>Surfing the World

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One man’s dream of enjoyable travel, has led to a new way of seeing the world.
by Nicolle Morales Kern
A great deal on airfare landed Casey Fenton in Iceland for a long weekend. The only problem was that he had no place to stay. As a solution to rotting in a hotel all weekend and playing Mr. Tourist, Fenton sent out an email to 1,500 students at the University of Iceland asking if he could crash on one of their couches. Within 24 hours he had about 100 people offering their couches to him. What resulted was a weekend of great stories, great fun, and new friends.

“That’s how I want to travel…every time,” Fenton says on his profile.

The idea for the CouchSurfing Project was born.

On January 1, 2003 Fenton launched the first site in beta with the help of Sebastien Giao Le Tuan, Daniel M. Hoffer, and Leonardo Bassani da Silveira. After some difficulties, Version 2.0 was re-built and re-organized through the Montreal Collective in 2006.

CouchSurfing is now a global community with over one million members from over 231 countries who crash on each others couches when they travel. The declared mission statement is to “internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding”.

A map of current users.

To become a member of CouchSurfing.com, a profile with as much information and pictures must be created. Each member goes through a verification process that checks a person’s address and credit card number. Another form of security is given through vouching and references. The only way someone can offer their couch for surfing is to have another member vouch for them. The more positive references and friends a member has, then the more trustworthy they are deemed to be.

Eyal Rojstaczer, a senior in Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University, has been a member of CouchSuring.com for about one and a half years. A friend of his introduced him to the website and since then he has never stayed at a hotel or youth hostel in his travels to Washington, D.C., San Diego, Ecuador and Mexico.

“I know when I plan a trip, I know people everywhere and I could go to many countries without spending a dime on lodging,” Rojstaczer says of the service.
As does the website, Rojstaczer stresses that it is not just about being able to stay somewhere for free.

“You get to meet new people, see things from a local’s point of view and travel for a longer period of time with the money you save,” he says.

Since September 2008, Rojstaczer has offered his couch to members and has hosted over 90 people. The most surfers in his house at one time was a group of 10 travelers and a woman traveling by herself. They slept on futons, a pull-out bed, couches and air mattresses. Rojstaczer currently lives with four other roommates, three of whom are also registered on the site. Due to the amount of people they have hosted and know, Rojstaczer says they are listed in the top 10 couches in Philly.

“It’s fun to help out travelers, make friends from around the world, hang out with them and show them around Philly when I have the time,” he says of offering his couches.

For more info:

http://www.couchsurfing.com

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