Catching The Couch Surfing Wave!

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The internet has created quite a few phenomenons over the years including flash mobs where a large group of people suddenly converge upon one spot as well as rickrolling, viral videos, astroturfing and so much more. Behind the scenes there are creative people looking for ways to cash in or to promote their latest ideas, one that they hope will have an impact perhaps as much as Facebook, Google and eBay have.

CouchSurfing InternationalCouchSurfing is an internet driven movement that has gradually caught on, the brainchild of one Casey Fenton and three of his friends. Simply defined, couch surfing allows people to travel the world and stay as a guest in the home of a stranger, sleeping on one couch to the next, for no charge. This option has allowed hundreds of thousands of travelers to find a place to stay for free while giving the host and guest a chance to become acquainted.

Indeed, beyond the free accommodations, couch surfing has been designed to go beyond the lodging aspect, by providing an “…internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.” In other words the organization believes that couch surfing helps to build understanding, an important aspect of making the world a better place.

But Is It Safe?

When I first heard of couch surfing, my first thoughts were – is it safe? My ever thinking mind honed in on the possibilities of psychos and other deranged people seeing this movement as a ready way to pull in unsuspecting victims and doing them in. Though this article doesn’t make for an endorsement of what CouchSurfing International (the organization) is all about, it was good to see that this topic has been addressed on their website.

To that end, CouchSurfing has put into place “several precautionary measures for the benefit of its surfers, hosts, and community.” For instance, every participant is linked to each of the other users in the system through a network of references and friend links. In addition to the solid network with friend link-strength indicators and testimonials, there are vouching and verification systems.

Organization members can only become vouched for by an already vouched for CouchSurfing.com member. Basically, it’s a trust circle that has trickled down from member to member to help ensure the safety of the members. Finally, the verification process checks to make sure the member’s name and address are correct and valid. Once the process is completed (through using a credit card to verify the users name & a letter mailed to the member) a members profile identifies them as a level 3 verified member. As the organization is quick to point out, for some people verification may not be important. For others, it is crucial.

Check It Out

Perhaps the best way to decide if couch surfing is right for you is to visit the organization’s website and check out the message board community. Get a feel for what other members are talking about and learn what it takes to couch surf. If you like what you find, register and take it from there. Who knows, but your July trek through eastern Europe could take you from couch to couch, saving you a ton of money on accommodations while getting the chance to meet people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.

Adv. – Getting there from here and back again can set you back financially. That is why an online travel portal like SayFunTravel.com can be an essential tool to help you plan your stay. Check out their airfare pages and compare prices for hotel, rail, museum visits and hot deals. Make Summer 2009 one filled with good memories and a year where you conserved your hard earned cash.

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