What is Couchsurfing? Couchsurfing is a fairly new term 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. There is also a worldwide network website connecting travelers with members of local communities who offer free accommodation.
I first heard of couchsurfing.org five years ago from a friend who mentioned she was hosting 2 travelers from Spain. What an incredible concept: a website that connects travelers with local hosts from around the globe. My first experience couchsurfing was during my four week travel to Brazil. I started in the Amazon rainforest then down along the coastline. I couchsurfed pretty much the entire time. It was a fantastic experience. Every home and family I stayed with had a special personality and experience. I stayed on an island in a small, modest home with no furniture and hammocks for beds. I stayed in a huge mansion with 3 floors where I got lost at every turn. I stayed in a high-rise apartment with the ocean right across the street. The other places I stayed were just as special and different. Regardless of where I stayed, the result was always the same, I was greeted with welcome hospitality by people who shared the traveler mentality of greater connectedness to the world.
Now what about couchsurfing locally? It seems so much more exotic when hosting internationally, but can that same open hospitality work for hosting a couchsurfer in our culture who lives just a few hours away? I started couchsurfing domestically a couple years ago and it's worked out fairly well. The homes were clean, the hosts were nice, and overall it's been very helpful for times I needed a place to sleep for a night or two. I've hosted also and have always had a good experience. However, the one thing I will add is that I got a greater connection with my international hosts and am still in contact with them than with my domestic hosts. I wonder if social culture plays a role in this?
Overall, I still am a firm believer in the concept of couchsurfing of hospitality and community connection. It has helped me tremendously, both financially and socially, and I feel fine with paying it forward and extending the same courtesy to other travelers.