Couchsurfing! San Jose Reviews
Jun 14, 2007
I have gotten a lot of questions on exactly what Couchsurfing is - that's a hard thing to answer, and a lot of information to give, but I'll do my best...
Couchsurfing is a community of travel lovers, who love to travel, and love OTHER travelers. So when we travel, we like to meet the people that live there. We think this is better in a couple ways:
1. It gives us wonderful friends for life – especially since the people that are involved all seem to have shared interests of travel and people, and just naturally have a lot in common.
2. You get SUCH a better feel for a place when you are with local people that live there!!
How did it begin? It began when a guy named Casey Fenton found a great online deal for an airline ticket to Reykjavik Iceland for a long weekend, and bought it on impulse; and then realized he had no idea what to do when he got there. He began thinking it would be fun to hang out with some local people who knew the local scene… but after hunting over the internet found no way to really get in touch with them. He finally “got his hands on” a student body list of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, and began emailing hundreds of them one by one – “Hey Lars, I’m coming to Iceland! Want to hang out??”
He was stunned at the results – numerous replies, all sayings “YES – come stay with me – hang out with me!”
So he did – and he had a blast. He met a ton of people and had a far better time with them then he would have if he had gone as a regular tourist. He decided he never wanted to travel any other way again. So he came home, got together with his friends Seb, Dan, and Leo, and between the 4 of them, they created Couchsurfing.
What do you do with other members of Couchsurfing when you are traveling? That all depends! The options are limitless. They will….
1. Take you on a walking tour of their town/city
2. Meet you for a meal
3. Go out with you for drinks
4. Write you advice ahead of time on their town so you know what to do when you get there.
5. Invite you to stay with them IN THEIR HOMES (wow!!) and be their guest while you are in town!!!
What you ask for is all about YOU and your comfort level and interest level. I first heard about Couchsurfing from Travbuddy, and I thought "WOW…. Strange idea…" but it was interesting and I joined – that was mid-November 2006, and I was leaving for Europe in December – on Christmas day. So I filled out my profile.
At that point, I thought I would never stay with someone – it was just way too odd an idea for me!! But I loved the idea of meeting up with local people for a visit.
My first shock came when I began to contact people – I found out two things that really surprised me:
1. There are local GROUPS – not just individual people! So when you go to a new place, it’s not just one person you have supporting you – it’s the whole local community!
2. Each of these local communities are friends with EACH OTHER! So there are global attachments all over the place! Whole groups will visit whole other groups for get-togethers and parties!!
This means that when I was in Florence, THE WHOLE FLORENCE COMMUNITY THREW A PARTY FOR US – just because we went to Florence!! It was an amazing night – dinner, laughing, meeting amazing people, then out to a club… I am still close friends with them all!
I have been taken on 5 hour walking tours of cities and out to special lunches, gone to great Parties with the entire London Group – which is huge… thrown parties for the Los Angels group (they rock) …no matter where you go in the world, you have people!!
Questions of safety are often asked - While you are, and always will be, responsible for common sense and your own wellbeing, yes, it’s surprisingly safe.
Here’s how it works… everyone creates a profile page for themselves, and tells about themselves. Then, the safety checks start – they are as follows:
1. What do you think about what they said on their profile? Gut instinct – did it make you comfortable?
2. Verification – Each member has the option to get verified – you do this with a $25.00 donation to the site, and they charge this to a credit card. When you do this, they confirm that the credit card you used is in YOUR name and to the address YOU gave on the back end of the website. While no one else can see this, and you can’t see this for others, you CAN see the confirmation from the website that THEY HAVE CONFIRMED THE NAME AND ADDRESS of this person. Last step of Verification? They send a letter to the address listed, with a unique ID number on it. The person then needs to type that code into the website. That proves they really live at that address, to receive the letter. What does that mean to you? It means that when you tell your loved ones that you are staying with that person, at that address, you can be sure you really are.
3. REFERENCES – Everyone that meets a person for any length of time, or stays with them, or has them stay, will leave a reference ON THAT PERSON'S PROFILE. That reference is totally NOT EDITABLE OR TOUCHABLE by the person whose page it is – so if the person was not comfortable with them, or ANYTHING negative happens, YOU WILL KNOW!!!! So you can choose people that have a great history with lots of positive references and great stories, and no negative ones. You get a feel for people pretty quick!!
4. Vouching – the highest level of being trusted on the site. It started with only the people who started the site being vouched for – and they vouched for only their MOST TRUSTED friends, that they knew would be VERY trustworthy to the community. Once a person has three vouches, they can begin to vouch for others. So you can see – if a person has even one vouch, it was given by someone VERY trustworthy that trusted THAT person a great deal, and recommends them.
When you are not traveling, it is your turn to help others – give them information on YOUR hometown, meet THEM for coffee or a drink or a meal, or host them in YOUR home. While I have loved every aspect of Couchsurfing, this has been my greatest joy. It gives you a fantastic travel fix when you’re not on the road yourself, and you meet fantastic people – and you couldn’t ask for better, more fun, or more interesting guests. They do dishes, leave you flowers, bring you gifts from their home countries… but none of that compares to just the fabulous conversation and company that they provide. I’m still in touch with all of my surfers.
Finally, enjoy your own home group – you’ll most likely have one! There are thriving communities all over the world and we have get-togethers and parties regularly, and these have become some of my closest friends in town.
WHEW!! I hope this helps answer some questions… let me know if you have any others…
Part of the The Road to Chico travel blog
3 / 3 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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