Thursday, May 8, 2008
Anybody need a couch?
Last night I was fortunate enough to meet two wonderful ladies staying with some friends of mine through couchsurfers.com. Are you familiar with this site? Basically you can advertise your couch, and look for other people's couches to stay on, all over the world. Sounds pretty crazy, right? I thought so. And then I met these ladies and checked out the site, and I'm really impressed with the whole idea. On one hand, its a little scary to think about sleeping on a complete strangers couch, and even more scary to think about one sleeping on yours. On the other hand, I think the site itself does a good job of attracting like minded people - those who love to travel, want to really experience a city rather than see the tour bus version, and are willing to, and actually WANT to have people from all over the world sleep on their couch. The women staying with my friends were so interesting and had such great stories to tell about their travels, and different characters who had stayed with them. They also had some words of advice for the savvy traveler, such as - mainly for other women - not to stay alone with an Italian guy, because they seem to have selective hearing when it comes to "No". The website has a great voucher system, where people who have actually stayed with you or people you have stayed with can write a reference for you, and rate the experience from "extremely positive" on down. That way you can search for only people who have only extremely positive ratings, or people that have several references. To me, the idea is really almost revolutionary. To open your doors to a stranger, and offer such hospitality, is really a lost art in America, and that's really unfortunate. I think we've allowed our fear to obliterate basic human kindness, from stopping to help someone change a flat to offering your couch to a traveler. I don't know that staying with strangers is going to change our fearful society, but it seems like a good start. The more good experiences people have, the more they'll travel, and share their experiences, and trust people and trust life, and trust, like fear, spreads.