Saturday, August 11, 2012

Perfect Way to Travel on the Cheap

I don't know why I haven't written about this before.

Maybe because I have no firsthand experience?

I'm not sure.

I DO know why I am writing about this now. It is Bob's fault. He just did a post on being homeless on the road and traveling on limited funds. There's a great, cheap, way to travel, which I think would be perfect for a solo motorcyclist. Especially for someone like Bob who seems to be quite friendly and outgoing.

This method of which I speak is Couchsurfing.

Basically, it's a global social network of folks who are travelers, hosts, or both. As a traveler, you are seeking lodging in someone's home. As a host, you have a sofa, spare bedroom, empty corner, whatever, someone can use for sleeping. Of course, you'd need to share your facilities, too.

It doesn't have to be fancy. But remember, it's a social thing. It's not just about crashing anonymously in someone's house. You're expected to interact at least a little bit. But the thing is, the host and surfer establish the "ground rules" as they go. You do have to do some advance planning to identify hosts in a particular area when traveling. 

It sounds sort of cool, but sort of scary, right? Let total strangers into your home? It actually is an established network that works quite well. There are local chapters where you actually meet other couchsurfers. They have get-togethers. You establish a profile by going to local events and actually traveling. Hosts and travelers rate each other. So while there's no official security check, there's enough intel available to know if someone is legit or not.

I wrote about Shannon's trip around the world a little while ago.  In case you didn't read about it, Shannon, our oldest daughter, traveled solo around the world for about 10 months. One of the things that made her trip possible is Couchsurfing.

She didn't surf the entire time, she also stayed in hostels and even hotels on a very rare occasion. She met some very cool people along the way. And even now, when she's not in travel mode, she's hooked up with the local Couchsurfing contingent. Of course she hosts people, too.

I'm not sure how it would work for couples as space is usually limited. It's not a dating service or hook-up scheme, it really is a social travel network, but two people can't share a couch very well. And it's usually solo travelers who are more open to interaction with others. If you are traveling with even one other person, you have your own little circle people are hesitant to intrude upon.

If my husband weren't so painfully shy, I'd sign up to host people. I think it would be fun. A great way to meet new people from around the world.

Sound interesting? Have you ever heard of Couchsurfing? Would you consider surfing yourself?


SonjaM said...

I am not a member of the couchsurfing site, but I do like the idea.

I have had strangers crashing on my couch (preferably females when I am alone, males when hubby is around) on occasion. Usually we met through blogging, and built up a virtual relationship. But I allow only "handpicked" people into my four walls, and have neither the time nor desire to make it a regular thing.

I have been offered the same by strangers that became friends (also through blogging and social networking).

I think when I get older, and can't travel as much myself anymore, I could see myself invite the world into my home. I don't find it scary, but rather interesting to meet people from all walks of life. Like me some prefer it to meet locals even though they could afford a hotel room.

BeemerGirl said...

Like your hubby, mine is shiver. This would intimidate him. I've heard of couch surfing and read many ride reports of people that utulized. I'm not sure if I would do it as a solo female. I'm like Sonja and would prefer blogging buddies or people I've built a report with in the net.

Though I will say that I forced hubby to use Airbnb on our trip. Not quite will to do a room in someone's house yet, but the carriage house setup was wonderful!

Trobairitz said...

I have heard of the site before and was thinking it would be cool to offer to traveling motorcyclists, but without a dedicated guest room and with our schedules always up in the air it isn't feasible to us.

Would we ever use the service when we travel? I dunno. believe it or not I am pretty shy and don't always like to see or meet other people. I don't know if I could be comfortable in someone else's home.

Kathy Kirkpatrick said...

I'm actually not sure if I would do it myself. Although Shannon met some very nice people along the way. I would probably give hosting a try first.

bobskoot said...


I am not sure I could do this to stay in a home of a stranger. It would be different if you had some interaction before, like our blogging group. I would rather pay a nominal fee to use their facilities even though I am very respectful of their privacy and possessions. I tread lightly and try to put everything back the way I found it, leaving NO trace that I was even there.

It has taken me a long time to be gracious and lately I have accepted a room but it was not something I would have done in the past, unless I am comfortable with my hosts.

Riding the Wet Coast
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Eliza Thorne said...

There are super cool ways to make your your money go farther while on a limited budget, couch surfing is absolutely one of them! I think that another cool thing to save while traveling is to look at all of the travel social networks where you can meet others doing similar things,
and plan accordingly!