Couchsurfing (v.) – “Referring to the practice of moving from one friend’s house to another, sleeping in whatever spare space is available, floor or couch, generally staying a few days before moving on to the next house.” (Wikipedia)
Brian and I discovered CouchSurfing (this time it’s an organization, not a verb) while here in Freiburg despite it having been an international entity since 2004. We learned about it through conversations with friends who travel with frequency.
CouchSurfing allows you two options: 1) You can host someone looking for a place to stay in your area, or 2) You can “surf” and be someone’s house guest while you’re traveling. Surfing is a free service, and etiquette suggests you bring some small delicacy, wine, or chocolate (my personal favorite) as gratitude for their kindness.
Brian and I have participated both ways, and we have been so pleasantly surprised at how great it is!
*Disclaimer: Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and all other who may be thinking we’re insane for staying with/hosting strangers – research is throughly done via ratings on the CouchSurfing website and significant Facebook stalking. While the concept may be great, we do ensure to the best of our ability that we feel safe with the people we’re about to meet.
While getting a free place to stay while you surf is awesome, the best part of both hosting and surfing is actually getting to meet people you may have never met otherwise.
For example, we first participated as surfers on our weekend trip to Luxembourg City a few weeks ago. We stayed with a couple (M & Y) who had great reviews from past surfers. They had a pretty comfy double couch for us to stay on, and were amazing hosts what with providing us with copious amounts of information on getting around town and advising us the best places to eat and drink. On top of all of this, they cooked us dinner both nights! M is from Luxembourg and had an awesome knowledge of the history of the area, and Y is from China, with a hunger to learn any and everything (especially languages).
We hosted for the first time very recently as well, and met T, a Chinese lawyer who is studying international law in Cologne, Germany. Brian and I showed him around Freiburg, and he took us out for beers! He was a very gracious guest, and while we know this won’t be the case 100% of the time, it seems the CouchSurfing community truly respects each other and their hosts’ homes.
Brian and I will likely host and surf several more times while here in Europe (including in a few weeks when we head to Cologne for Carnival!) We may even continue to host when we make our way back home to the U.S., depending on where we end up and what kind of accommodations we can offer. It’s really an awesome way to meet such interesting people!