He slides off his trainers and courteously places them on the shoe rack in my hallway. Following me through my house, he takes off his jacket and we make our way to the spare bedroom. “You have a lovely place” he announces. I turn around to thank him and watch his eyes scan the room, trying to familiarise himself with his new surroundings. I note his tentative yet animated expression and as he gingerly places his jacket onto the bed, I smile at my guest – “Make yourself at home.”
Is inviting someone that you’ve never met before to sleep in your home a good idea? I think it’s fantastic. Computer programmer and creator of Couchsurfing Casey Fenton used this idea to design an online platform that allows members to share their homes with a global network of travellers. The concept was conceived in 1999 when he booked a cheap flight from Boston to Iceland with nowhere to stay. Lacking in funds, he hacked into the University of Iceland’s database and emailed 1,500 students asking them if they had a spare room. After receiving nearly 100 replies, he was invited to a temporary home away from home by an Icelandic rhythm and blues singer. Since then, 14 million couchsurfers in more than 200,000 cities now share the goal of making travel a truly social experience.
Three reasons why Couchsurfing is a great idea:
1. Create Connections
The spirit of generosity should not be about giving or receiving material riches. Imagine that generosity could be spent like money, our wealth would increase with every life story, travel tip, recipe and unforgettable experience that we share. The power of accepting other people’s kindness is immeasurable in strengthening our faith in community and creating meaningful connections all over the world.
2. Curb Your Curiosity
Sharing is a synonym of learning. By building a global network of friends, we are able to respond to cultural differences with curiosity and appreciation. The more we learn about our world and the people that live in it, the more we enable ourselves to spread knowledge and tolerance.
3. Cut Costs
Did I mention the service is free? When travelling, paying for accommodation is usually a guaranteed expenditure. However, not only does this platform provide you with a free bed, but you will also have your own non-tourist’s guide of all the local hotspots – allowing you to experience the world in a way money can’t buy.