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"Couchsurfing" Travel Takes Off On the Web 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-I-leave-my-shirts-here dept.
mikesd81 writes "The Associated Press writes about a growing network of people online who've gone a step beyond hotels, hostels and even apartment swapping in their travel planning: They sleep on each others' couches. A number of Web sites have sprung up to help pair travelers searching for a place to crash and hosts with a spare couch. Sites like hospitalityclub.org, couchsurfing.com, globalfreeloaders.com and place2stay.net are often free, serving only as middlemen and offering tips on how to find successful matches. The sites are largely the creations of 20-somethings bitten with wanderlust and the hope of helping to bring together people from different cultures. They often depend on volunteer administrators to help manage the Web operations."
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"Couchsurfing" Travel Takes Off On the Web

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  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:14AM (#16780267) Homepage Journal
    ...and leave an itinerary with someone at home, including names and addresses.

    None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references. And the liability assumed thereunder would be huge if they did, so they probably never will.

    99+% of the people in this world are decent folk, but some nutcase is going to take advantage of the situation. Young, often naive travellers who nobody will miss for weeks... Slurp! Yum!

    Less horrifying but more likely is the following scenario: you are low on cash, you only speak 10 words of the local language, it is late in the evening, and the weather is turning bad. The couch owner says put out or get out.

    Please pardon me for being cynical. I hope these optimists can turn the world into a place of love, brotherhood, and cheap lodging. We tried in the 60s with mixed results.
  • by Salvance (1014001) * on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:15AM (#16780273) Homepage Journal
    This is such a great idea, particularly for male college students. I wish something like this existed 10 years ago when my friends and I traveled through Europe. To maximize the length of our stay, we slept in $10 grimy hostels and ate basically nothing (or other people's leftovers). Given that some of these services boast well over 100,000 members, I wonder at what point they start impacting the Hostel industry?

    While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe. Even the hostels were pretty sketchy, and the women we ran into often traveled in groups (or with a bunch of guys) to make it safer. While they offer feedback systems like eBay, it would be pretty easy for sexual predators to fake the feedback to lure young foreign women.
  • by cos(0) (455098) <pmw+slashdot@qnan.org> on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:22AM (#16780321) Homepage
    My only experience with Couchsurfing has been excellent.

    I'm a Texan who recently went to the Ohio LinuxFest 2006 with three others. We've found a great male couple on Couchsurfing, exchanged some emails, and they seemed normal. We visited them, and they took us into their home for two nights as if we were their long-lost relatives. They were incredibly hospitable, made us a temporary code in their electronic entry lock, and were in general fantastic. And, they did not expect a dime from us.

    After we returned to Texas, we bought them Woot Wine as a surprise thank-you gift, and they sent a grateful email after receiving it.

    This kind of behavior from your fellow human beings really lifts the spirit and encourages similar kindness from oneself. Although I am certain there are some nuts on sites like this, it always is and always will be "caveat emptor". But if you find a good host, you will forever remember the experience.
  • While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe.

    I don't know that it's a great idea for guys either, unless you consider anal rape a win win situation.

  • by ZzzzSleep (606571)
    There's also the opposite situation where you lend your couch to a poor traveller in need and the next morning you find the traveller and some of your most treasured possessions gone.
    I agree that this sounds like a cool service, but it only takes a few bad apples to really fuck it up.
  • Yummy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Y-Crate (540566) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:37AM (#16780417)
    The sites are largely the creations of 20-somethings bitten with wanderlust...
    ...and soon to be bitten by bedbugs. Lots of bedbugs.

    Don't forget about head lice, either.
  • This isn't new... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Otter (3800) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:39AM (#16780431) Journal
    The Ski Freak Radical [nsmb.com] was doing this for ski bums well over a decade ago. I'm sure there have been all sorts of similar niche and less-niche sites serving a similar function. (Admittedly not Web 2.0, though...)
  • by AEton (654737) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:39AM (#16780433)
    We used to call these "hobos".
  • by ktakki (64573) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:39AM (#16780435) Homepage Journal
    Back in my twenties and thirties, I did the couch circuit, both pro and amateur.

    I was a rock musician from 1978 to 1998 in unsigned bands, and there was an informal couch circuit among bands. An out-of-town band would play a club and make friends with the openers or headlining acts. Phone numbers would be exchanged, and when we hit their town we'd have couch space, maybe an extra bedroom or foam pad if we were lucky. Bands I was in would do three to six week tours and there wasn't room in the budget for a motel room every night. Given that all of us were riding in a van with all of our gear, sleeping in the van wasn't an option. Best case scenario was a couch five nights and a motel room or two for the rest of the week.

    This sort of network could be a boon to unsigned bands, sort of an unofficial hostel system.

    Then there's the amateur side: getting kicked out of apartments in Boston in the '80s because the landlord wanted to convert to condos, and not having the cash for first and last months rent plus security. The couch circuit was a way of making enough money to get that apartment. The alternatives were camping out in your band's rehearsal space (hey, cockroaches make wonderful pets!) or persuading your girlfriend to let you move in with her (hey, no farting in bed!).

    Damn, I wish I had an internets back in 1982.

    k.
  • Not only that; imagine it the other way around. Your guest(s) arrive as planned, seem nice and stay the night. Only when you wake up all your easily pawn-able goods are gone and the "travellers" are nowhere to be found. Great in theory, though ;)
  • Moo (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chacham (981) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:42AM (#16780459) Homepage Journal
    Quick Geocouching.com isn't taken yet!
  • My mother let someone she met online stay on the couch in our house a couple of years back.

    She turned out to be a 20 something French ballet student that was studying a sexology related major...

    In other news I have no more luck for the next 20 years.

    On a serious note it was a great experience. We've had someone else from England stay over as well recently and that also worked out really well. It's a good way to meet interesting people.
  • Someone make dormsurfing.com solely for the purpose of making people miserable by "fitting" an extra person in the dorm room.
  • So far, so good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ignoramus (544216) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:48AM (#16780495) Homepage
    I'm relatively new to couchsurfing but all my experiences to date (various parties, activities and actual couchsurfing) has been better than positive--the folks are open, fun and intelligent.

    As a guy, my risk of encountering predators may be reduced... but really, I think it's articles like the above that will attract the crackpots instead of relying on word of mouth to get the message to interesting folks.

  • While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe.

    I don't know that it's a great idea for guys either, unless you consider anal rape a win win situation.

  • Trust (Score:2, Insightful)

    by herczy (1024845)
    Hmmm... It seems that trusting the host is a very important thing. As some have pointed out, it could be an opportunity for psychos, sexual predators, etc. So, how are they handling this problem? With feedbacks? This seems to me unreliable. Or with tracking the guests? I don't know, but I couldn't be comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a strangers house.
  • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

    by William_Lee (834197)
    While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe.

    I don't know that it's a great idea for guys either, unless you consider anal rape a win win situation.

  • While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe.

    I don't know that it's a great idea for guys either, unless you consider anal rape a win win situation.

  • Hmm.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by XL70E3 (574496) *
    One of my friend recently went to Europe, relying on that... To her deception in fact, few honored that promise and she actually had to sleep in hotels. And that, in many countries. The idea is all good and fun but so far, has not made its proofs yet; i would not rely on that myself and would be more enclined to pay to sleep, like i actually did in Italy and France. Getting into trouble and into the unexpected is not my idea of fun for my holidays.
  • by jpardey (569633)
    That's why cluster housing is great. Shove 'em in the lounge, let them sleep on the loveseat, give them the pillow and blanket that you would never use... and hope they don't eat everything in your fridge.
  • by herczy (1024845)
    Would it be naive to think that these people are NOT on the net? Probably...
  • by QuantumG (50515)
    Getting into trouble and into the unexpected is not my idea of fun for my holidays.

    That's cause you're a boring fuck. What are you, like, 50? Grow a pair.
  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @01:07AM (#16780625) Homepage Journal
    In Soviet Russia.

    If you're a serial killer, your victims come to YOU.

    LK
  • It's just as likely that the person you're letting into your house will rob you. They won't necessarily put a gun to your head, but the may leave in the middle of the night with your jewelry and silverware, or even just pocket a few small items when you're not looking.
  • Suicidal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shados (741919)
    For guys as well as women. If you're traveling, especialy to another country, it means you at least had the money to pay for a plane ticket. Bad start. Don't expect your wallet back, IMO. Last I checked, in the last decade(decades?), just taking a ride in a stranger's car (and vice versa) was pretty much out of the question if you valued your ass. Guys will get robbed, women will get abused THEN robbed sooner than you can say "its a bad idea".

    You can barely go out beyond midnight outdoor without it being
  • GoSleepGo.com (Score:2, Informative)

    by LandownEyes (838725)
    GoSleepGo.com [gosleepgo.com] is doing this as well, but more of their focus is on just showing off your hometown as opposed to giving a place to stay.
  • This is such a great idea, particularly for male college students. I wish something like this existed 10 years ago when my friends and I traveled through Europe. To maximize the length of our stay, we slept in $10 grimy hostels and ate basically nothing (or other people's leftovers).

    Heh... couple of years ago my girlfriend and I sailed from Stettin (Poland) to Amsterdam (two-way trip was too expensive). We were planning on staying in A. for few nights and hitchhiking all the way back to Poland. Before th

  • by Sloppy (14984)

    So, how are they handling this problem? With feedbacks?

    Sure, why not? Someone just needs to post a review like this:

    Joe seemed like a nice guy, but suddenly in the middle of the night, he smashed my head in with a shovel. Then he slit my throat, just to be sure, and buried most of my body in his basement, covered with lime. Here I was, dead, and my family never figure out where I was. I recommend against staying with Joe, and give him only one and a half stars.

    And that will pretty much solve the pred

  • by ignoramus (544216)

    Last I checked, in the last decade(decades?), just taking a ride in a stranger's car (and vice versa) was pretty much out of the question if you valued your ass.

    You are correct, but it is only the perception of risk which has increased, not the actual risks. There are now 6 billion of us on this rock, and we hear about every bus accident and anal rape and then we fantasize about many more in our fiction on TV and in film.

    In real life, the number of "horrible-things-that-happen per person per day" has

  • Sounds like fun (Score:2, Interesting)

    by glittalogik (837604)
    My cousin recently did a 3 month journey across the states, filming a close-to-zero-budget documentary. He only stayed in hostels for 4 or 5 nights all up, and managed to find sofas and spare beds through websites like the abovementioned for the rest of his journey. Open source accommodation, I love it :)
  • Sure, take precautions, but it's really important that we trust other people and meet other people.

    You are far more likely to be killed by someone you know than a stranger. Your children are far more likely to be abused by your friends or a relative than a stranger.

    We have to make friends and trust people. A lot of commercial transactions depend on trust. eBay relies on trust. Open source is built on trust of others.

    I'm on couchsurfing and have had good experiences. It works. We should trust others ra

  • by chimpo13 (471212)
    I've been a member on these sites for a long time. I haven't stayed with anyone because of them because I haven't asked, but I put people up all the time. The only weird guy was some programmer which turned to "web programmer" when I asked. A few years of me programming isn't going to let some guy fool with me "I'm a programmer". When I asked he'd taken a class on html.

    I also spent the 1990s in punk rock bands and it's the same thing. We play in your town and stay at your place, you play in our town an
  • For a second there i thought one of my videos made it to slashdot :P

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it6_G2_e1Jw [youtube.com]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyG_DR_KIck [youtube.com]
  • One cannot mingle with the native women while on a couch at home!
    Go out there on your mission to seek out strange new worlds, rip your shirt and get it on with the green skinned women!
  • by Shados (741919)
    Don't get me wrong, I met my fiancee over the net, and she lived in another country, and I went ahead, took a plane, got to meet her, and we've been together for several years now and all is good. But a web site where people expressively do this, is kind of like if I posted online that I was going to be all alone in a dark corner of downtown at midnight next wednesday. Out of the -millions- of people that will see it (if the web site is mainstream enough), at least ONE is bound to be a wacko, which is my po
  • by Kadin2048 (468275)
    You know, I think you might be one of those creepy people that they're discussing further up in the thread ... ;)
  • sounds interesting. if he a site or anything send a link!
  • Re: Suicidal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ignoramus (544216) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @01:43AM (#16780873) Homepage
    Last I checked, in the last decade(decades?), just taking a ride in a stranger's car (and vice versa) was pretty much out of the question if you valued your ass.

    You are correct, but it is only the perception of risk which has increased, not the actual risks. There are now 6 billion of us on this rock, and we hear about every bus accident and anal rape and then we fantasize about many more in our fiction on TV and in film.

    In real life, the number of "horrible-things-that-happen per person per day" has decreased dramatically... our fertility hasn't changed much (we didn't all of a sudden start having triplets) except to decrease in some places, so how is it we are attaining such high population densities? (yes, I understand exponential growth... But this doesn't happen to all life (else we'd be drowning in bacteria), something normally limits populations. Could it be that, on average, we are safer than before (from all risks, famine & disease to murder at the hands of highway robbers)?

    People who've never even spoken to someone on one of these sites are all obsessing about how many bad people there are in the world... We keep focusing on serial killers and terrorists--sheesh, enough! Time to get our risk evaluations straight, and maybe live a little on the side. Time to read "If only gay sex caused global warming [latimes.com]" again...

  • I never thought anything like this existed. For the past year, I've been planning to move to India when I turn 20. I planned to stay at cheap 5-dollar hotels. But now that I know this exists, I'll just find cool people to stay with. Even if it means taking a chubby, I'll suck it up.
  • by Babblin' Joe (696700) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @01:48AM (#16780915) Homepage
    I spent the past summer doing the typical cross country road trip thing. I met nothing but nice people all along the way and only ever stayed in a hotel a few times (vegas and reno). With people worrying about safety it is just like any other online venture, if you don't trust someone, don't invite them over, simple as that. I stayed with people in st.louis, albequerque, santa cruz, san diego, L.A., all over. Everyone I met was super nice and just awesome people in general, I recommend couchsurfing highly. I chronicled all of my adventures at http://boxmansion.com/roadtrip [boxmansion.com] in case anyone cares to read
  • No news yet, I'll keep you posted.
  • by timmarhy (659436)
    french women are dogs, and they go woof when you fuck them. i'm sorry, but it's just a fact.
  • by timmarhy (659436)
    sorry but the even a 1 in 1000000 chance of anal rape while sleeping on a strangers couch is FAR too high for me, and i suspect most other people.
  • by Ruff_ilb (769396)
    OTOH, if you're sleeping on other peoples' couches, you probably don't have TOO much money on you.

    It depends on the situation, but this certainly looks like a viable alternative to hostels.
  • by grrrl (110084) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @02:02AM (#16780989)
    In my (limited) experience I've found it's oldies who are loving this kind of site - my dad and his girlfriend have had people from England, France, Ireland come and stay with them and on a recent family trip to France we crashed for two nights at 'friends' of theirs who I later found out they had never met before, but had found on couchsurfing.com!

    It makes sense for older couples (50s/60s) whose children have left, who have big houses but time to travel and hang out and just socialise instead of work! Also, there is a more implicit sense of 'safety' when it's an older couple, and when it becomes networked - so-and-so stayed with them so they must be good etc...
  • ...caveat emptor...
    you'd be surprized at how many people think this is a greek phrase.

    Note to the inept(mods): this is a poor/subtle attempt at facetiousness. The dry delivery combined with the inclusion of the 'all greek to me' cliche and parent's latin reference seemed fitting.
  • We need a way to document, rate, review each traveler. We need a way to at least know the difference between the good and bad guests. Perhaps if there is a nice advanced communication system between all of the people involved in this activity, then yes, what can happen is, you can take in strangers, but you'd also know which strangers not to accept based on how they treated that friend of yours who took them in.

    I don't worry so much about just the houses, you also have to worry about the guests. As far as s
  • There are bound to be people with Jeff Dahmer syndrome, who will just get weird once they get you in their house. So it depends on how it's organized. If the room has a lock on it, or if you are in a group, perhaps you can feel somewhat safer but it still does not seem very safe.

    I'm not saying a hostel is completely safe but at least it's well organized. This is free, but it needs to be organized better, a least of names, a list of alias's, just something so people can know who they are dealing with.

    Yes the
  • by elucido (870205)
    I could be comfortable with the idea, but it's seriously not going to be the first option. It's better than the streets though.
  • by herczy (1024845)
    What you say is natural selection.
  • You're right, but the people who sign up as hosts on sites like these are likely not a representative sample of humanity. The question is, are people with evil intent more likely to sign up to a website like this.
  • I couchsurfed in 2002, with a person I met on eBay. I had an excellent time, the couch was comfy, and they smoked outside so my nose wasn't bothered.

    They even had 0 feedback, but they were just using a posting ID, and had more than 1000 positives on their main ID if I remember correctly.
  • Common interests (Score:5, Informative)

    by RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @02:51AM (#16781235) Homepage Journal
    After about 8 years of hosting an annual group of 12 - 16 randomly collected folks, I have to say that I haven't met a real asshole in the bunch. A bore or drone here and there, to be sure, but no real assholes to speak of. (Just noticing that Firefox 2.0 apparently has "asshole" in its spellchecker dictionary right out of the box... good deal.)

    I think the mitigating factor here is that, although these are people from the internets, they're not from a general "find a place to stay" sort of site. These are folks who are willing to spend 24 hours straight watching B-movies (http://www.b-fest.com/), and who have interacted with other groupies long enough to achieve at least a virtual sense of familiarity. So, couch surfers? Sure. But strangers? Only in the physical sense.

    Besides... IMO, if someone is willing to watch 24 hours of fare like Tiny Town, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Let my Puppets Come, Kingdom of the Spiders, Robot Monster and Orgy of the Dead just to rape and murder me afterwards, well dammit, they deserve it, and God bless `em. The moral of the story is that I can't vouch for people who're only known by their desire to couch surf at your house. I also can't vouch for people who share whatever quirky interests you happen to be into. But I can vouch for B-Movie fanatics... they tend to bring unexpected housewarming gifts & to leave your place cleaner than they found it. In crowds, they also tend to round up dramatically when a collective restaurant tab goes `round the table. They got my vote.
  • I've had my CouchSurfing profile for about a year and a half. I used it once to find a place to crash in Norway last year, and have had a couple of folks contact me while they were in Texas. There is a limited verification system involving a donation to the project with a credit card and verifying your address.
  • You're an idiot. Is spreading FUD about something you have NO CLUE about your idea of a great way to while away those lonely hours locked in your parent's basement, you freaking troglodyte?

    How about you get onto the site and check it out, see the Verification system and read the guidelines and tips?

    Get a clue. This isn't a setup for people like you who expect to be coddled all their lives.

    Take responsibility for yourself, check things out and you can get a good feel about the person you are looking to stay
  • For the 600th time, another generation has actually discovered sex, drugs, and rock & roll!

    People have been crashing on other people's couches since the couch was invented. Of course everything seems so new and exciting when you say "Yes, but now this activity has a web site!"

    Networking with other people, socializing, long distance communication, and traveling around like a hobo sleeping wherever someone will let you is not new. The kids who believe web 2 is revolutionary because it fosters social

  • Hey (Score:5, Funny)

    by Umbral Blot (737704) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @03:11AM (#16781347) Homepage
    Where is the "itsatrap" tag when you need it?
  • by roamzero (920097)
    I fully expect a CSI episode about this.
  • Reminds me of lift-trashing (or indeed elevator-trashing) stories from the eighties where you book into a large hotel, and then at night use the elevators to visit each floor and then stuff anything movable (paintings, plants, furniture) from the corridors into the elevator until it's full. This also brings people together.
  • "growing network"
    from 2 to 3 is growth

    "A number of Web sites"
    zero is a number, so is 8 billion

    Sounds like another web-fad the media will be all over for a couple days and we'll never hear about again, described in their usual vague, trying to make it sound explosive and epidemic, manner.
  • ...and tells me to go sleep on the sofa, is that considered couch-surfing?
  • Oh come on. Live a little.

    it puts the lotion in the basket.
  • "Couchsurfing", "global freeloading", and the such... it's all old news... I did it back in '92 when I Interrailed, I would even do it again now, and I know plenty of women, including solo travellers, who do it now. WITHOUT ANY PROBLEMS. I've hosted both male and female travellers who have been nothing other than kind and civilized. NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER.

    It's a matter of doing your research properly and trusting your instincts.

    In all my discussions with other travellers, men and women, it's men who are mor
  • I recently took a 10,000 mile road trip around the States (soon to be chronicled on my journal [wellingtongrey.net]) and seriously considered doing this. I even set up a profile and started contacting people but, in the end, the safety concerns kept we away. Now I don't believe that the world is as scary as the media portrays it, and I'm sure I missed out on meeting some great people and learning more about the local areas (Not to mention saving £1,000) but in the end, I just couldn't feel secure knowing I was going to
  • by tuxette (731067) *
    Actually, as a guy, your risk is higher than that of a woman - especially when so many guys feel that they are not at risk because they are guys, and let their guard down...
  • The Esperanto language community has something called "Pasporta Servo [tejo.org]" (English wikipedia article here [wikipedia.org]).

    It always seemed to me that this would be a fun way to travel. You can go to foreign countries, get a place to crash, an interesting host, and not feel like a clod for only speaking English. I guess I like the idea of traveling and meeting people half-way.

    Plus, it's a way to expand your mind and make a statement for peace and global understanding by learning esperanto (as if you needed a reason!) :-)

    Hmm
  • Convention goers have been doing this for ages as have SCA, deadheads and other groups. You put out a call to share a hotel room, either for free space, share some of the hotel bill or something and see if anyone is interested. It's now much easier with the internet. Having a group of like minded people goes a long way to vetting them as trustworthy or at least mostly harmless.
  • Of all the stories to *not* be tagged with "itsatrap" - just think, you could use this to lure beautiful hitchhiker chicks to your couch or something...
  • couch cluster of them.
    But the only new thing here is the internet being used to hook up people.
    Most interest groups like bands, SCA, rpg/con/fandom etc have used something like this.
  • I don't know about the others, but I've been using Couchsurfing for about a year now.

    Couchsurfing has a few different types of checks. A simple one is that 3 other "verified" members must vouch for you and then you can become "verified". Another verification check is done with a credit card.

    I've hosted many people and I've surfed many, many places.

    Just so you know, there's 2 different types of experiences here:

    1. The people hosting you pass you a key, tell you to not stay out late and want to know when y
  • stealin ur change
  • and therein lies one of American's biggest problems:

    I'm an American, but moved to Europe several years ago. I currently live in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

    The whole "wacko apartment" thing is fairly non-existent here.

    As an example, here in St Pete, if you want to go anywhere, just stick out your arm. A car will immediately stop to take you where you want to go for an extremely reasonable price. This sort of thing wouldn't last 5 seconds in the States without people getting robbed, raped or murdered.

    I feel
  • To all the people who wrote frightened comments: I'm surfing couches and let people surf mine since over two years ago, mostly with hospitalityclub and some couchsurfing. With all the about 80 people I hosted, I never ever had a single bad experience but great adventures, fun - or at least a decent time while I had to work or study. In summer, I was hitchhiking 2 1/2 months through eastern europe (from Helsinki to Sarajevo) and only stayed at members of hospitalityclub - and one night at home of one of my
  • by z0idberg (888892)
    >I'll suck it up.

    That should get you breakfast thrown in then I reckon.
  • None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references. And the liability assumed thereunder would be huge if they did, so they probably never will.

    That simply isn't true. I can't speak for the other sites, but Casey Fenton, who started couchsurfing.com, is a friend of a friend. I registered with the site a few years ago and am pretty familiar with it. There are multiple forms of verification and safety checks. They are all optional, but it allows you to be fairly discerning about who you stay
  • by kavandje (629704)

    None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references. And the liability assumed thereunder would be huge if they did, so they probably never will.

    Not entirely true.

    At least with hospitalityclub.org, there's a kind of ad-hoc peer-reviewed identity checking. Example: you stay at my house. I check your passport/other ID and verify your identity. I can then say on your profile that you were my guest, and that I verified your identity. Likewise, you can check my identity and post on my profile that you

  • 99+% of the people in this world are decent folk


    You don't get out much, do you?
  • (sorry if this comment appears twice. I posted it 20 minutes ago and it is yet to appear.)

    None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references. And the liability assumed thereunder would be huge if they did, so they probably never will.

    That simply isn't true. I can't speak for the other sites, but Casey Fenton, who started couchsurfing.com, is a friend of a friend. I registered with the site a few years ago and am pretty familiar with it. There are multiple forms of verification and safety
  • While they offer feedback systems like eBay, it would be pretty easy for sexual predators to fake the feedback to lure young foreign women.
    Although it's true that most men can overpower most women, I think a lot of girls would get more spine when they practiced a little self-defense. I knew a girl once with whom I went to boxing lessons. She was a very good-{natured,looking} girl but I'd definitely feel sorry for any guy who thought he could slap her on the ass.
  • I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe
    There are civilised parts of Europe, you know? Or have you seen "Hostel" recently?
  • by koreth (409849)

    Last I checked, in the last decade(decades?), just taking a ride in a stranger's car (and vice versa) was pretty much out of the question if you valued your ass.

    Crime rates in general have been much lower over the last couple decades than in the decades before that, at least in the US. Why would taking a ride in a stranger's car have gotten more dangerous when everything else has gotten much safer?

    I think it's more a function of increasingly pervasive news coverage. Two decades ago, there wasn't room on t

  • by caranha (680518)
    I loved the idea, and decided to sign up to offer my place in the site (like I already do in some mailing lists with similar purposes).

    However, when reading the terms and conditions, it was clearly written that my personal information would be released to "third parties that support our operation". Advertisers?

    So, on one hand, it seems to me that it defeats the point to sign up with a throw away e-mail address, on the other, I'm not registering my e-mail on a site that says right front that they're handing
  • Well...It did. I often go on trips carrying only enough clothes for two days and nothing else except for my laptop. When I get some where I like I find an open access point and jump onto the local IRC channel for that area and shout out for a roof. If you are prepared to accept as little as a roof (backpacks are good pillows, and your towel - which you always carry - is a good blanket) you can be pleasantly surprised; most people are more than willing to lend you some form of bedding and many will offer
  • by PopeRatzo (965947)
    Does this look like Penthouse Forum to you? I think you may be confusing something you bought at bargainpron.net for real life.
  • by johansalk (818687)
    Ebay-like feedback/reputation system.
  • I was convinced couchsurfing would be doing your "holiday" using webcams [google.com]... ie. I couchsurfed to Hawaii [camscape.com] today...
  • http://www.mikesapartment.com/ [mikesapartment.com] yet? (WARNING - this link is NOT safe for work!!)


    (and may not actually be valid, as I am AT work and this URL is from, cough, memory ...)

    I imagine this is more closely described as "geobedding" ...

  • If you stay with somebody you can ask for proof of identity and address in advance, as should be done by the hosts.

    Only the most idiotic of wackos would risk doing something in the knowledge that you have got information about him.
  • by CrazyTalk (662055)
    Caution is one thing - but I pity your lack of faith in humanity.
  • by Dylan2000 (592069)
    wow, i'm glad i don't live where you live.

    maybe you wanna take a gun with you, for 'protection'?
  • by Ash-Fox (726320)
    You spoke too soon.
  • "Hi! My name is Foofy the penguin doll, and I was just crammed behind the cushions on the living room couch of Lemmy and Esther Quackenbush of Freebish, Missouri. Come find me and sign my wings!"
  • by spludge (99050) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:55AM (#16785065)
    Coming a little late to the game here with this comment, but I live in NYC and my wife and I have hosted several couchsurfers from couchsurfing.org. Every time it has been a great experience. Usually it is couples looking for somewhere to stay, and feeling more comfortable staying with another couple. They've come, done their tourist thing, hung out with us, and provided us great stories about their travels and experiences, and even cooked us dinner once or twice. Usually our only worry is giving them a key to our apartment, so we only do that if we trust them after a day or two, or they have good references.

    We host couch surfers because we have traveled a good amount and we know how much better your trip is when you get to meet and hang out with the locals. We also expect to take advantage of couchsurfing when we travel next, and so we feel it is only fair that we host others. On top of that we know how expensive it is to stay in NYC! Hosting someone here really saves them a *lot* of money :)

    I highly recommend hosting a couchsurfer if you can, expect to learn a lot about different parts of the world, and to make some new friends.
  • some nutcase is going to take advantage of the situation. Young, often naive travellers who nobody will miss for weeks... Slurp! Yum!

    KTHX, dad. Seriously, this level of paranoia is unnecessary. The "what if I meet a serial killer" fear can be applied to any situation, at any time, and in any place - including the supermarket and the restroom. Leaving the itinerary with a friend is always a good idea, and as long as you pay attention to the "weird-o-meter" and have a plan B, you'll be fine.

  • by CRCulver (715279)

    None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references.

    Then the best of your knowledge isn't all that much. I've traveled for the last year and a half with two of these services, and while it's always important to be sensible, FUD like this is objectionable. All these sites have a place for references on profiles. If you're concerned about safety, just don't stay with anyone who doesn't have, say, four or references already.

    The situation is very similar to the web of trust of PGP keyservers. Even th

  • For guys as well as women. If you are murdering people, especially in another country, it means your had better cover your tracks well. Last I checked, in the last decade(decades?), criminal forensics is really advancing. Fingerprints, blood, and other bodily fluids and specs will get dropped THEN found soon than you can say "put a little bleach on that".

    You can barely fake a name on a month-to-month in a shady district... But now we have the convienience of being invited to the victim's apartment, saving

  • There are other international organizations I've heard of, such as the Hash House Harriers [wikipedia.org] which are great way to meet folks in other towns. I've talked with one member at length, who very frequently stayed with friends all over the world met through the organization.

    I'm sure there are others, such as Freemasonry, that would allow similar ways to meet potential friends abroad (although the Mason's per se, aren't typically a younger, hipper, net-enabled crowd).

  •     I'm sure there are lot of good experiences, but I don't want to sleep on someone's semen and farts. :P

  • Couchsurfer Here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dastardly_villain (777858) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @02:04PM (#16787557) Homepage
    I actually just got back from a three month European trip where I used the website CouchSurfing.com 50% and stayed at hostels the other 50%. I had been a member of Couchsurfing for only a few months and found the people I met through the website to be all extremely wonderful people. I couchsurfed approximately 13 different times with people in my travels to twenty different countries, including Eastern Europe where I ignorantly thought I was going experience the most problems. As a black male, I had a lot of unnecessary apprehension...I found most people (especially in Eastern Europe) more curious than anything else. In my experience, people around the world have been great, extremely helpful and wonderfully interesting. I look forward to doing a similar trip next year through the Asias.

    I'm a member of Couchsurfing.com, Hospitalityclub.org and Globalfreeloaders.com, but I only actively participate in CS as they have a fairly thorough precautionary system. They offer a rating system where hosts or travelers base their experiences with you to warn or encourage other members. They verify a mailing address for members. The address remains secret from users but if you do not complete the process, all users are made aware. You can choose to only travel with people with high levels of verification and high scores from other users. It's a very cool system that favors people who have been members for a long time and who travel frequently.

    The disappointing part is with more and more press, people simply looking to save money will undoubtedly flood the site. Nothing wrong with that, but hopefully they don't miss the point entirely. Cultural exchange.

Only great masters of style can succeed in being obtuse. -- Oscar Wilde Most UNIX programmers are great masters of style. -- The Unnamed Usenetter

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