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

      • Not sure if he’s referencing this, but when CS converted from a non-profit status to that of a B Corporation in 2011, a lot of the hardcore CouchSurfers were very upset. CS’ goal was to connect people, not make money. The users felt like they were the ones that were really maintaining and building the community, and now the greedy corporation was going to step in and ruin it all with it’s dirty monetization plan. There’s still a lot of resentment over this within the community.

        Like

      • Ah… thanks, Scott. I don’t know the details, but I can say this: running a non-profit is tough. It’s also hard to attract the best talent. From what I know, the B Corp is a great approach for building socially-conscious (by requirement) businesses that are sustainable through for-profit revenue streams. Having seen a lot of good done by such companies, it strikes me as an investment in the future, but I could be off base. Sadly, a lot of the most talented people leave non-profits after a few years, and offering them financial rewards for good work that does good seems like a good move to me.

        Like

      • I know, sometimes a compromise is needed…but I’m not sure there was the need for it. People got angry because of the changes in terms and policies (https://www.couchsurfing.org/n/threads/petition-opposing-the-new-terms-of-use-for-couchsurfing+13140090) and honestly they have a point. As Marx’s Capital teaches us: CS without its community is nothing and the community is made by active users. From my personal experience I must say that since I started CSing in 2007 things have changed too much. It has become just a social network with people boasting on how many places they visited, with everyone being a meditation fanatic, pictures and posts. It has lost its ‘Unique naivety’ (in a good way), just to get to more people and to become more mainstream. It’s a shame as I’ve had fantastic experiences in the past with it, but I’m finding it very hard right now. That old CS spirit has gone!

        Like

      • From what I remember from the transition email, I thought they were denied non-profit status — they couldn’t justify it to the powers that be. But that’s just a vague recollection.

        Like

      • I’ve been on Couchsurfing for about 7 years. I couchsurfed all over Europe, the US, Israel, Central America and South America with my husband and young daughter. It was fantastic. I even became a so-called Ambassador. As time passed, though, the people we met changed, and the interactions weren’t as fulfilling.

        I never had an issue with it changing from non profit to corporation, because from my perspective, the community had already changed. Much of the original community became less active, and it became more a place to get a free place to stay and party.

        There seemed to also be distracting degree of internal politics at play within the organization. I saw it clearly when I entered the ambassador only message boards and also when I served for a short time on one of the teams. I didn’t get involved in the politics, though, so I can’t talk to much about it.

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      • Also, it has become significantly different since 2011 — it actually took venture capital. That put off a lot of couchsurfers because the community is all about being free, but taking venture means they might have to become profit motivated.

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      • I understand the fear but don’t think it needs to damage the company. Take Evernote, for instance. Free forever, used that way by 99% of users (I’m guessing). Those who want bonus features or added services can choose paid add-ons.

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      • It’s being used to rent condos etc in places like KL :( .
        I checked out more than 10 such arrangements, usually these are run by students, they rent a condo (3 bed, 2 showers) and let the 3 rooms, and in the name of couchsurfing the student-landlord sleeps on the couch in the living room :). BTW these couch surfing rooms are far more expensive and crowded than renting a room through normal channels :). No thanks !
        BTW you ROCK Tim :), been on the move for the last 3 years, all sorted, in Sri Lanka at the moment, next Thailand (for the 8th time) and Japan :)

        Like

      • As a long-term Couchsurfer, it wasn’t the B Corporation thing that put me off, but the change in the ways of doing things and the change of focus from hosting/surfing to events and recruiting people to for-profit events.

        For example, I was a moderator of the Tokyo group and city ambassador for Tokyo, but after the site redesign I made a short post in the Tokyo feed (new version of message board) commenting about how Couchsurfing is changing and why I had decided to stop hosting events, etc…
        I had hosted a monthly event in Tokyo that ran regularly for about 4 years, but decided that the site was taking on too many for-profit events and it was becoming a competition for who can get the most people to come to their event. I didn’t want to be part of that.
        My post was censored and deleted completely off of couchsurfing within a few hours with no contact to myself whatsoever. I commented on that, and it was censored as well. As moderator/ambassador for Tokyo for years, I found it very strange that the higher-ups decided to censor even my posts without any explanation at all. It’s clear they’re strongly controlling what goes on in CS now. Most people like me who love CS at its core but don’t dig that kinda stuff have just slowly faded away from CS.

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    • It’s foolish to be upset over the fact that a free service you use (and get tremendous value from) wants to make money.

      Give me a break. CouchSurfing has been getting better every year for the last 5 years that I’ve been enjoying it.

      “Too bad couchsurfing became so commercial”? BS! Give me a break.

      On a positive note, WWOOFing is also an excellent way to see the world without much coin. WWOOFs is perhaps more culturally inclusive too.

      Get dirty travelers! The world is out there, and it’s awesome!

      Like

    • The phrase that jumped at me early in the post is “underused resources” – find a way to transfer value from original to new owner/user and you have another killer idea! Anyone?

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      • Good point :), what are the underused resources ? I got free private transport worth 100s of $ in Thailand :) because no one was using it :)

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  1. Love Couchsurfing!

    Did it in Chicago, Amsterdam, and Italy last year! The experience is so much more richer than a hotel or hostel. Really great article/blog Alex! Hope the doco goes well for you!

    Like

    • This sounds fun. I have slight reservations. Segments of Kiev within the Ukraine in particular is not entirely diversity friendly no matter how educated and well behaved one is. This style of tourism seems like it might aggravate the ‘freeloader’ stereotype. No divisiveness intended but this is an aspect of the world we live in and certain people certain places make it relevant to consider for safety purposes. I’m very interested in the experiences of persons of color when it comes to this method of sightseeing. I’m curious to learn how to find safe places with universally friendly people

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  2. This is awesome. Love the note at the end, Tim. My wife and I backpack for a few months every year. We will be incorporating all of this info into our next trip starting August. Headed to the Tatry Mountains in Poland to get married, and then lost together… :) Purchased our first one-way tickets too!

    So timely. Thanks Tim and Alex!

    -Ryan

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  3. Couchsurfing sounds awesome! When I first heard about it in the $100 Startup, I was very curious on how the entire process worked. Thanks for this killer post! I’m definitely going to have to use couchsurfing for at least one of my trips.

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  4. Glad to see CouchSurfing getting featured! I’ve been using the site for four years and I’ve had many positive experiences.

    It’s the perfect match for a road trip.

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  5. I started an online business not too long after reading the 4HWW, and these days I have the income and flexibility to hop around the globe as I please. I lived in 4 countries last year, and I’ll be changing cities every 3 months this year.

    The most exhausting part of hopping around the globe like this is making new friends, but because of CouchSurfing, I’m able to break into social circles and build a great group of friends within a matter of weeks.

    I’ve hosted probably 25 people over the past 5-6 years, but I’ve never really CouchSurfed. People that hear about the site for the first time think that it’s just about sharing sofas, but it’s much more than that. It’s a community for open-minded people who like to explore new cultures and meet make new friends from all over the world.

    Really, it’s hard for anyone who hasn’t had a lot of experience with CouchSurfing to really grasp what it’s all about… it’s all all about the experience, and you have to see it first-hand to really understand it.

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  6. Hi Tim,

    Great to listen to you again tonight in Oxford (shame the audio setup wasn’t quite up to scratch), I’m sure some people who left did so because they couldn’t hear.

    My wife and I have been using couchsurfing and other similar sites (Hospitality Club, Servas and Globalfreeloaders) for nearly 9 years now and the different approach to travelling has opened our eyes to different cultures, countries and the introduced us to some of our now closest friends who just happen to be spread all over the world.

    I can honestly say after all these years of hosting and surfing, we’ve not had one single bad experience – there have been a few small issues that sometimes arise due to different approaches to things but these are very rare.

    We decided before we started using sharing sites that 99% of people in the world are really nice people just that we haven’t met and that if we came across any of the 1% then we would be extremely unlucky. On the other side of things we’ve experienced extraordinary acts of kindness from people that had barely even met us (one lady even left us the key to her house when she was away for the weekend – even though we’d never met).

    It’s definitely worth a try sometime, as with all things in life you only get out of it what you put in. Look us up if you ever need a host/guide in London (http://www.couchsurfing.org/profile.html?id=885LG0) or Melbourne/Australia.

    Cheers,

    Tim

    Like

  7. This is a fantastic article with really useful tips for first-time members. Thanks Alexandra and Tim for writing and we’re so excited to come to the screening tomorrow night. Break a leg!

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  8. CouchSurfing is awesome! I’ve been a member for four or five years, and it’s an amazing way to meet new people and really delve into local cultures. I will always prefer hostels, because of the coming together of multiple cultures in one other culture (plus the party vibe), but CouchSurfing definitely rocks, and is highly suggested for all travelers!

    Like

  9. The sharing economy is a lot like a Resource Based Economy which is a phrase coined by Futurist Jacque Fresco founder of The Venus Project. It is a holistic socio-economic system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter or any other system of debt or servitude. All resources become the common heritage of all of the inhabitants, not just a select few. The premise upon which this system is based is that the Earth is abundant with plentiful resource; our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter productive to our survival.

    Modern society has access to highly advanced technology and can make available food, clothing, housing and medical care; update our educational system; and develop a limitless supply of renewable, non-contaminating energy. By supplying an efficiently designed economy, everyone can enjoy a very high standard of living with all of the amenities of a high technological society.

    A resource-based economy would utilize existing resources from the land and sea, physical equipment, industrial plants, etc. to enhance the lives of the total population. In an economy based on resources rather than money, we could easily produce all of the necessities of life and provide a high standard of living for all.

    Money is only important in a society when certain resources for survival must be rationed and the people accept money as an exchange medium for the scarce resources. Money is a social convention, an agreement if you will. It is neither a natural resource nor does it represent one. It is not necessary for survival unless we have been conditioned to accept it as such.

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    • Wow. The eternally recurrent Communist Ideal. Ultimate panacea for people who do not produce anything others consider valuable. Good luck with that. The high technology you praise was produced by a capitalist society, with all its flaws.

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      • Communism being similar to a resource-based economy or The Venus Project is an erroneous concept. Communism has money, banks, armies, police, prisons, charismatic personalities, social stratification, and is managed by appointed leaders. The Venus Project’s aim is to surpass the need for the use of money. Police, prisons and the military would no longer be necessary when goods, services, healthcare, and education are available to all people. The Venus Project would replace politicians with a cybernated society in which all of the physical entities are managed and operated by computerized systems. The only region that the computers do not operate or manage is the surveillance of human beings. This would be completely unnecessary and considered socially offensive. A society that uses technology without human concern has no basis of survival. Communism has no blueprint or methodology to carry out their ideals and along with capitalism, fascism, and socialism, will ultimately go down in history as failed social experiments.Just because the technology that can make this paradigm shift in society feasible, came from a capitalist society does not mean we need to continue to use this system to evolve and grow as a human race. The “that’s the way we’ve always done it” excuse is only made by those who complain about current state of affairs and fail to be part of the solutions. Earth is abundant with plentiful resources. Our practice of rationing resources through monetary control is no longer relevant and is counter-productive to our survival.

        People are moving in this direction with or without you, and that is clearly presented in this article as well as various sites on the internet. Some examples: Crowd Sourcing, Global Campaign for the 4-Hour Work Day, B Corporation, Fashioning Change, It Starts With Us, Love Drop, Love Bomb and the list goes on.

        Like

      • “a cybernated society in which all of the physical entities are managed and operated by computerized systems”

        Hey, yeah! I saw that movie! THX15…..THX178…..what was it called? Yeah, great movie! A model for our future.

        Like

  10. I tried Couchsurfing last year in SE Asia and it was awesome. Met some really cool people from all over the world. The best part was the couchsurfing parties once a week where you could meet all the other couchsurfers and hosts.

    There are some hosts who are just trying to hookup, but it was never a huge problem. If you’re a girl and you want to avoid that then look for female hosts, of course.

    David

    Like

  11. When I first saw the title of this article I thought, “Couchsurfing, duh!”

    I just started getting involved in CS a few months ago, hosted my first surfers last month and it was awesome…2 girls that had ridden bikes from Canada to TJ!! It was a great experience, met some great new interesting friends, and got to show off my city.

    Can’t wait to watch the documentary!

    Like

  12. I love the idea of a video request when looking for a couch. It gave me an idea: why not post an intro video (link) on your main CS profile page? It can be a great opportunity to show off your digs when hosting, or your personality when surfing. I’m going to get on that…thanks, Tim. Also, CONGRATS ALEX!!!

    Like

  13. I’ve “surfed” more than 35 different people’s homes using Couch Surfing! Amazing concept and excellent website to allow people to do this.
    I was getting tired of the typical backpackers experience – Couch Surfing reinvigorated my passion and love of travel!

    Like

  14. While many talk about the benefits of being a surfer, it’s also awesome as a host. My wife and I have hosted about a dozen couchsurfers and each one was a positive experience.

    Some stories:

    – We hosted a girl named Gul, a Turkish national who was going to school in Detroit. She stayed with us over Thanksgiving break, where she had her first American thanksgiving. We then drove to the beach as she had never seen one, then drove all the way to New Orleans for a party.

    – We hosted a 4H club who were going to hike and bike up the Underground Railroad trail. They financed this trip by becoming really good at ballroom dancing and performing for audiences.

    – We hosted Basil, an Indian national who worked for a satellite company and was coming into town for India fest. His dad was a colonel in the Indian army and has a farm in South India. With elephants. Hopefully we still have a standing invitation to visit his family back in India!

    – We hosted a guy who was down on his luck, had lost his job in the housing collapse and was going to New Orleans to find work, and he was trying to save as much money as possible. He had a tough few years and it helped us to gain perspective on our own situation.

    – We hosted a couple from Georgia who needed a place to stay overnight because the wife (who was pregnant) had to make it back to UGA to do tests. We saw them for a total of 4 hours and they left us a wonderful note even though we didn’t see them.

    These are just a few of the great experiences you can have as a host, you can meet a ton of cool people and have interactions you would not normally have in your own community. I highly recommend it.

    Like

  15. It’s great to see Alex’s doco get some coverage and support from 4HWW.

    I am also in love with CouchSurfing, I have been a member for donkeys (years): hosting and surfing countless couches, and met even more amazing travellers through the organised meetings and online forums.

    Like others have commented, I’m not a huge fan of the new direction CS is taking; however, I still believe in people making the travel experience better. So I’m still an active member, and I weed out the rubbish requests and forum trolls to find those few diamonds-in-the-rough that become life-long friends.

    I encourage every traveller to be open-minded and try new experiences. Find what works for you. Whether that’s hotels, hostels, camp-grounds, CouchSurfing (or some other hospitality exchange).

    Have you, or will you consider trying CouchSurfing Tim? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Maybe you’d become the “4 Hour CouchSurfer”. Hahaha.

    Like

  16. Thanks for the post, Tim, I already suspected this was a Couchsurfing article, ha ha. As much as I loved Couchsurfing before, one thing I do want to warn people is since more people are on there, there will be plenty of people whose personalities simply don’t gel well, and there’s also a lot of self-promotion and exaggeration in some profiles–ended up with some people once who claimed to be “open-minded” but said a lot of ignorant things, and didn’t seem to pick up some cultural norms that were offending some locals in the country I met up with them in. They had their crowd of friends who thought they were funny, but I and another group weren’t impressed with them.

    Another thing is, in some cities, some Couchsurfing meetups are mostly just a drinking session, and that’s okay–but like anywhere else, a few people will be decent, and a number of people will not be memorable. So caveat emptor: everyone is on there, but that includes potential people you may not get along with even if your profiles and interaction with one another seems to indicate good times, reality might kick in. But for every few turkeys I’ve met, I’ve still met a number of good friends and even a couple lifelong ones too.

    Like

  17. I’ve used couch surfing a handful of times state side while working events out of town. Had one bad experience where I left early because the guy who hosted A LOT wouldn’t stop hitting on me. I’ve couch surfed since then and had great experiences.

    Tim I gotta know though…is Alex your girlfriend?!

    I think I saw a video that you mentioned your girlfriends name was Alexandra..please please say its so <3

    Like

      • I am currently reading 4hour workweek. What do you consider
        “Filling time “?? I used to get the top6 things done every day.
        Now I am down to 3-4. I then go to less important things, such as
        Calls, finding my next deal ( real estate ) due diligence on a pending deal,
        Etc. it does not feel like make work and I am in a rebuilding mode
        And cannot just do the top 2 and go home and play the piano.
        Does the work sound ” filler” to you? If not, what does filler look like so I can avoid it.
        Thanks, Steve

        Like

  18. I’ve already downloaded the film (because unfortunately I live in Ireland and the screenings are 6000 miles away so I doubt I’ll make it). Anyway although I’ve actually been a verified member of couchsurfing for over a year now I’ve always been a little shy in starting out. I figure once I start and get a few references I’ll be “all good in the hood” (as nobody in Ireland has EVER said) but I’m procrastinating like crazy with CS I always think people won’t accept my request.

    This is my couchsurfing profile http://www.couchsurfing.org/profile.html?id=J85CL05 I’d LOVE to hear helpful critiques of my profile. I’ve been told its good (but that’s from friends who know I’m not a dangerous weirdo) But I’d love an honest critique from people who don’t know me personally

    Anyway Tim thanks for the helpful content once again. And if you ever want to stay somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Ireland you’ve got the link to my CS profile ;)

    Like

  19. I love couchsurfing! I signed up 7 years ago just to meet new friends in my town and then quickly started coouchsurfing too. One of my firest experiences was in Montreal, and th4e host gave up her bedroom to the 5 of us as we were there for a couchcrash festival.
    I also ended up meeting my current partner through couchsurfing (been together for almost 6 years now). Not a dating site, but you make some great friendships (and ours just turned into something more).
    I’ve never had a bad experience with couchsurfing. All my hosts have gone above and beyond what I ever would have expected.

    I will definitely keep couchsurfing and hosting!

    Like

  20. As a veteran CouchSurfing Ambassador and a Moderator of one of the largest CS communities in the world, I just want to say to those of you who are about to sign up to become a CouchSurfer:

    Yes, the Place pages (aka city groups) are confusing and don’t make much sense. But hopefully there will be changes quickly implemented so the website is easier to use. Give it a few weeks!

    And as someone who got to meet Alex while she was filming, I have to say a massive congrats for getting a powerhouse like Tim Ferriss behind your project. Way to go!

    Like

  21. Thanks for the amazing article..

    I just came across this concept a few days back when I was listening to a podcast called ‘how to travel and live virtually for free’ on The suitcase enterpreneur by Natalie Sisson. It talks about this great website called Homeexchange.com where u can literally swap homes and live for free. Then I searched somemore and found out about couch surfing…what an idea!…in fact I even found out that there are couch surfers in places as far as Bhutan…I look forward to becoming a couch surfer soon and meeting new and interesting people…

    Warm Regards,

    Aditya Jaykumar

    Like

  22. Wow, that was an amazing and interesting article, I can’t believe that person was able to do all that for such little money or free. I’m an introvert, obviously, lol, so I can’t imagine staying with all those different strangers, I’d go crazy, but if you don’t mind strangers, seems like a fun adventure!

    Like

  23. Tim, thanks for the post. It changed my perspective on the thing. I have heard about it befre, and even been to CS catch-ups few times, but never really considered about actually doing. I might as well give it a shot!

    Like

  24. I couchsurfed mostly for the first world countries, but never for the developing countries. I had sent an open Couch Request in Istanbul before, and specifically asked for female or family host, and as soon as my open request was posted, there are like 50 Turkish men sending me message inviting me to their house. I have certain degree of safety concern as solo female traveler, so I would rather pay for hostel instead of getting myself into a awekward situation that I have to back out really quick.

    I couchsurfed mostly in Europe and all the hosts I had were wonderful. Except this one guy who hosted me in Amsterdam was asking me to share bed with him because he invited too many Couchsurfers (and all females), and running out of space.to sleep. I rejected the idea so then he asked other girls. And (unfortunately) there are people would say ‘yes’ to this situation. And that is why this host think it is okay to ask female surfers to share bed. And this creepy alarm caused me to search my next couch really quick.

    Couchsurfing is rather personal because there are certain degree of time you need to spend with a host. Rather than staying in hostels that you can just wondering out and do whatever you want in your own time.

    Like

  25. The CouchSurfing *community* is also pretty stellar. I just flew in to Bangkok 2 days ago and last night I randomly went to a Couchsurfing meetup…there were like 50 freaking people there! It was great!

    It’s like meetup.com for interesting, international traveler types. It’s by far one of the best ways to quickly make friends in a new city, be it Miami Beach, Medellín, Bangkok, etc!

    Like

  26. I’ve been hosting for several years and have never had to leave a bad reference. I’ll be traveling in February and plan to surf a few myself. So happy to see this a featured article on the blog and great tips!

    Like

  27. I couchsurfed a lot when I was younger. It made me realise the lengths I was willing to go to in order to get free accommodation: like that time I couchsurfed with a nudist in New York. Nice guy, but I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to maintain eye contact or whether it was polite to take a peek and nod in approval.

    Although I probably would couchsurf again if it was just me travelling alone, these days I tend to housesit more (mainly through sites like http://www.trustedhousesitters.com). Like couchsurfing it’s free, but you get to look after somebody else’s place by yourself which for me, someone who works while he travels, suits me much better. I don’t think it would be very easy to run a business and couchsurf. The hangovers alone would make that very difficult.

    Like

    • Yeay to couch surfing! Have fond memories from surfing in Mexico and being looked after by this lovely HUGE family! Like James I’ve also discovered Trustedhousesitters.com – staying in people’s homes for free while they are away. I travel with my partner so it’s been brilliant for finding a great home and having our privacy, while enjoying living in a different country. We managed to find a house sit in Costa Rica which was unreal – a villa with infinity pool and maid! The catch? We had to look after their two german shepherd’s as well – which became the thing we loved the most about house sitting, walking down the local beach with the dogs and being accepted like one of the locals – seriously worth checking out, if you’ve not heard about it. Like your CS profile you have to put in a bit of effort to give you stand-out from the crowd but it’s not hard to do, and def. worth it! Thanks, Sarah

      Like

  28. That’d good that you talk about couchsurfing. I knew it after coming to Germany, and tried it a bunch of times already. It can really be awesome and far better than a hotel. In CS everything is in a very friendly and relaxed environment.
    Or at least 2 years ago it was like that, didn’t use it much recently, to be honest.
    Definitely worth trying, and you may not want to ever go back.
    My experience is that after doing couchsurfing you’ll never want to go back to anything hotel-like.

    Like

  29. Thanks for the article, I love this idea of travelling on trade, check out http://www.thepixeltrade.com a young talented photographer is trading his (considerable) photography skills for room, board and travel. I traded with Shantanu late last year and was blown away by him, his skills, and the experience. He is still on the road and always trading – so check it out. Wonderful opportunity for start ups and others who need great digital photos for their online businesses.

    Like

  30. Firstly, Couchsurfing is great – I’ve used it on the odd occasion myself and I know others who have been heavily involved for years now.

    With that in mind, it’s always good to be aware of alternatives and so I thought I’d point out bewelcome.org. It’s essentially the same service as CS but perhaps will be more appealing to those of you who are concerned about the ‘comercialization’ of CS. Why? Because it’s non-profit and is governed by a board of directors and general assembly which are community elected.

    Regardless, I love that organisations of this nature are emerging. I look forward to seeing the new ways such communities will innovate and adapt in the future.

    Like

    • Thanks for mentioning BeWelcome. Another advantage of BeWelcome is that you’re not going to be removed for asking questions, which has happened to 3 long time and active community members on couchsurfing in the past week. This type of random censorship is probably going a step too far even for the cultish followers that couchsurfing has gathered over the year. Imagine your google account is removed for asking a moderately critical question on your blog? For many couchsurfers their couchsurfing account is more important than their google account…

      Like

  31. Couchsurfing is one of those things based around a community which gets better the bigger the community gets as long as they stick to the origins and it doesn’t get abused.

    I don’t believe in the ‘free board’ bit, as that was never the point from what I saw originally. It’s not to live off other people but to have that cultural exchange which is amplified by sleeping over someones house.

    I know food is a great cultural exchange, but it’s not something that is free so shouldn’t be expected if anyone is basing the idea of doing it on the title of this post. Many people are attracted to the free accommodation thing (I admit that’s one reason why I did it to start with when I went backpacking) but when involved one realises it’s a whole lot more than that.

    I’ve been away from the couch surfing community for a while now. Mostly out of guilt that I live in a tiny box in Japan with no room to offer surfers, but I should really get back on there just to do a few coffee meet ups and make some new friends. It’s also great for that.

    Like

  32. This is awesome, Tim.

    Part of my dream is being a traveling blogger/marketer.
    (The other way you’ve affected my dream is on the post this links to)

    This just ads to the arsenal of tools.

    I already reg’d w/ couchsurfing,
    but this post just brought more belief into the system.

    Thanks!
    David

    Like

  33. Great to see this post, Tim. I took my 6-year-old son CouchSurfing across Jamaica in 2009 and we stayed in a combination of villas, shantytowns, and hotels. When I tell people about our adventure and that we stayed with “strangers” in a rundown part of Kingston they look like they’re ready to call Child Protection Services but it was a fantastic experience for everyone. The folks in Water House were so incredibly welcoming and warm, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

    Like

  34. This is great. Couchsurfing is an awesome resources, and people seem to be friendly. I still prefer to stay in hostels, since it’s easier to meet people. On my next trip I plan to use Couchsurfing more.

    Like

    • Hey Matt,

      That’s how I felt up to 2008. Then I no longer needed to ask the front desks what was cool to do or see. I was right in with the locals and was meeting their friends. Hostels are good too. Many experiences depend o having awesome hosts or not. You can really get a feel from someone based on their profile and references, so pay close attention to those!

      Like

  35. I just signed up for the screening tonight! Alexandra, hopefully I’ll get a chance to chat with you.

    I just realized why I never signed up for CS before, even though I thought it a great idea, (I do love adventure traveling!) Too much of my time was being taken up by my job. SO BIG SHOUT OUT to T Ferris for two things:

    – bringing this event to my attention, (as well as someone else’s comment about WOOFING?! which I’ll check out in a minute)

    – And more so for the 4HWW mindset, freeing me from my desk, and creating this community, YOU ROCK!

    Like

    • @ Eric Gross: I will definitely look out for you tonight at the screening at the HubSOMA, 6:30! I agree, when we free our minds, the desk will often follow…

      Thanks for sharing all your inspiring CouchSurfing experiences!! I agree,@ Steve Place, hosting can be just as rewarding as surfing (I have an amazing German surfer, “hey Gerrit” staying in my loft right now). I encourage everyone reading to host if you can!

      I do want to stress, CouchSurfing is not solely about pursuing a free place to stay; it truly is about the cultural exchange. That is another reason I encourage hosting before surfing, because you realize what its like to be on the other side of the exchange and I think makes you a more well-rounded surfer. However, it is the Sharing Economy pay-it-forward system that gave me (and now 5 million others in the community) the freedom & way possible to cross paths with some of the most amazing people I have ever come across… and not having accommodation to have to pay for, undisputedly made it financially feasible for me to focus on my funds on the dream (the film) and reaching 6 continents, 6+ months, 20+ countries.

      As far as fear of the “commercialization” aspect of CS, I thought @Rob put it so eloquently: “Couchsurfing is one of those things based around a community which gets better the bigger the community gets as long as they stick to the origins and it doesn’t get abused.”

      I, wholeheartedly agree, Rob! We want the community to get bigger. We just want a community of people who get the ethos and spirit of cultural exchange to boot. Its not about being a freeloader at all! In fact, one of my unofficial CouchSurfing etiquette tips is when surfing, is to leave a gift, whether it be cooking a meal (ideally representative of your culture), bringing them something from your home country that they would not be able to experience otherwise, or minimally, a kind note. Its about exchange & experience first and foremost!

      As a filmmaker, by biggest hope when people see this film, is that they realize that what I did does not have to be unusual, uncomfortable, or far-fetched. CouchSurfing and hosting can be a lifestyle. Commonplace. There is a buffet of sharing economy platforms that can enrich your life (WWOOFING, Airbnb, Tripping, HomeExchange, the list goes on) and $$ money as a barrier for exchange is no longer becoming an excuse for not leaving your comfort zone. The community at your fingertips!

      I genuinely hope to meet many of you at the screening tonight! But don’t worry, if you are 6,000 miles away (@ Niall ) because come March we shall be announcing our plans to host FREE CS screenings ALL over the world!!! We are looking to solidify some sponsorship so the film can be FREE to anyone and everyone who wants to see it.

      Oh yes, we will be turning to the CS community to facilitate what I hope will be one of the biggest, sharing economy-style International screening tours ever!! If you are interested in hosting a screening, contact info@onecouchatatime.com & please check out the film: http://www.onecouchatatime.com/index.php/see-film

      Thanks, Tim, for honoring CouchSurfing and sharing my story in your legendary blog and with your incredible 4HWK community! My inbox is flooded! I seriously feel like I just went through Social Media puberty ;) Thank you!!

      Like

  36. Tim,

    Unrelated question: What happened to the 24 things to learn in 48 hours post? I watched 2 of the videos but wanted to come back to it and it seems to have disappeared.

    Like

  37. Hey Tim,

    Another great post by the way.

    Thought I would ad a useful tip of my own, as it has helped me travel Europe on pennies.

    Most expats or professions that relocate frequently (aviation crew for example) are normally always giving a room or couch to fellow employees who are out of base. They tend to have social media group pages. I have found that by reaching out to these groups its easy to crash pretty much anywhere, Evan if your not an employee. (A bit of creativity is recommended)
    Ive done this by reaching out to aviation professionals as I know from experience they tend to relocate often and a strong social bond exists.

    As for pre-booking hotels for example. You can save money by translating your search in to a language like Hungarian or Romanian where the economy is not so strong, and copying and pasting in to the local Google. You can find some great deals that are not intended for the Western Market.

    Ill be touching more on this subject pretty soon.

    Cant believe I was denied entry to view you speak yesterday in Oxford. It seems that oxford entrepreneurs sent out a FB invite without some form of permission of the location manager. I was the last in the queue and smiling from ear to ear with all 3 of your books before I was informed that my name wasn’t on the list. Lets just say that sympathy was not part of that woman’s vocabulary. I was knocking the back door finding the thought of braking the door down and commenting “Be difficult when it matters” appealing but in held back :-).

    Are you still in Oxford? If not have a safe journey

    Like

  38. I’ve been traveling for nearly a year around Europe now and use Couchsurfing all the time. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it at first, but after doing it once or twice I was hooked. I use it ALL THE TIME now, and completely understand that it’s not just about getting free accommodation but about sharing a culture and experience and meeting people. I’ve had some of the best travel experiences with couchsurfers and can’t wait to host people when I get back home to the States. It’s definitely true that CS isn’t a dating site, so *never* expect anything, but I can personally attest that sometimes you’re attracted to each other, and don’t be afraid to explore that.

    Like

  39. I could have never done a Busking Tour of Australia without the help of so many couchsurfers along the way. Me and my camera operator were hosted by great hosts all along of our 2 months trip. And some of them didn’t even host us but offered us tickets to Theater, to attraction parks or gave us rides or cooked dinner for us. It was just incredible to see such generosity at work and I can say my trip in Australia was unbelievable thanks to all of them!

    You can see the videos and all of the magnificent hosts we had here: http://www.dailymotion.com/playlist/x21y2s_junecaravel_busking-in-australia-eng/1#video=xqko1b

    Like

  40. My wife and I began to use Couch Surfing a little over a week now. But not really to host or surf. We’re in Istanbul and we wanted to meet local people.

    We found out that Couch Surfing is just perfect for that. I actually wrote two posts recently about our experience:

    http://www.casalpartiu.com/2013/01/couch-surfing.html

    http://www.casalpartiu.com/2013/01/travel-with-local-guide.html

    Our only frustration is that it took us so long to start using it. Hopefully we’ll also be able to surf and host in the near future.

    Tim, great article, by the way. Thanks for that.

    Vinícius

    Like

  41. My girlfriend Anna & I just spent 8 months traveling in SE Asia & Europe. A friend convinced us to try Couchsurfing around about mid-way into our trip…
    It was the best thing we could ever had done. It lead to the most personable & incredible experiences that we NEVER would have been exposed to if we were didnt jump into the Couchsurfing scene. My advice – just do it!

    Like

  42. 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

  43. 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

  44. 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.

    Like

    • 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.

      Like

    • 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.

      Like

    • 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!

      Like

  45. 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.

    Like

  46. 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.

    Like

    • 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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  47. 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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  48. 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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  49. 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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  50. @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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  51. 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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  52. 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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  53. 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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  54. 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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  55. 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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  56. 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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  57. 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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  58. 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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  59. All the advice you gave are true. If a person is really intent on traveling, nothing can stop him from traveling, not even the money. It is a big factor but there are ways to overcome the financial dilemma. Tim, there’s also one more way to be able to raise funds for travel “crowd-funding”. It’s the growing trend on the net right now and if you want to travel because you want to do social good abroad, this may be a good resource for you. Great post!

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