How to Travel Through 20+ Countries with Free Room and Board

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Casey Fenton founded Couchsurfing.org, which connects millions of travelers with free accommodation around the world. (Photo by Alexandra Liss)

I met Alexandra Liss on a rainy day last September, outside of one of my favorite Thai restaurants in San Francisco.

Alex had just returned from six months abroad, traveling through 21 countries for free while shooting her full-length documentary, One Couch at a Time. She was wrapping up the film and had requested an interview with me.

Our topic of discussion? The Sharing Economy.

Startups that are part of this “sharing economy” — like TaskRabbit, AirBNB, Uber, and Sidecar — have given us unprecedented access to incredible experiences and resources, allowing many people to completely upgrade their lifestyles. By capitalizing on underused resources and new technology, people can live many strata above their income. In Alex’s case, she was able to raise $8,000 through Kickstarter to crowdfund her travel and the making of her film. She also lived rent-free during those six months, staying with more than 80 different strangers she’d met through Couchsurfing.org.

In this post, Alex shares exactly how she’s managed to become a couchsurfing guru, and the steps you can take to travel the world on next to no budget…

Enter Alex

I love the look people get on their face the first time they hear about Couchsurfing.

I might mention how I’ll be hosting a revolutionary leader from Egypt, or that I’ll be crashing in the heart of the Amazon on a stranger’s couch. They inevitably tilt their heads like confused puppies.

Of course, once they’ve experienced Couchsurfing and understand how it works, their whole attitude changes. Nearly all of them end up loving it. Me? I can’t get enough of it.

After six months of sleeping in 80 different homes — staying with people I’d never met — I can definitively say that Couchsurfing has enriched my life more than anything else. In fact, I believe this site is changing our entire world for the better, one couch at a time.

What is Couchsurfing?

Couchsurfing.org is an online hospitality network that connects travelers to free places to stay all over the world. There are more than 4 million globetrotters and backpackers, in 80,000 cities, who want to share their homes and time with you… at no cost!


Couchsurfers are all over the world. This map shows the areas with the highest concentration of members.

A great host can offer a fellow surfer some of the richest experiences of their lives — and vice versa — all without a euro, rupee, dinar, peso, yen, shilling, or dollar being exchanged. Simply for the love of hanging out with a kindred soul.

Couchsurfing has brought more amazing people and incredible adventures into my life than I can count. Thanks to my hosts, I’ve met Peruvian Shamans, zipped through Ho-Chi Minh, taken boat rides in the delta of Maun, hiked to hidden spots in Victoria Falls, sat VIP during the Spanish Valladolid finals, ridden horses on an Afrikaans farm… The list goes on and on.

The bonds that form through Couchsurfing are on a completely different level from those that arise in hostels. Hosts will go out of their way to pick surfers up at the airport, open up their homes, cook exotic meals, and share their world. They can also readily show you the hidden gems in their city, unearthing attractions that you’d never find in a ‘Lonely Planet’ book. If you’ve ever wanted to get the Anthony Bourdain VIP treatment, Couchsurfing is for you.

But it’s not just the surfers who benefit; being a host can be tremendously rewarding, as well. For instance, my hosts in Morocco, Vietnam, and Brazil all use CouchSurfing as a means to improve their English. Others simply enjoy meeting new people and hearing interesting stories from the road. I get just as much enjoyment out of showing travelers around my city as I do being hosted. My appreciation for San Francisco is instantly revitalized whenever I see the wide-eyed look on a grateful CouchSurfer’s face, looking upon a site they’ve only seen in the movies.

Whether you’re hosting or surfing, it’s a win-win for both parties.

“Isn’t it dangerous?”

Everyone has a fair amount of skepticism when they first hear about Couchsurfing. The number one question I get from people is: “What if you stay with an axe murderer?”

My friend Eric, who hosted me in Paris, had this to say about the perceived “dangers” of Couchsurfing:

“When I first heard about CouchSurfing, I thought to myself, ‘There is no way am I going to stay with strangers and get raped, robbed, and murdered.’ But I was curious enough about the concept, so I did some research and made a profile. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! It completely changed my life and has afforded me to see the world.”

As with anything in life, there are always potential dangers, but most risks can be easily avoided (more on this in the next section). As long as you adhere to community guidelines and use common sense, you are very likely to have great experiences.

Ready to give the Couchsurfer lifestyle a shot? Fantastic!

Here’s my advice for anyone who wants to travel rent-free…

8 Steps to Become a CouchSurfing Guru

1. Create a detailed profile.

Your profile is your key to the Couchsurfer’s kingdom. It allows hosts to learn about and trust you before meeting, and it will be a magnet for other fun surfers wanting to connect. It will behoove you to invest enough time and energy into building an awesome profile.

Here’s a screenshot of mine:

I cannot stress enough how important it is to accurately represent yourself. There’s no use in trying to be someone you’re not, or being bashful about your spiritual beliefs or diet preferences. If something is really important to you, then tell people! Show the community who you really are! The more information you can provide other members with, the better odds of everyone having positive exchanges.

Here’s what you’ll need to do in order to create a great profile:

  1. Register on Couchsurfing.org. After signing up, you’ll be asked if you’d like to verify your profile with a contribution. You can skip this part for now (we’ll cover it in “Step 2: Verify Your Profile”) and begin creating your profile right away. Just click your name in the top left corner, then click ‘Profile.’
  2. Post 5-10 pictures of yourself. We are visual animals, so don’t be afraid to upload a bunch of fun photos of yourself (ideally from any global excursions you’ve been on). Make sure the photos are interesting or remarkable, which gives fellow surfers material to start a conversation with you.
  3. Fill out your profile. There are a lot of fields to complete, but don’t worry! You don’t have to complete everything all at once. Fill out as much as you can, then polish up the rest when you’re up to it. [Since I host a lot of surfers, I included a note in my profile to spell the word “couch” correctly when messaging me. You’d be surprised how many people request to stay on your “coach.”]

If you’re already feeling overwhelmed with the task at hand, relax! Spend some time looking at other members’ profiles, take notes on what you like and dislike, then emulate your favorites when you’re ready to get started. And if you need a starting point, here’s my profile. Feel free to use it as a cheat sheet!

2. Verify your profile.

There are two primary methods for verifying your profile, which are designed to increase security and trust with members on the site. Both are technically optional, but I can assure you that you’ll have a much harder time getting started without having one or both of these:

  1. Personal references. Ask a few of your friends to leave a positive reference for you, which shows the community that you are a worthwhile person to host or surf with. If none of your friends have profiles on Couchsurfing, check out some of the local activities and meet up with couchsurfers in your area. Let them know you just joined the site, and after you’ve made a few friends, kindly ask if they’d be willing to vouch for you.
  2. Credit card verification. As mentioned in Step 1, you can pay a contribution to “lock in” your name and address. You’ll be mailed a postcard in 1-2 weeks with a code that you can enter into the site.

Members trust members who have been verified, so do not skip this step!

3. Seek compatible hosts/surfers.

Now that you have the two most important pieces in play, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Click ‘Surf’ or ‘Host’ in the site’s navigation bar, enter in your destination, and begin looking through the list of members in the area.

You can also set a number of filters to improve your search results, including:

- Age
– Gender
– Language
– Keywords (e.g. “vegetarian filmmaker”)
– Has photos
– Has been verified
– Most recent login
– Apartment is wheelchair accessible

Take some time to go through all the profiles in these results. It reallys pay off to thoroughly examine a potential host’s/surfer’s profile before you decide to contact them. That means reading their description, scanning their photos, and going through each of their references. Some hosts will want to hang out with surfers; others are short on free time. Some hosts own three cats, or they need to wake up at 5:30 AM… Whatever the case, you can easily avoid mishaps and unpleasant experiences by figuring out what their expectations are of you.

Couchsurfing’s official recommendations for finding compatible hosts and surfers.

Although the chances of an ax murderer hosting or surfing with you is slim-to-none, I always always ALWAYS read people’s profiles diligently. I do not share interests in “making hair dolls” or “watching you sleep,” so I do my best to steer clear of members who could pose a problem.

Once you’ve found a fellow Couchsurfer whose expectations and priorities appear to be aligned with yours, it’s time to reach out!

4. Write legendary requests

The purpose of your first message is to show the recipient how great it would be for you two to connect (it is NOT to immediately reserve a free couch). If you can successfully show that you’re someone they have to meet, a friendly dialogue will begin and you can make plans from there.

Here are a few ways you can create legendary requests:

  1. Make it personal. This is absolutely essential. No matter how many requests you send out, every single one should be custom-tailored for its recipient (cut-and-paste CouchRequests are so obvious!)
  2. Create a video request. If you really want to stand out, record a video with the camera on your computer and appeal to your host directly. Upload it to Youtube as an unlisted video, then send them the link. This might take longer than writing a message, but it gives them a much better idea of how well you’ll get along and improves your chances of being accepted.
  3. Write a catchy headline. Include something about who you are and/or how you want to connect. For instance, one surfer sent me a request during a very busy week. She grabbed my attention in her title (“SOS Fellow Entrepreneur Coming to San Fran!”), then mentioned our similar interests in books and dancing. I made sure to meet up with her the following day!
  4. Make it memorable. No one likes boring messages, so include at least one thing in your message that makes you stand out. Mention something you both have in common, suggest cooking them a homemade dinner, talk about your life path or your love for Mario Kart… anything that sets you apart from the crowd.

Be respectful when you reach out to other members. Remember: Surfing is a privilege, not a right. When someone writes a lame request, where they show no interest in their host but free accommodation, it destroys their chances.

Here is an example of what NOT to write in a request:

Hi, my name is Anna, im 20 years old student. I am in New York for summer and am looking for coach. Looking forward to hearing from you – email me on ***@gmail.com

And yes, that is an actual message I received.

The correspondence you have beforehand establishes your connection with this person, so be sure to do it right!

Send CouchRequests to five members, 1-2 weeks prior to your arrival, and you’ll have a couch lined up in no time.

5. Preparing for your surf.

Once your host agrees on having you stay with them, you’ll need to exchange contact and travel information. Here’s what both parties should know…

If you’re surfing:

  1. Confirm your arrival and departure date. Although you might change these dates, it’s always polite to set reasonable parameters. This is CouchSurfing, not CouchLiving, so be clear when you’ll be in and out.
  2. Write down your host’s address and phone number, and enter it in your cell phone. I can’t tell you how many times I forgot to charge my phone when entering a new country. When traveling, expect for some type of miscommunication or technology fail.
  3. Have a backup plan! Whether it be your creeper meter or inevitable failings of plans – you need to have a back up. You’re in a foreign country and always need safeguards. Make sure you have established contact with a few other CSers who you might be able to call/message in an emergency, as well as the locations of some hostels before you arrive. Also, knowing where the nearest Internet cafes are can help you in a pinch to try to find a new place to stay if necessary.

If you’re hosting:

  1. Send the surfer your address, phone number, and directions to your couch. Include any details about hidden keys or codes to get in (assuming you’re comfortable with this). And if you’re feeling generous, offer to pick them up.
  2. Have their couch ready and room tidy.
  3. Have a few local recommendations in mind. Your surfer will want to know the must-sees and tastiest dishes. This is your chance to show the best of your hometown!

One more thing… CouchSurfing is NOT a dating site. Don’t make your host or surfer uncomfortable by crossing into OKCupid territory. And yes, I’d be lying if I said I’d never been attracted to a host or surfer. I’m just saying… keep it classy.

Let the surfing begin!

6. Immerse yourself in their culture.

Congratulations, you’re not in Kansas anymore! It’s time to mute your hometown identity and embrace this new culture. This is harder than it sounds at first, but you will quickly get the hang of it.

Here are a few tips to make your time in this new world much more pleasant:

Avoid tourist tendencies. See the spots you want to see, but don’t follow what every tourist does. If your host is willing, let them take you off the beaten path to their favorite local spots. And whatever you do, leave your “I <3 NYC” t-shirt in your bag.

“When in Rome…” If you’re in a different country, curb your ethnocentrism and attempt to assimilate. Learn how to say “hello” and “thank you” in the native language. Respect their customs, try new foods, use the hole-in-the-ground toilet, be willing to go out when you are tired… In short: show your appreciation!

Facebook surgery. You’re traveling, nerd! Peel yourself away from the computer and go explore :) Your friends will withhold their ‘Likes’ of your photos until you return.

7. Express any concerns or issues.

If, at any time, you aren’t happy with your CouchSurfer’s behavior, be sure to tell them why. In most cases, the problem will be unintentional or a cultural difference. But if you don’t speak up, your CouchSurfer might never know they’ve bothered you (or vice versa). And if the awkward antlers keep cropping up and lines are repeatedly crossed, it’s your duty to warn the community of your experience in your reference.

In my over 150 CouchSurfing experiences, I have never had to leave a negative reference or had one left about me. However, I’ve had countless instances of cultural misunderstandings and uncomfortable learning experiences. For instance, when I was traveling through Cambodia with my Pakistani friend, Zohra, I thoughtlessly made an off-color comment about terrorism. Whoops. My “sense of humor” was extremely offensive to her, and when I learned about the atrocities she lives with everyday in Pakistan, I realized I’d been watching too many episodes of South Park. Best to leave your amateur hour material at home.

8. Leave the couch better than you found it.

When it’s time to hit the road, make sure that you tidy up and leave your room spick-and-span. If you borrowed anything, double-check that you’ve returned it. If your host isn’t at home when you leave, make sure that you know how to secure the door correctly. Leave a handwritten note or a gift from your home country to say “thanks.”

Last but not least, leave them a thorough reference. If your host treated you well, be sure to write positive things about them so other CouchSurfers will want to stay with them! And if you set the bar with a kick-ass reference, they will usually return the favor.

Final Thoughts

The age of sharing is just beginning. I’ve experienced first-hand the inspiration and transcendence that regularly takes place, and I plan to be a CouchSurfer for life. I want my future children to grow up around different cultures and instill sharing and exchange. And when I’m too old to travel myself, I’ll be hosting from my rocking chair.

###

If you’ve ever fantasized about taking time off to globe-trot, I would highly recommend Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding. It is one of only two books I took with me when I traveled the world for 18 months. Outside Magazine founding editor Tim Cahill calls Vagabonding “the most sensible book of travel related advice ever written.”

I recently partnered with Rolf to release the exclusive audiobook for Vagabonding. For more on this incredible book, click here.

Do you have a story about how Couchsurfing or the sharing economy changed your life? Tell us in the comments!

Also, there are two public screenings of One Couch at a Time coming up soon…

- San Francisco – January 17th (tomorrow) @ 6:30PM at The Hub SOMA, 901 Mission St. (Buy tickets here)

- Los Angeles – January 26th @ 6:30PM at Just Cause Entertainment, 4130 Del Ray (Buy tickets here)

We’d love for you to come join us! (If you’d like to request a screening of the film in your city, click here.)

Posted on: January 16, 2013.

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119 comments on “How to Travel Through 20+ Countries with Free Room and Board

  1. I just finished reading “the four hour body” and was a little confused on the geek-to-freak chapter. It states to rest at least three minutes between exercises but then goes on to say in “the colorado experiment” that he completed multiple exercises without rest and then only rested two minutes. Can you please clear up the confusion. Thanks

    Like

  2. Wow! From a kid who is on a frozen pizza budget this sounds amazing! I have heard of such sites, but have been a skeptic thinking I was going to end up like Liam Neeson’s daughter in “Taken”, without the happy ending.
    But this article, along with the great pics, have debunked a lot of my fears and have given me new hope that I will get to Europe, the Maldives, and back to Australia. And now MORE places that I could image!
    Instead of repinning images on Pinterest and collecting the, “oh, I wish I could see that” images from National Geographic, there is actually a chance, now, that I can be THERE experiencing that! Repin in my memory.
    You guys are the best.
    Thank you so much.
    Time to be brave enough.

    Like

  3. It’s not always easy to find a host! Here are things working against you: You’re male. You’re over 25. You’re not a girl under 25.

    But the biggest problem? You’re looking at the wrong hosts’ profiles. The way CS is set up, the people who are most active are on the front pages of the host search. At least that’s how it was a couple of years ago. What does this mean? The people with the most surfers also get the most requests. This is not math that works in your favor when you contact them.

    Instead of sending a request to the coolest looking people on the first few pages, scroll back 10 pages or so and start there. Look for someone who has a high response rate, last logged on in his own city, but hasn’t been online for a week. Look for someone over 30. Hell, look for someone over 40. Send your requests to men, or if you send them to women specify that you’re not looking for a date. You’d be surprised how much they’ll appreciate this (unless you’re the kind of guy who’s going to try to grope them once you get in the door). If you have ever gotten a good laugh with a female CSer reading the ridiculous heavy-breathing or dong-dangling requests she has received, you know what I’m talking about.

    One example from the herd: I was trying to find a host in Oslo. No responses for three days. Then I scrolled 10 pages back, sent a request to a 50-yr-old accountant, and in 3 minutes I had a host. Because the price of beer is so high, I was going to stay only 2 days. But the day I landed in Oslo I also landed a huge pile of business, and my host invited me to an event at the end of the week. Then he suggested I stick around in Norway for an event at the end of the month. I ended up I stayed with him from January to May, taking trips to Thailand, India and the UK while having a semi-permanent base in Oslo. He was a very cool guy, he gave me free access to the hundreds of pounds of fish in his freezer, he showed me all the best restaurants and gave me good advice about travel, he threw dinner parties for our CS friends, and I even got my own room (a huge perk of staying with people who are settled is that they can afford guest rooms). In return I chipped in on groceries and made sure the house was spotless when he got back from work, which took about 20 minutes a day.

    So look to the back pages and see if you can find someone who is less likely to receive (or accept) requests from the huge mass of college girls who signed up for CS a week before their first trip abroad, hoping just to find a free place to stay. Don’t worry, if you stick around in a city long enough you’ll meet all the young and hip in time, if that’s what you’re after. You’ll just be going home to better digs.

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    • The de facto maximum is three nights. One night is too short to get to know someone, so two is a safe bet. That’s just prearranged planning, though. Best to keep it flexible, because if you get on really well with someone they just might let you stay longer. My longest was 5 nights then returning for two weeks (spare bedroom) a couple months later.

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    • Lance – each host will specify how long they like people to stay, but I think the most common are a few nights. This last year i hosted about 50 people and the longest I will host for is 3 nights b/c I need my time to myself after that… but there are some people I would have hosted for longer. It varies by person/place.

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    • Yeah, typically you send a request for up to three nights, four max. Sometimes they’ll say on their profile how long is too long, so that’s another reason it’s important to read the profiles.

      The longest I’ve stayed with a CSer was a little over 3 weeks in Prague, CZ. I requested 3 nights and we really got along so I was basically just his roommate for a few weeks!

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  4. I first tried CS in my own country when all of the hotels were booked for a conference I was attending in Salt Lake City. I was amazed that I got my own bedroom and even setup with some free lift tickets the host wasn’t using.. We remained friends and have ridden bikes through NYC and run with the bulls in Pamplona.
    I’ve since then let CSers use my spare bedroom in NYC and it’s always been a positive experience. The citywide meetups are fun too.

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  5. CS has been a major part of my vagabonding life for the last 7 years. However some of the recent website changes have caused it to nosedive.

    Why is it (apparently) that new users are automatically set to “maybe” available host? The majority sign up to surf, not host, so search results are mixed with these people who logged in once and never returned. It makes a right pain looking for genuine active users. Not helped by the fact you can no longer search by yes/maybe/no/etc hosting availability.

    This is just my biggest gripe. There are plenty other recent changes which make me believe that the decision makers are disconnected from the whole hosting, surfing, and connecting experience. I wish they would consider usability.

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    • Nicole, Tim I agree wholeheartedly that enterprises whose aims are to make an impact in the social / socio-economic sphere are able to do so while making a profit, Muhammed Yunus recently coined a term for such enterprises, calling them ‘Social Businesses’ and wrote a whole book about them with the same title which was published in 2008. There is absolutely no automatic link to Communism with those setting up or operating revenue generating – often a critical component of social impact aims being achieved – enterprises.

      Nicole would also say that for a more robust/flexible/sustainable socio- economic environment a viable model would be where there is in fact a healthy mix of resource based trading, interaction, human capital deployment and monetary transactions. Whats really needed is an integration and merging of these various forms of resource allocation into clear gestalts that make clear the means by which people can maximise the varying components based on their specific needs.

      Heres to a vibrant, mixed resource, human/social capital , wealth generating abundant tomorrow

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      • I see B Corporations (a.k.a. certification of Social Businesses) as more of a transitional phase to the RBE. At any rate it is a step in the right direction! :) Thanks for the book suggestion will have to look into it.

        If we had a more robust/flexible/sustainable socio- economic healthy environment why would we need currency to get in the way? It took a while for the concept of money to form in the first place. Is it not possible with the evolution of man and his intellect to surpass the need for currency? Look into the theory of human information doubling. With that much information, due in large part to the internet being available, do you not think that man might be able to squash his fears of the infamous “other” and realize we all belong to the same family, the human race? Money is a tool used to divide, when we are better served being united.

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  6. When I first heard of it, I was like “There’s no way people will do this!” Then the next thing I know Couchsurfing.com is a huge site. I guess it’s a testament to good trustworthy people out there.

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  7. I signed up for couch surfing about two months ago, I’ve been living and working in Sri Lanka as a Fulbrighter. To date I’ve received five requests and hosted one of them (mostly due to time conflicts).

    It’s frustrating getting requests that are vaque and unclear, in terms of dates and reasons for wanting to crash on my couch. But I have to say, the one guy I hosted is a friend I keep in touch with. After spending two days on my couch we now routinely email once or twice a week.

    Awesome.

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  8. I love courchsurfing! I studied abroad last semester in France, and couchsurfed in Italy, and Barcelona. It was a great experience, and I will definitely do it again. Of course my family and friends thought it was a little crazy, but it’s just one of those thing you have to research before you jump to conclusions.

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  9. @WD the reply hyperlink was missing underneath your post so I hope you see this even though it is not directly below your comment.
    SiFi movies are written by artists and writers who are seldom qualified to describe technological developments, particularly as applied to the social system. Many express a fear of technology, and lack a deeper understanding of the humane potential of technological development. Technologies are simply extensions of human attributes.

    In technologically developed countries, industry and the military are assigning more and more decision-making to machine technology. Machines will not take over, but they will eventually be assigned the tasks. Today’s machines can handle one thousand trillion bits of information per second. No humans have this capability. In the near future, the operation of a global society will be far too complex for any sophisticated group of humans to manage.

    That is why I urgently advocate that society utilize cybernetics not merely for tabulation and measurement, but also to process vital information and channel it for the benefit of all humankind. Only our most capable computers can store and sort through the data necessary to arrive at equitable and sustainable analyses and decisions about the development and distribution of resources on a global scale.

    The most visionary writers and futurists of the twentieth century would have had difficulty accepting the possibility of robots replacing surgeons, engineers, top management, airline pilots, and other professionals. It is no longer unthinkable that machines may one day write novels or poems, compose music, and eventually surpass humans in government and in the management of world affairs.

    This is not about the morality and ethics of human participation, but a straightforward description of future technological trends.
    For real world examples of how robots are already influencing our lives please Google and search for the following articles and videos: Robot Serves Up 360 Hamburgers Per Hour & Robotic Surgery Demonstration. These are just two examples of society moving forward in the direction I was discussing above. Machines are an everyday part of our lives computers, vending machines, cell phones, the now archaic answering machine…have any of these had you in a choke-hold yet? Mainstream media personifies technology as a means to create shock and awe and at the end of the day to make top dollar sales and that is all.

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  10. This seems to be safe. I only worry about when it becomes big enought to be exposed to the general public. Thats when you’ll see the shift from the core couchsurfers/travel enthusiast to just about anybody. At that point it will become no safer than meeting someone off of craigslist and trying to sleep on their couch.

    One must wonder when capitalistic greed will take over and the owners will start trying to expand outside of the travel enthusiastic niche and how big this niche is anyway. I just read its already now a corporate entity lol… be weary

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    • Hopefully the site keeps getting exposure from platforms like 4hww that is targeted to free spirits who may be interested in travel

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  11. CouchSurfing (CS) began as a not-for-profit that respected the rights of free speech and accountability by way of personal references/vouches from fellow couchsurfers. If you behaved poorly to someone, that someone had the right — nay, obligation! — to post the details about their experience with you ON YOUR PROFILE as a warning to others. Same thing with anything you posted in the community forums: you were responsible for exactly what you said; thus, you chose your words carefully, which in turn inspired civil discourse.

    When CouchSurfing became a corporation and received $20+ million from outside investors — without consulting its members first — CS HQ no longer respected philosophy the site was built on. The recent site upgrades instituted by CS HQ have disbanded our communities and have made the site more vulnerable to predators and spammers. (Did you know that you can make a new profile with a fake e-mail address?! Try it!) After three months of helpful suggestions and constructive criticisms requested by CS HQ from its members, who responded with thousands upon thousands lengthy, passionate and constructive comments, the “Community Managers” — the very people paid by the company to represent us — have now chosen to censure *and* censure us for finally speaking up.

    Why haven’t we spoken up sooner?

    1.) Because we truly believed that those who control the site had our best interests at heart when it came to making CouchSurfing a safe(r), dynamic, tight-knit and relevant social networking platform worthy of our continued VOLUNTARY support.

    2.) After 90 days, we have yet to see ANY improvement to the site or with relations between CS HQ with its members. After so much incompetence, we’re demanding better from those who own and invest in the company.

    [Moderator: Reference to link removed]

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  12. Just as a word of caution to anyone reading this and new to CouchSurfing. In the past year, the site has changed dramatically and become less safe. It has become easier for predators to find information on users and stalk them. In addition to poor structuring of the site, CS administration has taken a policy of censorship and “saving their own ass.”

    They’ve recently deleted key, long-standing CS community members’ profiles without warning and for the apparent reason that they just don’t like what people are suggesting. It’s gone downhill and will take a true realization by CS HQ to come back to its original glory, if it ever does.

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    • A valid point for any site similar to CS. You must use your own best judgement and its good to know about more recent changes the lax in security of personal information. I have mine listed so only registered users can view my information-including phone and address. I use a google (free) phone number in online accounts that links directly to my cell, but keeps the number unpublished. After I’ve received first contact, checked profiles and references and if I feel comfortable I share my true number.

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    • Thanks for the information :) I was thinking for ages that it would be useful to us all to be able to understand how the price of a specific flight varied over time because flight prices seem to change wildly sometimes. So after looking for something and not finding what I wanted, I decided to create my own. I’m still working on it, adding more routes and data but it should still be useful to a lot of the general public. Please have a look and tell me what you think, the more feedback I get, the more I will develop it so please let me know what you think. It’s completely free and can be found at TrendJetter.co.uk. Hopefully it will save you a little money!

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      • This is a very interesting article. It does on the forefront seem very dangerous, but with all the measures that Tim advises, Maybe not the worst idea in the world. I will say, I have been following Tim’s advise for years on the four hour work week with a business I started and he’s never steared me wrong yet, so who knows! I’d like to look into this more for sure.

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      • For people who wanted to travel on a budget couchsurfing is a good idea…although you cannot remove the doubts and risks knowing that you have to stay with strangers from foreign places but this article makes you just want to try it for the sake of experience and for the love of travel.

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  13. Couchsurfing should not be looked upon as a free service. This is what will eventually ruin couchsurfing, if it hasn’t already. Couchsurfing is an exchange. Yes you get a place to stay but as a host I expect an exchange of cultures. Whether it is ideas or a home cooked meal the surfer should “pay” for their accommodations. I’ve been a host for years and have seen this concept slide to the freeloader side. In the beginning surfers would sit and chat about their home country for hours, cook a meal and sometimes gift a little token of from country (I have my surfer gifts of display in a curio cabinet). Over the years it has deteriorated into a freeloader mind set where someone will join because they are heading to a certain city for the weekend and need a place to stay. Now instead of hosting most all that request I turn away most. I used to prep a room, make sure there was food and drink and really wanted to host. Then people would cancel at the last minute or not show up. Living near Niagara Falls I have a lot of requests. I still host but mostly it is single European travelers wanting to see the falls during their summer stay in the US. Couchsurfing is definitely not the same as it was years ago.

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  14. Couchsurfing totally changed my life. I met so many people and with the idea of “giving back” to my host as I traveled I would end up cooking for them and learned to cook through this process. It was amazing that I actually started a business teaching others to cook. Love the idea and even though they have gone through changes, CS is still what you make of it.

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  15. Well written, as it is. It will change your experience in a place 100 fold. Such a brilliant idea. It has changed my life for sure.

    Bangkok just became the most traveled country in the world. If I have my profile set to “yes, I can host”, I get 10-15 requests a day. Crazy stuff, but great fun.

    If you come to Bangkok, shoot me a message, you’re welcome to surf.

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  16. Great piece, Tim! Your book, 4HWW, & Couchsurfing completely changed my life a couple yrs ago. In the past 2yrs I’ve hosted and surfed with over 100 people from 15 countries…all incredible experiences that have led to what will be life long friendships.

    At the same time my company has grown from myself to 12 employees. I frequently host couchsurfing entrepreneurs which in addition to friendship has opened up even more business opportunities.

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  17. in the world each of us has three private things that are the limits of his private circle and we must respect his circle that’s his right because he has all the right to use this things as he wish that the only borderline we must respect in this world & we must forget other borderlines Which reduce the advantages and rights of human being & The true meaning of humanity…

    the first thing is : — the time : how much time you have to live… one day will be finished.

    the second thing is: — the envirenment where we live ( but Planet Earth is our envirenment & we have right to see it, know it , talk about it & to give our viewpoints to change the world to be better with peace and love,The true meaning of peace & love…)

    the last one thing is: — the mind: each of us have a mind to think about envirenment to give it his touch before the end of his time…

    like an exam right? the time will be finished.. but what question that we must ask ? how can i have the best level in my exam & give the world my touch as i can do it for the best for humanity ? & how we can use Couchsurfing to start a humanist circle fighting for a better world with the true meaning of the human rights, because we have an opportunity to do it with couchsurfing since we meet together & in everywhere in the world

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