Jul 112012

Author: Kristin Hall

Take a surfing safari


Imagine getting on a bus to another country with plans to sleep on the couch belonging to a person you have only known for a couple weeks. It sounds like the beginning of a college horror movie. Sophomore fish, wildlife and conservation biology major, Carly Maher, and her friend were a little nervous when they planned to try couch surfing in Canada.

Maher said, “My friend was so nervous that when the customs officer asked us who we were staying with, she blurted out, ‘some random guy.’”

Despite this, Maher recounts this as one of the best experiences of her life. Maher is not the only person who is willing to take a risk couch surfing. People all over the world are networking to share free couches and often make friends in the process.

“We were surprised by how inviting they were,” Maher said. “We made friends with people from around the globe and witnessed the tight-knit and accepting community of couch surfers.”

The San Francisco, Calif. based company CouchSurfing International, Inc. provides an online networking community for people who have couches they do not mind sharing, or travelers in need of a couch. It is free to sign up and browse, though a $25 fee applies if you would like to validate your account.

So why would you validate your account? That is the trick to finding a host, aka a couch to sleep on. The question of safety is a very serious concern.  The fee is a way for CouchSurfing International, Inc. to screen users and thus provide safe places for travelers to stay.

As a low cost travel alternative, couch surfing is the perfect solution for college students with the travel bug. It will reduce travel costs greatly, as well as provide some quick and trouble-free companions.

Couch Surfing permits you to go as far away, or as close to home as you feel comfortable with.

“Even if your trip is only a couple of hours away from where you live, couch surfing allows you to experience your destination with people who know it best and are willing to make you feel at home,” Maher said.

Even if you are not itching to get away but want to be involved, you can always offer up your couch or something as simple as a coffee date.

Maher said, “It may sound cliché, but couch surfing really restored my faith in humanity and our ability to forge meaningful and lasting connections with others.”

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