Besides hostels and hotels, a new way of traveling is taking place all over the globe.Couchsurfing.org is a website that brings travelers and hosts together. Like a social networking site, members have profiles that state whether they are willing to host a traveler or if they are looking for a place to stay for a couple of days.
Some members are only willing to show travelers around and share a cup of coffee while others offer a private room to stay in.
Kate Bartell became a couch surfing member in June. Since then, she has been hosted by a family in Sydney, Australia.
“I was a little skeptical,” said Bartell about staying with a family she didn’t know. Though, “It turned out well; I had nothing to worry about,” she continued.
“They were absolutely lovely.They cooked me food. They brought me into their family,” Bartell said.
Bartell traveled light on her journey but found she traveled a bit too light. She had to buy clothes while in Australia.
“I found that jeans are essential,” Bartell said.
Lauren Klinkhamer has used couchsurfing.org to travel to Spain, France, Amsterdam, Britain, Germany, Oregon, and Washington.
“It’s a way of really getting to know an area when you’re traveling so you feel at home,” she said.
The majority of Klinkhamer’s experiences through the site have been pleasant. Though, in Amsterdam, she stayed with a man who would host four to five people a night.
“At 2 a.m. he was hoola hooping in the house and doing handstands,” Klinkhamer said.
For a veteran couch surfer like David Ivazian, an MCC student, hosting four to five people a night is a regular thing.
“Nobody has to pay anything. There is nothing expected but out of courtesy everyone tends to come up with some cute little goofy gift. Whether they make you cupcakes at your house or buy you some chocolate because they know you like chocolate,” Ivazian said.
The traveler that prepared Ivazian cupcakes was a 22-year-old woman from Seattle who was bicycling to South America.
“Last we heard from her, she was biking into Mexico . She made vegan cupcakes and the icing was avocados. I was like that sounds really weird. Let me try it,” Ivazian said.
Ivazian has already traveled to Italy, France, and South Africa using couchsurfing.org but wants to travel everywhere.
“It’s a fanastic opportunity if you’re willing to put yourself out there,” Ivazian said.
Cecilia Gonzalez has hosted over 40 people when she lived in Bolivia. Gonzalez has been a couch surfing member since 2007.
“After hosting my first ten people was when it became a style of living,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez now lives in Tempe but in Bolivia she would host people at her parents house. They were hesistant at first but are now comfortable with the idea.
“Some of my guests will make some presents out of the blue…One time a dutch girl and Belgian girl gave flowers to my mom,” Gonzalez said.
Even though Gonzalez has hosted many people she has only had problems with one, a traveler who was interested in staying out all night.
“You can have different religious views, different political views, but you have one thing in common that unites you and keeps respect between people and it’s the common interest of traveling and meeting new cultures,” Gonzalez said.
While most use couchsurfing.org for traveling abroad, Amoneeta Beckstein used the site to find places to stay in the United States when doing PhD interviews.
“The first time I used it, I was really sketched about meeting people on the internet,” Beckstein said.
Beckstein had an interview in New York City for Columbia University. He needed a place to stay for two nights.
“I stayed with two different people the two nights I went there and they were really amazing people. They were the types of people I would’ve probably been friends with had I lived in New York for awhile,” Beckstein said.
Beckstein has also hosted travelers. He enjoys hearing where others have been.
“It’s a way to vicariously travel,” he said.