Couchsurfing 101

Although this is a teaching/education blog, traveling is always a learning experience, so I will included this post about my experience with Couchsurfing.  Think of Couchsurfing like Airbnb, but no money changes hands.  You can find a couch, or in many cases a private room or home, for free, just about anywhere in the world.  The Couchsurfing community has been around for a long time, but for many the idea is new and strange.  Why would you host strangers, or stay at a stranger’s home?  The best answer I can give is from my recent experience.

I attended my first Couchsurfing “event” or meeting in Mystic, Connecticut last month and was able to meet people from their 20s to their 60s who have all either hosted or traveled via Couchsurfing.  Meeting these experienced couchsurfers gave me the opportunity to ask many questions that all first-timers have.  How do you get started?  What are the host’s responsibilities?  How do you know it’s safe?  How can I get references if I’m just getting started?  Have you ever had a bad experience?  Answers to all of these questions can be found on Couchsurfing.com,  The fact that every person at the event had unique and positive experiences to share convinced me to give it a try.

I created my Couchsurfing profile and, even though I live in an area with no public transportation and no reason to visit this time of year, I received a request within a few weeks.

Layce is a Brazilian graduate student studying global poverty at the One World Center in Williamstown, Mass.  After spending six months learning and fundraising and six months working on projects in Zambia, she and her team are on a road trip down the East coast, thanking those who supported their projects in Africa.  I knew I wanted to host Layce because of my strong connection to Brazil and because I am familiar with the work of the One World Center.  What could go wrong?  Although family members were worried for my safety and may have questioned my sanity, they were not surprised that I would try something like Couchsurfing.  None of us, however, were prepared for the impact this experience would have on all of us.  Details about that in my next post.

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