All About CouchSurfing: The Complete Guide

Introduction | What‘s Involved | Cost | Hosts | Surfers | Ambassadors | Groups | Events | How to Travel with CS | Creating Your Profile | The Couch Search | Announcing your Itinerary | Organizing Couch Requests | Safety | Profile | Verification | Friends | References | Vouching | How to Host with CS | Locations and Statistics

Introduction

CS Logo CouchsurfingCouchsurfing is a neologism (a coined word, usually used by a group of people sharing similar interests. A word/phrase is generally a neologism until it enters more common usage. They tend to be new in the language’s lexicon, formed primarily through linguistic creativity rather than having been borrowed from another language. *Many words in the present-day independent traveler’s lingo are made up of neologisms, such as many of the words/phrases in our glossary) that has come to be the go-to word for what has formerly been known as hospitality services, accommodation sharing, hospex, or homestay networks. All these terms, including couchsurfing (or couch surfing), are basically the same; they all essentially refer to networks of travelers who host and guide others while someone is visiting their city and country.

For this article, I will talk about the company CouchSurfing.org, which is currently the largest hospitality/homestay network in the world. I am not sure if the term couchsufing was coined from the company, or if the company based their website on that term, but for the purposes of this article, the capitalized version will refer to the company.

CouchSurfing.org is quite a great community, full of travelers and people who love traveling. This company aims to facilitate “inspiring experiences” by helping travelers connect with their destinations on a more personal level. CouchSurfing.org provides this mission statement:

At CouchSurfing International, we envision a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter. Building meaningful connections across cultures enables us to respond to diversity with curiosity, appreciation and respect. The appreciation of diversity spreads tolerance and creates a global community.

What’s Involved

The CouchSurfing (CS) community and the entire experience is completely dependent on the regular people that use their site, called couchsurfers. CouchSurfers are regular people that love to travel and experience more of the truer side of life at their destination(s). Though couchsurfing was the term coined because many hosts would allow a traveler or two to stay at their flats and “surf their couch,” members of CouchSurfing.org’s community also includes the “surfers,” as well as people who might not be able to accommodate at the moment but would be able to meet for a meal, a cup of coffee, etc.

Cost

Completely free! Hosts should not ever charge their surfers for anything, and CS goes so far as to say on their website that anyone who does would be removed from the community. I personally like the idea of bringing my host a little souvenir from my home, and helping out with chores around the house or treating hosts to a meal or a drink is a good practice, but should never feel obligatory; no participation in any of the CouchSurfing activities are required or obligatory, yet all are encouraged.

Hosts

CouchSurfing hosts are the backbone of the community. These are the folks who make travel possible for many people, by offering up a spare room, air mattress, or literally the couch for travelers to stay. Hosts usually go far above and beyond, often times taking their guest(s) out for tours, cooking them meals, and introducing them to other local people.

Surfers

Couchsurfers, or simply surfers, are the people that are traveling and looking to make a connection while abroad. Though the term surfers may sound like it implies that they need accommodations, it is generally accepted to refer to all traveling members of the Couchsurfing.org community who take part in a Couchsurfing function while away, including meeting a local for a simple meal or drink, going to a CS meet or gathering, or meeting a native for a tour of a part of their city.

Ambassadors

CS ambassadors are those that Couchsurfing.org members that have both a great love for the Couchsurfing project and a deep desire to promote the wonderful experiences that CS has to offer. Most perform unpaid, voluntary administrative work on the website, as well as reaching out to new members.

Groups

CouchSurfing groups are self-explanatory; they are groups formed by CouchSurfing members with a general theme. There are many themes that groups focus on, such as music, sports, politics, etc. The most general groups created on CS are the various city groups, which are made of members who share a love for their city and are made up usually of local residents, upcoming travelers, and past travelers. Members of groups sometimes meet up and create events for members, as well as anyone who happens to be traveling to the area during the event’s time.

Events

Events on CouchSurfing are usually created by group members and focus on a theme. For example, on my recent trip to Warsaw, Poland, I was invited to go to a party that the CS Warsaw Group puts together about once per month. The party was fantastic, composed mainly of locals who love to show travelers a good time. I had a great time and made quite a few lifelong friends.

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