UCC Mainstream Online

Website seeks to help lower travel expenses

Couchsurfing is a website that connect travelers with free accommodations across the country.
Aria Blackwood / Mainstream
Couchsurfing is a website that connect travelers with free accommodations across the country.

Couchsurfing is a free accommodation website that connects travelers to a worldwide community. The site aims to connect like-minded people through a series of shared experiences between complete strangers. Through interactions such as providing housing for travelers and hosting people during community events, Couchsurfing has become a cultural phenomenon.

 In itself, the term couchsurfing implies staying at somebody else’s house and sleeping on their couch. However, Couchsurfing does not focus on using couches primarily as hosts will use any available space to accommodate travelers in their home.

 Couchsurfing, often abbreviated CS by its members, functions like most other social networking websites. Users create profiles, share pictures, express personal interests and most importantly designate whether they are willing to host travelers in their home or if they plan to travel themselves.

 Couchsurfing offers an extremely cheap way to travel throughout the world. Instead of staying at expensive hotels, CS allows free room and board from any of its participating members, plus gives travelers insight of the surrounding area through the eyes of the residents who know it best.

 Using Airbnb, an accommodation site similar to Couchsurfing, UCC student and Mainstream staff member, Susie Day, spent three days in Utah with her family.

 “Its way cheaper than a motel/hotel. I can afford to travel around much more than otherwise,” Day said.

 According to his personal website, Couchsurfing founder Casey Fenton claims he originally came up with the idea in 1998 following expeditions to Egypt and Iceland. While in flight to Iceland, Fenton sent emails to hundreds of students from the University of Iceland, requesting a place to stay. Ultimately, Fenton was offered a place to stay from more than 50 of the students.

 Using his experience in Iceland as a foundation, Fenton, along with other collaborators, created the Couchsurfing beta in 2003. The site then became public in 2004. With 5.5 million CS members in more than 100,000 cities represented in every country, creator Casey Fenton has seen his brainchild reach its potential.

 Many people who consider Couchsurfing are hesitant due to safety implications. Staying with strangers can potentially be dangerous, yes, but, there are ways to protect surfers from winding up in dangerous scenarios.

 Doing homework on potential hosts may increase safety. Couchsurfing’s official website suggests carefully reading host profiles and reviews to see if they seem like a person you would consider staying with. Also, make sure to meet hosts beforehand to shake any doubts you may have about the host and evaluate your own safety.

 When asked about her safety during her trip, Day said, “I felt safe, they seemed like a nice, young family. Everything was very clean and organized. You can get a good feel for the location before your trip,” Day said.

 According to the CS website, one of the chief safety concerns embodies the well-being of lone, female travelers. Since most CS legal incidents stem from women traveling alone, the website recommends that women either travel with a friend or seek accommodations with a female host.

 Despite questions over safety concerns, the majority of surfers reflect upon their experiences with overwhelming confidence and praise.

 The official Couchsurfing page offers statistics that help illustrate the incredible experiences of its members. Some statistics include most nights surfed by a single Couchsurfer, 689; most nights hosted by a surfer, 2,593; and most places visited with an inflatable red couch, 501.

 Couchsurfing now stands as the most used free accommodation site in the world and has helped create life-changing memories with nearly 6 million total nights surfed. To find out more, go to www.couchsurfing.org