Imagine wherever you go you have a friend ready to accommodate you during your stay. It’s a friendlier world with CouchSurfing.

I first learned of the online network through FlyBrother, whom I met on Twitter. He highly recommended it while warning that the site is not a “hook up” site, but if that happens, well, we are after all, grown ups.

CouchSurfing is an online network of travelers whom want to connect with others who enjoy traveling and enjoy the areas without being in hotels or hostels. The connection is made live and in the flesh as you enjoy each other’s company in the new country in a new language or right across from your own neck of the woods. The host in a given location offers lodging in exchange for cultural interaction with a traveler passing through the area; no money involved. No one is obligated to allow strangers into their homes. If the host or the guest are not comfortable they can simply part ways. Additionally, the site allows fellow CouchSurfers to meet for coffee with a public button that states this status instead of having a couch available at the moment. Participants are vouched-for by other members and all correspondence is recorded within the system for safety purposes.

The site has developed a lot since I’ve joined over a year ago. It is recommended that you complete your profile so that people can get to know you and if their personalities will fit with your own since you will be co-habitating.

Why stay at a hotel by yourself when you can head out to the neighborhoods where the locals stay and dance bachata and salsa all night?

Georges and I in the Dominican Republic. He's a Photographer and we continue to stay in touch.

I’ve met whole sets of friends in other countries through CouchSurfing.* I jumped in feet first, but if you want to take it slower you can first sign up and head out to your area’s CouchSurfing events to meet others. I’ve attended a few events that I found while on the CouchSurfing website, such as the Living Room Concert Festival and a clothing swap. Recently I’ve met a photographer in my area and we’ve gone out kayaking and plan on biking across Florida together soon.

This social network is ideal for the traveler who enjoys meeting others and doesn’t have or want to spend a lot of money on living arrangements. The key phrase here is: enjoys meeting others.

Local event planners and producers can also benefit from being able to post events to the groups in the area. There is an approval process, but CS facilitators have a quick response time. Additionally, travel agents could benefit from this service by offering informational sessions on travel and offering the sessions as events. Additionally, for hotels/lodging places where they have extra beds or rooms it couldn’t hurt to offer your place on the site. It would be good advertising and that person would become your unofficial spokesperson for getting the pleasure of staying at your establishment. Offering the bed/room could serve as a good way to measure your services in a secret shopper type of manner and most of the CS’ers are blogging/Tweeting/Facebooking, so what a way to get your business introduced to their audiences.

*If you’ve tried CouchSurfing share your thoughts and experiences.

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