‘Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time’
There are many ways to travel the world, whether it is on foot or by mechanical means, but at the end of each day we all need a place to rest our heads and stash our baggage. This calls to mind the well-sung words of a 1983 UK chart topper by Paul Young, ‘Wherever I lay my hat is my home’.
When travelling aboard, there are a multitude of options and types of places to stay on the market and budgets vary accordingly. A hotel, however, whilst a comfortable option on the one hand, remains an impersonal one, even after you have finished plundering the mini bar. Also, from your ivory tower you have to make a concerted effort to get out and get to know the city and its inhabitants and hope that your guidebook is still up to date.
Enter an increasingly popular solution in the form of CouchSurfing. No, this is not a modern twist on the Walt Disney musical ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). CouchSurfing is a non-profit organization that was set up in 2004, and boasts connections in 230 countries and territories around the world. Their aim is to promote cultural exchange, understanding of others, friendship and education amongst world citizens.
By becoming a member you become part of an international community of travellers and can Surf or Host or both. Hosting is when people around the world offer their ‘couch’, as a place to stay to someone planning on visiting their country, the length of time being pre-determined between the two parties. Or you can Surf for ‘couches’, in countries you would like to visit. The only requirement of becoming a member of CouchSurfing is that you too will reciprocate your ‘couch’ to a fellow traveller at some stage in your life. On top of this via their website community, they also organize regional events and activities.
The advantages of such an exchange are many. By staying with the people local to an area, it is a far more interesting way to explore a new country. From your host up to date information on places of interest, things to see and do will be at your fingertips, plus if you get on particularly well with them you may even be included to join in their social scene. It’s a way of leaving the realms of total tourist behind and being privy to a country from your host’s perspective as well. Also, from reading a few of the testimonials on their website, a far cheaper option than the afore mentioned hotel. For the host there is the fun of meeting new people and learning about new cultures from around the world without leaving the comfort of their home and of course they can also use CouchSurfing too and may even end up on your couch in the future!
For more information: CouchSurfing
First published in the Connections magazine #26 Winter 2010