World Travel from Your Very Own Living Room

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Growing up in a small, seemingly remote town in central California, I always had dreams of traveling to exotic and strange destinations. By the time I was twenty-five, I had conquered most of my fantasies by traveling to places even I thought would be impossible given my humble beginnings. Drinking tea with monks in a remote village in Tibet to dragging my mother to Dracula’s castle in Romania during Halloween was finally a reality—not just images jumping off my glossy Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

Eventually reality set in—my wallet ran dry and I realized it was time for me to settle down in one spot for a while. Not willing to give up my love for adventure and discovery of new and exciting destinations I was lucky enough to stumble upon the website couchsurfing.com. The site is built around the simple idea of bringing together travelers from all corners of globe in exchange for their culture and travel stories while also providing a night’s rest on, well, your couch. Considering all the horror stories CNN conjures up daily to frighten the meek and uninformed, it’s no wonder people are a little hesitant with the idea of opening your home to a stranger. I was a little suspicious myself of how such a utopian idea of bringing the world of traveling to your living room would play out, but I must agree it has been one of my best traveling experiences yet.

The site requires that you set up a profile of yourself with a photo, your travel experiences and goals, and as much personality explanation as possible. Your profile is then grouped into a database based on your location and linguistic abilities. Individual travelers then have the ability to search through a list of member’s couches in the areas they will be traveling in virtually every country. All couch surfing experiences are entirely free of charge—in fact, charging is grounds for membership cancelation. The other great idea for the members not quite comfortable with having someone new in their home is the option of setting your member preference to meet for coffee only. I did the meet for coffee option in the beginning while I was still getting used to the idea of couch surfing and found this to be a great way to meet people traveling through my city.

My first couch surfing meet up was with a lovely German woman from Hamburg. We met for coffee and exchanged our crazy travel stories throughout Europe and Asia and to this day still send yearly holiday wishes. One of my favorite travelers was the amazing Swiss young lady that stayed on my couch last summer and surprised me with her ability to speak four languages at the age of twenty-one! Many couch surfing experiences later, I am happy to say that I have hosted travelers from Switzerland, Italy, Australia, England, and soon Turkey—just to name a few! Though my own traveling experiences have slowed in recent years, with each new traveler that I welcome into my home, I am taken on a journey to their country and culture as well.

All of my best travel experiences have been greatly enhanced by the lovely people I have met in each country I have been lucky enough to travel through. Just having even the smallest conversation with someone from another culture has provided such fascinating insight into another world that one can never truly experience from the pages of a guide book or tour of a city’s greatest museum. I cannot express enough how this site has literally brought the world to my living room and provided such great travel experiences from my very own home. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or just curious about meeting new people from around the globe, I think anyone with an open mind would greatly benefit from the couch surfing experience. The world is out there—you just have to open your door!

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