Andi Perullo is a long-time reader, commenter, guest-poster and a fellow traveling spirit. She writes about her traveling tales at My Beautiful Adventures. She was recently featured in Charlotte Magazine (her hometown) on this very topic.
At last count, the UN recognized 192 countries in the world. And guess what? I know for a fact that I have a friend in every single one of those countries who is either willing to meet me for a drink or a meal and possibly show me around their hometown, or even better, is willing to let me into their home as a guest. How is this possible? Through the incredible world of Couchsurfing (couchsurfing.org)!
Around 4 years ago, I was introduced to the community through a fellow traveler whom had just discovered it for herself and had fallen head over heels in love with it. I signed up on a whim and quickly it became an integral part of not only my travels, but also my life. Couchsurfing’s mission statement succinctly sums the project up: Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time.
Unfortunately, many people mistake Couchsurfing for simply free accommodation, when really the goal is to create an international network of friends with the common interest being the love of discovery and exploration. It is true that one of the many benefits of it is that it can make travel more affordable, however the most meaningful benefit is the connection you make with other Couchsurfers. The hope, according to the website, is that this cultural exchange will in some way make the world a better place through: “rais[ing] the collective consciousness, spread[ing] tolerance, and facilitat[ing] cultural understanding.”
Couchsurfing is not only about hospitably exchange. There are approximately 1.4 million members worldwide (even in places such as Antarctica!), thus most cities have a Couchsurfing group. These groups have regular local events that you can participate in and are excellent opportunities to share your travel stories and to make new friends and potential travel partners. Plus, it is a great way to get your travel fix when you are not able to travel.
Another way you can use Couchsurfing is by contacting other members in the city you will be traveling in to see if they can either offer advice on what to do and see or if they might be interested in meeting for a coffee/drink, as well as possibly offering their guide services. You will find that most
Couchsurfers love helping you in any way they possibly can. Make sure to also search the online forums for even more invaluable advice.
I promise that if you choose to join this community your travels will be enriched in indescribable ways and I can guarantee you that you will make some of the best friends of your life.
Don’t forget to check out Part 2 of this story!