18 July 2011

Let's go surfing now...

Several of y'all have asked some of the following questions:
How can you afford to travel so much?
How do you have friends in all these countries?
Isn't it lonely to travel by yourself?

Now there are multiple answers to all of these questions, but there is one answer that I want to focus on: couch surfing

Right, so couch surfing is an organization that connects travelers to the part of the world they are visiting. It's totally free and a fun way to meet people (and no it's not a dating website).

Basically the way it works is you set up a profile (like facebook) and you indicate your couch status:
Able to host
Might be able to host
Meet for coffee

You join communities for the area you are in or of a topic that interests you. For example, right now I am in the communities for: Ft. Worth, Chile, Santiago, Last minute couch in Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso and Language Exchange. Each community has a message board, and you post or respond.

You can also seek people out individually - searching by name, region and other factors (such as couch availability).

The third way to meet people is that when you log in, you see a link to other profiles of people who have logged in near you.

Couch surfing takes a degree of trust. After all you are potentially going to the house of a stranger and or inviting them into yours. But the system is set up to safe guard this: every member can choose to be verified, messages and couch requests are recorded, feedback is left and one member can vouch for another. Is it perfect, no, but I am comfortable with it.

My first couch surfing experience was through Hospitality Club www.hospitality club.org in 2004-2005. I stayed with 4 different members in Germany, even being invited to Christmas / New Years celebrations. It was great, I met some people who I am still in contact with today. But after a while I stopped being involved.

This past year, I met several couch surfers and decided this was a great idea for Chile. In Chile I have been hosted by two different Chileans (one of them twice), have traveled with a CS member from France for a day trip, met up with a CSer in Viña who quickly became a friend of mine and met with a group of CSers in Santiago to go see the World Press Photo exhibit. Additionally I've exchanged messages with several others, but for various reasons, meeting up did not work out.

It's a leap, trust is involved. You don't have to travel to couch surf. If you are only comfortable with meeting a traveler for a cup of coffee or to show them around your own city, I totally recommend it - it's great!


Below are a few photos of my CS experiences in Chile.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Martín,Viña del Mar,Chile

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