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What's a couch surfer?
'Couch surfer' is used to describe someone who sleeps on different couches in different homes. In travel, this is usually someone who either wants or needs to save money so finds somewhere free to stay, but often it's a person who wants to immerse themselves in the local culture, so uses couch surfing as a home-stay.
Couch surfing isn't necessarily staying on someone's couch these days, although many people do literally offer their couches to travelers if they don't have a spare room; sometimes this can even be just a space on the floor.
A couch surfer doesn't always stay somewhere for free. Sometimes a host will offer a place to stay in exchange for work or in return for a place to stay when they visit your area. You can couch-surf locally, nationally and internationally; alone or with friends or family.
The term 'couch surfer' has been around for years now, but it's often now associated with Couchsurfing.com – a website that brings couch surfers and hosts together all over the world.
How does Couchsurfing.com work?
By signing up for free on Couchsurfing.com, you can find a place to stay in just about any place you can think of around the world. Look for an available host and send them a message asking if you can stay with them. It's that easy! You can also become the host instead of the surfer, and accept people into your home as they travel the world.
What about safety?
The idea can be a little scary, especially for a woman traveling alone, but Couchsurfing.com takes your safety seriously, and most of the Couchsurfing.com users have shown themselves to be good folk – this can be seen in reviews on the site.
Sadly, there's always some bad eggs who let the side down, so trust your gut, learn how to protect yourself and have a back-up plan.
When I traveled to New York alone, I looked into the possibility of trying couch surfing myself, but as I only had limited time in the city I decided to book a hostel instead. I wanted to come and go as I pleased and not use someone's hospitality simply for a bed for the night. Couch surfing is definitely something I will think about again in the future, when I have time to spend with the host.
Have you tried couch surfing? Have you surfed or even hosted?