, , , , , ,

If you want to learn how to travel Europe on just €5 a day, check out the Kickstarter page to pre-order a copy of the travel guide and help out!

The absolute best way to save money and have an incredible time travelling is through Couchsurfing.org.  For the next few days I will hopefully dispel some fears concerning Couchsurfing by posting about personal experiences entrusting myself to kind strangers abroad.

For those who don’t know, Couchsurfing.org is set up similarly to a dating website, except instead of looking for romance (or, whatever! I don’t judge) you’re looking for a place to stay.  People set up profiles, describe themselves, their lives, their homes, and what sort of traveler (or, “surfer”) they’d like to host.

ME! Pick me!!

Now, while it may be called “Couchsurfing,” I’ve only ever stayed on a couch once–and this is a regular thing, not an exception.  Most people have an extra bed, a pull-out, or a blow-up mattress, and I’ve heard stories from people who’ve slept in incredible beds at fancy lofts, grand estates, beach villas, and more!  The “couch” in question is namely a place to lay your head, and you always know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand.

Though Couchsurfing’s main objective is to find a place to sleep–and some do use it on solely those terms–its secondary, or concurrent objective is to bring people of different cultures together.  Some hosts are busy and can only offer you a place to sleep, but more frequently your host will be eager to show you around!

This awesomeness is a direct result of Couchsurfing.

Couchsurfing is the best way to have a place to sleep that costs you absolutely nothing, and gives you much in return.  If you show up at a hotel you have to discover the city by yourself.  Even if you stay at a hostel and make friends, you’re all as ignorant about your surroundings as the next guy.  But when you stay with a native dweller you get an immediate VIP pass to the insider’s view of the common person’s day.

And, more often than not, you get a meal out of it too!

To combat negative behavior in a social network so inherently built on trust, a handful of fairly obvious and intuitive checks have been put in place.

Though occasionally a pants-less American will slip through the cracks…

To begin, you can have your location and identity verified. It costs a pittance and gives you an initial credibility that will help you find your first couch.  Members are also vouched for by other members, and when searching, you can see how frequently they reply to requests.

You can fill out your profile however you want, though a thorough one is recommended.  Finally, once you start “surfing” people can post on your page to leave a public reference, citing you as good/neutral/bad host or surfer.  The more times you’re rated “good” the better–it builds confidence.

Pictured: Confidence
Not-Pictured: Dignity

But it’s hard to get that first couch, especially if you’ve never hosted before, and it’s hard to calm concerns with a simple “verification.”  So, over the next few days I’ll be sharing with you how my first few couchsurfing experiences went in the hopes of encouraging you further.