Hotel Alternatives Series – #2: Couch Surfing
Annick Levrier, a 62-year-old French woman living in Bordeaux, is a retired social worker who offers her daughter’s old bedroom, with a futon-style couch, along with breakfast and a tour of the city… for free to travelers who happen by.
Why? Because Annick, like many of the 909,455 members of Couchsurfing.com, is a people person. She’s a philosophy and culture enthusiast who’s eager to “travel through the exchanges” she has with her guests.
“Couchsurfing” generally means staying for free in a stranger’s home. You are not confined to couch stays — many, like Annick, offer a spare room. And while it may sound like the kind of bohemian hotel alternative that attracts young, freeloading party types (which it does), there’s a lot more to it than you might imagine.
In fact, using the site’s detailed search options, you can find fellow couch surfers or hosts of all ages, nationalities, and occupations. Plus, you can read reviews about the person from those who have hosted or stayed with him or her. Annick, for one, has nothing but glowing reviews from past guests.
Once you sign up as a member (it’s free), you can read all about Annick’s — or any other member’s — hobbies, life, spirituality, travel experiences, likes and dislikes, etc. and decide if she’s the kind of person whose couch you’d feel safe surfing. You can also see photos of Annick, her home, her spare room, her garden, and the 17 people she’s hosted in the past.
One fun feature on the site is member groups. Join one and find couches (or spare rooms) around the world with people of similar interests. Groups include: Married Couples with Kids, History While Traveling, Entrepreneurs, Spanish Language Learners, Photographers, World Poetry Lovers, Teachers, 50s+ Travellers, Food & Wine, Singles, etc.
Will you find rowdy, party-going, drug-toting, sketchy characters on the site? Yes. There are almost a million members, after all. But after a quick search, you’ll also find gems like Annick, with clean homes and generous hearts.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]