Travel free with Couch Surfing
Want to Travel for Free? Want to make new friends from all over Earth? Maybe you’ve heard of Couch Surfing before, maybe not. Maybe you have known someone who has tried surfing the magical couch network already. Maybe you have already acted as a host or a guest. Either way, one thing we can all agree is there a few opportunities out there in the world that compare to under ground world of Love that Couch Surfing is! I will do the best to share all of my experiences using this amazing network of helpful hospitable hosts and nomadic adventurous guests. After trying both ends of the spectrum, first as a Guest in Europe, second as a host in Los Angeles, CA. If you wish to know more, keep reading with an open mind/heart, and let’s prepare to surf Earth!Captain Nomad
Couch Surfing unites travelers
Couch Surfing Intel
- Website: YES – https://www.couchsurfing.com/
- Mobile App: YES – https://www.couchsurfing.com/about/mobile/
- Creator and Founder: Casey Fenton
- Current CEO: Patrick Dugan
- Launched: June 2004
- Members First Year: 6,000
- Current Members as of 2018: 15,000,000+
- Events Available as of 2018: 550,000+
- Current Active Hosts: 400,000+
- Countries Available: ALL 195 (Includes Holy See & State of Palestine)
- Cities Available: Over 200,00+ all over the world
- Payment Needed: No (Standard Profile)-YES (Verified Profile) $60/Life
- Features: Hosting, Traveling, Profiles, Friends, Groups, Photos, Messaging, References, scheduled events, meet ups, hang outs & more!
- Couch Surfing Values: Stay Curious, Share Your Life, Create Connection, Offer Kindness, Leave it better than you found it.
- Mission: “We envision a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect.”
- Other Notes: No actual “Surfing” is required…
What choices do you have for travel accommodation?
Some of our standard accommodation options after arriving to the starting point of our next travel adventure are limited to spending a pretty penny. This might be possible with a neat little savings that we wish to use for a quick 7 day vacation to book hotels and tours. However, when we desire to travel longer, weeks or months or even full time, a savings is not most people’s first option. Hotels have always kept a reputation for offering the highest in luxury and convenience. Then communities like Air Bnb, VRBO and other useful private accommodation booking apps/websites changed the game. These made an alternative offer to the standard choice of booking a hotel. Some of the options were much more affordable with offering small entire places like a bungalow, private rooms in someones house or even a shared room. If the prices were higher than a hotel, chances are it was some awesome unique experience that even a professional experienced hospitality company couldn’t compete with. Outside of those, for the traditional backpacker on a budget, nothing was more affordable than staying at hostels. Hostels are a great solution for those looking to save money and socialize at the same time. This is why if you want luxury and room service you book a hotel. If you want the chance to sleep on a boat, in a unique city loft or tree house you book with Air Bnb. Partying and Budgeting as a priority usually would end you up in a hostel. These days we have other options, consider Couch Surfing a lovely one.
Couch Surfing is in a league of its own
At first glance, the thought of sleeping on someone’s couch wasn’t the most attractive idea to me. Everyone’s first questions usually was how do you know you can trust them? How do you know they won’t steal from you, rape you, kidnap you or worse murder you and not even have the courtesy to write to Mom. Between the horrors that the American media has portrayed in the budget travel realm of Hostels and free transportation methods like hitch hiking, I was certain we would eventually see a movie showing an innocent traveler and an evil host torturing their guests in a South American jungle house, like La Tourista. I guess the short answer to this concern is, you don’t know. However, the long answer is different and it’s sure to lead you to many great faces and many awesome places. When you act out of Love and not Fear, you see differently. In my years I know Couch Surfing is truly an underground network of Love that’s here to help. Besides if you wanted to truly play it safe ask yourself why are you traveling? If it’s just to escape your home town reality, then surely a cruise vacation or a stay at a relaxed beach side resort is what you need. If you are looking to learn about other people’s culture, history, work, life style and more than getting drunk on the resort might not be your best choice. If you are seeking more of a spiritual journey through travel instead of just a paid vacation to briefly run away and rest from work, then couch surf.
Couch Surfing Hosts Help Create Memories That Last
Take off those scratched up dirty old eye glasses of Fear and prepare to put your eyes into a crystal clear telescope to see deeper into the beauty of the universe of Love. The dirty glasses are your old perspectives of travel and the telescope is the network of Couch Surfing showing you so much more. My first attempt to use couch surfing would be on my first ever 30 day Solo backpacking trip through Europe. The journey would take me through the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy and Germany. After reading the book “The Alchemist” I was so inspired to do it all. If you haven’t already read this book, please do, every traveler should at least once. I had a lot of ground to cover and not exactly a bank account to warrant me staying in classy hotels the entire month of September. It’s been so long now I can’t even remember how I heard about Couch Surfing. It could have been through a blog like this, a YouTube video or just word of mouth. However, I will give the credit to my dearest friend Doug Jewell, who had traveled through many parts of the world working as a NYC high fashion model. He had some experience in the Couch Surfing realm and thought I would be a great fit for it. Still nervous and unsure how it would all work, he got me started with my profile. There I added my name, age, gender, language abilities, home location, some pictures, interests and a brief story about my life. From here I noticed that many hosts and other travelers had been on the platform for a while with some having over 5 references, others having over 50 references and even a select few with over 250 references! Wow, I thought to myself, if I have no reputation on here how will they trust me? Most are concerned about the travelers safety but never consider how the host might feel opening up their home to you. It’s very hard to get the full advantages of Couch Surfing without having ANY references. Luckily for me, my buddy Doug was nice enough to put together a lovely write up talking about how people should absolutely consider meeting me during my glorious European Adventure, so they did.
Ain’t NO Party Like A Couch Surfing Party
If you are starting fresh with zero reputation on here, first reach out to any surfers you might already have in your family, group of friends or entire social network. See if there is anyone that you had no clue was a Couch Surfing International Warrior, you might be surprised at work to hear about your Boss’s traveling hay days. If you are the pioneer among your community, have no fear, there is still hope to make new friends all over the world. Don’t let your first ever experience on here be as a host and let some creepy guy from a country you know nothing about, with no pictures or references sleep in your home, be smart to start. Try the meet ups. My very first experience on Couch Surfing may have been reaching out for a place to sleep in Europe, but it ended up being a massive party and longtime friend. I was flying into London from NYC and planned on staying in a hostel for 5 days since I had zero luck with any British hosts. Then it happened, I got the message from the awesome Adventurous female traveler, Erica Shivers. She told me to meet her at a metro stop in London and to be ready to party. This was the end of August for the Notting Hill Festival/Carnival. What a DAMN FUN TIME! She had zero risk to worry about me staying with her, just a simple meet up to join a group of thousands of other locals tearing up the streets of London! People were dancing everywhere, Music was blasting, drinks were open and frequently enjoyed on the streets. Even the police where enjoying the festivities and all the Jamaican culture that followed this group. I would not have known about this without Erica…
With Couch Surfing You Don’t Have To Travel Alone
My new friend Erica was the London local at the time. Which meant she was the one who knew where to be at what time and why. If it wasn’t for Couch Surfing offering me this type of meet up option, I would have most likely spent this unforgettable day doing some standard touristy thing I found off Trip Advisor, all alone. Nothing against Trip Advisor at all, I think they provide excellent information useful to any type of traveler. However, it fails to match the cultural exchange mega phone that Couch Surfing brings to us. This reminded me of one of our favorite travel quotes “The tourist sees what they have come to see, the traveler sees what they see.” I saw things that day that I never EVER would have planned on prior to arrival. We partied all day and night, making many other friends along the way. I went our separate ways and never lost touch. We stay connected via Facebook and I was even lucky enough to see her bright smile again in my current home base in Los Angeles, CA, USA. This was my meet up chance now to show her some fun, almost 3 years later. After that meetup in the UK, she soon after wrote me my next reference. So now between my old friend Doug and my new friend Erica, maybe with some reputation I could dive deeper into this amazing network of Couch Surfers. It sure did, only days later when I was to be arriving in France via the train under the channel. This would now be my first ever time sleeping in a strangers apartment in the outskirts of Paris, France. I was nervous to say the least.
Couch Surfing Helps Bring Great People Together
At this moment I needed to meet up with my first CS Host, Heri in Paris. The timing was important for the meet up at the train station. He had to get off work first and would be home around 7:00 p.m. I was running late, destined to arrive around 10:30 p.m. Knowing what I know now, I would not recommend forcing yourself to have to meet that late after 10:00 p.m. Not only does it make everything less safe, but also it was not the best thing I could have done for Heri and his work/home life. However, he met me with open arms and a massive smile on his face. Wow… talk about an immediate Ice Breaker. We met near a little chicken restaurant near the train station, I grabbed some food and he talked about his neighborhood on the way back to his apartment. His neighborhood was beautiful as we walked along this nice little river town. We chatted about as much as we could, jobs, families, Paris and adventures beyond. Currently working for the Indonesian Embassy in Paris, he had plenty of wordly knowledge as well as a ton of useful tips to make sure my 3 days in Paris would be dope! Once we got to his 1 bedroom apartment I saw that his Son would be sleeping in the bedroom and he had put his bed in the main living room. Here the was a futon couch also in the main living room area, that would be my first official “Couch” to “Surf.” By the time the clock hit midnight he was getting sleepy and asked if it was okay we turn the lights out, wind down and get some rest before he had to wake up for work in the morning and I would begin my day of exploring the great famous Parisian City of France. The lights went out and as I laid there on the couch looking at the ceiling above imagining a sky of stars, I had a big old grin on my face. I was actually doing it. Was it safe to let my eyes rest? I couldn’t believe it, only a few days ago I was in a different city and country in London, UK. Just before that I was back in NYC in the homeland USA but now I was sleeping on someone’s couch outside Paris, France. Someone I had only just met 2 hours ago, but someone who had already offered me more than those I’ve called friends for years. I was so excited for the next day of Adventure to come but despite my excitement, I finally managed to pass out and sleep.
I woke up in the morning still alive and with breakfast
I woke up some time around 7:30 a.m. and guess what? I was still Alive! The rumors of the world only being Evil weren’t true! At least not this night with this specific Couch Surfing Host. Heri was there to greet me good morning, offered a towel for a morning shower and was getting ready for work. After I finished my shower I came out to notice I could smell a lovely familiar scent, that of a cafe. After I was dressed Heri was in the kitchen making me coffee and spreading Nutella over 2 fresh pieces of lightly browned toast. Hungry at first and confused at second, I didn’t know this was meant to be a part of the deal… I thought it was just a free couch to rest. Heri would offer me breakfast every morning the 3 days I stayed there. Then we would ride the metro train together into the city every day as he would give me advice on what to see and do in Paris. Not only did I feel safer and safer each day in Heri’s presence but I also felt as I would miss his company when the time came to move on. After getting a free place to stay, free breakfast and tasty coffee every morning. After learning so much more about Paris thanks to a Local’s perspective. I asked myself these questions about Couch Surfing and its supposed Taboo… was I always scared and living in fear before this moment? How many life experiences had I jipped myself of due to not having enough money to pay for it? How many life experiences had I chosen to avoid due to my fear of finding another way to chase my travel dreams? Most importantly of all… how many great friends had I missed out on living the old way? I wouldn’t leave Paris the same man anymore, I was changed for the better. This I certainly give thanks to the couch surfing community. However, above all I else, I give great thanks to my new friend Heri, for opening his heart and home. Leaving France I was sure this wouldn’t be my last surf.
Couch Surfing will save your soul & bring a new world
After realizing this community was a great new discovery, I couldn’t wait for my next experience. Between my public meetup for the party in London with Erica and my first nights stay in Paris with Heri, it was all so awesome! However, next I would find out that with my small reputation on here, it still wasn’t the easiest to guarantee myself a spot in EVERY city I traveled to. I ran into issues in Amsterdam and some other French Cities. It seems women have a higher acceptance rate because people feel less threatened by them. Maybe some Men out there are hoping to find a traveler to fall in love with or maybe the Women who are hosting are looking for the same. However, the other great news about this concept is there are NO CONTRACTS. Therefor, if for any reason you as a host or guest feel uncomfortable, just stop and end it there. If you are visiting you should always have a little money as a backup on hand to go to a hostel and if you are a host, just kindly inform your guest you can no longer help them. The thing is, thanks to the reputation system, people genuinely want to be nice. That being said I am confident you won’t need to worry about either issue. Moving on from France, my next stop was Italy and after I put my trip plans public on the Couch Surfing App, I was immediately contacted by my first Italian host, the lovely Francesca! There was so much ground to cover in Italy, that after I would cross over Mont Blanc from France (Monte Bianco in Italia) the plan was to stay with her in Aosta Valley for just one night.
Don’t let fear stop you from following a dream of travel
After taking the cable car from Chamonix, France to Aosta Valley, Italy, I would then be waiting at the bottom of this beautiful mountain range for my favorite Italian friend of all! Francesca the beautiful, successful lawyer (Avocato) and speedy Italian driver was such a great memory indeed! By now I had experienced a meet up and a couch in Paris, but never had though I’d experience anything quite like this in Italy. She met me after I waited in the lovely town having a late lunch while she was finishing her day of work. The moment I saw Francesca I swear it was as if I knew her from a previous life. The smile she gave me upon our first meeting was so comforting, just as the others had been before her. We immediately started chatting it up in her broken English and my broken Italian skills. Communication was never that much of a problem, especially considering her first move was treating me the wild traveler to some tasty Italian Gelato! We hoped in her car and she was racing faster than I had ever thought possible but it was honestly a fun ride through the valley to her home. Since she was a successful lawyer this pad would not be your typical “Couch” stay. It was an extremely classy, clean and polished 2 bedroom condo. She offered me my own private bedroom and bathroom all to myself. Everything was so comfortable and welcoming, way better than any Air Bnb I had paid for up unto this point of my travels. I did mention this network offers FREE accommodations right? Not only did she make sure I felt right at home but she was so excited to take me out on the town and try some fine dining Italian Cuisine. Every time I tried to offer her money to help split the bill, she always insisted I didn’t pay. “You are the traveler. You are on the Adventure. I’m here to take care of you.” These are the types of things she would constantly tell me and it truly warmed my heart. However, the lasagna we had warmed my stomach and was the best damn lasagna I have ever tasted up until this very moment (please don’t tell my mother.) The plan was to only stay here one night, I stayed for two.
This is much more than just a free couch to sleep on
The second night out she was so excited to introduce me to 4 of her other friends. We all went out to eat again at another fancy restaurant and would enjoy some more great food, wine and company. She was so proud to show me off to all her friends and share the excitement of the month long solo European backpacking Adventure I was on. This is when I learned, that some hosts will truly enjoy helping you because it makes them feel like the travel spirit has been brought to them. Maybe some hosts are only able to travel 2 – 4 weeks a year and this is their way of feeling connected to travel. We explored the neighborhood sights, tasted everything and partied the night away. No hotel would EVER get you anything close to this, something you truly can’t pay for. She knew I was stretching myself thin with my energy, time and money. This was her way of helping and showing love to a traveler in need. After we finished our food, drinks and laughs we brought the party home and passed out. It was truly not easy to say goodbye to Francesca after becoming so close in such a short time. She said she would be perfectly fine with me staying even longer if I wanted, but I knew my time wouldn’t allow it. With only 30 days away from my work back in Los Angeles, CA I needed to keep moving through Italy if I wanted to make it to Germany in time for beers at Oktoberfest and then return home in time to get back to my business needs. This stay forever changed the travel game.