One thing you’ll probably hear us mention a lot in our blog is CouchSurfing.  It’s mentioned on the page The Road Ahead and is one of the major tools we will be using on our road trip.  So what is CouchSurfing? Basically one of the best ways to travel without paying exorbitant amounts on hotels.  Even hostel prices add up quickly when you are traveling for an extended amount of time.  CouchSurfing is an awesome way to get around that by finding couches (and many times beds) where you’re going and then crashing there for free.  The best way to get started is to check out the CouchSurfing site for yourself.  It is basically a social network that connects travelers with the locals.  You start by creating an account which then enables you to search through millions of users who have a place for you to stay.

Why would anyone voluntarily let you come into their home for free?  If you go to the CouchSurfing website you will see that their motto is to create accessible travel for everyone while sharing inspiring experiences.  Their big goal is to spur worldwide connections between people in an effort to really make the world a smaller place. In our personal experiences, it really varies.  Some people want to host CouchSurfers as a way to learn more about other cultures.  Others want to give travelers tips and tell them about the best things to do and see in their city.  And some have CouchSurfed themselves and simply want to repay the favor by hosting other travelers.  But regardless of why people choose to host, it really is a great tool to take advantage of.  Not only do you get a free place to stay but you meet incredible people who can give you all the inside information on where you’re going.  We have had hosts make us homemade pesto in Italy, pick us up from the airport in Madrid, and give us the keys to their house in New York.  And every time we have met remarkable people and learned a lot from them.

If you’re not familiar with CouchSurfing  then you’re probably thinking it sounds pretty dangerous to go stay with random people.  But if you check out the website you will quickly see that there is actually quite a lot of information available to keep you from sketchy situations.  For one thing, you have the person’s profile.  This includes pictures, an about me, general random information, etc.  Of course you can’t really trust just what one person says about themselves.  That’s where fellow surfers’ comments come in.  Whenever you look at someone’s profile you also get the opportunity to look at references left by other people who have surfed with them.  People write about whether or not their experience was positive or negative, and why.  The best part about it is that a member cannot delete or change any of the references left on their wall.  So when you come across a profile that has hundreds of comments from people around the world that all say they had a great time at said persons house, you can be pretty sure that you are not putting yourself in a dangerous situation.  And just in case that is still not enough for you, CouchSurfing encourages members to go through a verification and vouching process.  If a person is verified it basically means that they have gone through a certain procedure which has enabled the CouchSurfing organization to confirm that their name and address are in fact correct.   Vouching is when a member shows their support for a fellow member and takes responsibility for any action that he or she does.  So if I vouch for someone and they turn out to be a creeper, it reflects on my credibility. This ensure that people are only vouching for people when they have insight into their character. The website has their own safety and tips page which fully describes all the measure you can take to ensure that your CouchSurfing experience is safe and enjoyable.

The best way to figure out if CouchSurfing is for you or not is to check out the website and read all about it.  If you want a luxurious hotel getaway it’s probably not your best option.  But if you are on a budget and want to meet the locals, we definitely recommend it.  All of our experiences have been fantastic, and we definitely support their mission of connecting people across the world.