Are you familiar with the concept of couchsurfing? In a nutshell, it’s like opening the doors to your home to a person who is visiting your city. Essentially it’s like turning your pad into a crash pad for travelers. I’ve met a couple of people who have been a part of the couchsurfing craze (7,000,000 members on CouchSurfing.org) – people who truly enjoy the thought, the concept, of letting complete strangers stay a night or even a week at one’s home. One member that I spoke to said the only negative issue that he has ever run into, is that sometimes a surfer can be overly needy and expect the host to play tour guide. That’s not usually the case, however. Most of the time, according to my member-acquaintance, people are accustomed to taking care of themselves. Then again, I would imagine that sometimes there are needy hosts on the flip side who don’t mind taking an instant friend under his or her wing. Usually there’s a common ground that makes both sides happy. It’s all about finding people with common interests and attitudes.
A BRO reader sent along an email recently that asked if we were aware of this growing phenomenon. “I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Couchsurfing, but I thought it would be a unique story about how Buffalo residents are hosting travelers from all over the world most of which are surprisingly impressed with Buffalo and Niagara Falls,” wrote DC. “Basically travelers from all over the country and world sleep on a host’s couch (or bed) while visiting the area. I’m involved in hosting people and have found that everyone I have hosted over the last 6 years has been impressed by Buffalo or have downright fallen in love with it. I have [made] numerous contacts with other local couchsurfers and I stay in touch with most of my former surfers.”
Members of Couchsurfing.org get to meet new people, travel the world without spending a lot of money, make new friends (locally), and even attend such activities as language exchanges, dance classes, hikes and dinners. Couchsurfing is now practiced in over 100,000 cities, and has helped to organize over 170,000 events. In fact, the phenomenon has now become a community of sorts.
The idea of couchsurfing first sprang up in Iceland in 2004 when a few friends decided that they wanted to travel to foreign places, meet new people, and do it in a way that was a bit more grassroots and social.
Today the website has grown to encompass the world. The website has a built in Trust and Safety section that helps newbies navigate the system. From reading reviews that other people have left (on both the host and the guest), to conducting your own formulations when looking for prospecting surfers, there are plenty of ways to play the “safe” card right out of the gate. That said, the better that you are at playing by all of the rules, the better off you will be in the long run.
Buffalo Couchsurfers are already out there, waiting for others to join the community. Hosts meet up from time to time to share stories, talk about their city, meet new people, explore their own neighborhoods, and do whatever it is that couchsurfers do when they are not surfing.
Once you’re a legit couchsurfer, you can check out other surfer’s profiles all over the world, and send out Couchrequests. Break out your map, check out your transportation budget, land a place to stay, follow the rules, and maybe even return the favor. That, my friends, is what couchsurfing is all about. Cowabunga dude!