Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Couch Is Your Couch

Summer is coming and that means vacation time is coming.  Are you planning one?  Thinking of taking a smaller one?  After all the economy is a bit tough on the pocket book, right?  Well, hold on a minute before you think further.  Maybe you can take the big vacation after all.  Maybe even the trip you wanted to take to your favorite international destination.  I know what you are thinking, that's way too expensive for me right now.  What if you could go and didn't have to pay any lodging?  That could change the cost of the trip a bit.  That is what Casey Fenton was thinking when he found an inexpensive plane ticket to Iceland back in 2000 and had a idea to email 1,500 students at the University of Iceland to see if he could stay there.  This led to the idea of Couch Surfing.

Per wikipedia, the CouchSurfing Project is a free, Internet-based, international hospitality service, and it is currently the largest hospitality exchange network.  The project was commenced in 2003 and formally launched on January 1, 2004.  To date there are more than one million registered users.  You don't have to offer up your home to be a user of the site.  You can use it solely to 'surf' for a 'couch' to stay on.   After a traveler finds accommodation, the communication is consensual between the traveler (a.k.a. surfer) and host. They work out logistics between them that satisfy both parties.  It is expected to be free but the surfer may offer to pay for food expense or compensate in other forms such as helping to clean up a little when they stay, etc.  Also, the host can also accommodate by offering to the surfer to show them the sites around town.  Its really an added bonus to receive that from someone who lives there.  The site also offers other safety tips if you are thinking of 'surfing'.

But, how safe is this?  Feels as though you would be staying with a total stranger.  First, keep in mind there is correspondence between the two parties before arriving.  You have some time to get to know each other a bit.  Also, CouchSurfing has implemented things to help strengthen the trust circle.  Their network is built with friend  link-strength indicators and testimonials. They have a voucher system where members can vouch for each other (referrals).  And they also have a verification process where they validate name and address. Once you complete the entire process your member profile is marked as being validated.  So if you are surfing you can choose to interact with only those members that are validated if you choose.

I have not yet used this service but would love to hear from anyone who has.  If you have used CouchSurfing can you share your experience?
Digg this

No comments:

Post a Comment