are written in Cyrillic
- when and how to avoid traffic jams
- why Belgrade is a paradise for a night life
- natural beauty that cannot be found on maps or in tourist offers
- where is the best spot for the shopping
- why is Serbian cuisine so delicious
- the easiest way to find a job etc.
With close to 200,000 friendships due to CouchSurfing, this undisputed phenomenon will be getting even bigger in the period to come.
If you prefer another type of accommodation, please see texts on this subject HERE.