January 09, 2008

Ever heard of Couch Surfing?

This is a new thing I’m trying. It’s come to my attention that I need to meet people, outside of work. I need to hang out with people who are closer to me in age. I need to have some fun.

I stumbled, through a discussion with a friend a while back, upon couch surfing.

"CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance and facilitate cultural understanding. As a community we strive to do our individual and collective parts to create a better world, and we believe that the surfing of couches is a means to accomplish this goal. CouchSurfing is not about the furniture, not just about finding free accommodations around the world; it's about making connections worldwide. We make the world a better place by opening our homes, our hearts, and our lives. We open our minds and welcome the knowledge that cultural exchange makes available. We create deep and meaningful connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures. CouchSurfing wants to change not only the way we travel, but how we relate to the world!" This is how it is defined on Couch Surfing (dot) com.

Membership in the organization is free and is obtained simply by registering on the website. The core activity of the organization is exchange of accommodation. Acting as a host, a member offers the possibility of accommodation at his or her leisure; it is not required, but obviously it is encouraged. Acting as a surfer (guest), a traveller may search for and request accommodation at his or her destination. Accommodation is entirely consensual between the host and surfer, and the duration, nature, and terms of the surfer's stay are generally worked out in advance to the convenience of both parties. It is also expected to be free; no monetary exchange takes place except under certain circumstances (e.g. the surfer may compensate the host for food).

And so I decided to log on, fill out a profile. I don’t need a couch to sleep on, but community members are also people who are willing to meet you for coffee or whatever, if you are in their general area. So last night, I went out for drinks with Pampa, and met three other couch surfers. A bit younger than me, but not much. Certainly closer to me in mindset than the senior managers I work with. It was a blast. We laughed, shared life stories, debated on politics, love, life, values, and the way Oscar Wilde sees the world. Locals and foreigners mixed together and had fun, like a little family, until we parted ways and split the bill. It was grand.

Is it safe? I think so.

As Wikipedia puts it:

There are three methods to ensure security and trust, which are all visible on member profiles for potential hosts and surfers to see prior to arranging anything with each other:

  1. Personal references, which hosts and surfers could leave for each other at their option after having used the service.
  2. An optional credit card verification system, which allowed members to "lock in" their name and address by making a credit card payment and entering a code that CouchSurfing mails to the billing address. This also allows CS to recuperate some costs by requiring a fee for verification. For fairness the verification fee is based on a sliding scale, taking into account the Purchasing power parity and Human Development Index of the country of residence.
  3. A personal vouching system, whereby a member that had been vouched for — originally starting with the founders of the site — might in turn vouch for any number of other members he or she knew or had met through CouchSurfing, and trusts.

Also, the organization is registered with the IRS, and is listed as a non-profit. It does lend credence. Just have a look at wikipedia. It's quite detailed research.

For more information: www.couchsurfing.com

There are some contentions about Couch Surfing, and they have been heavily documented on Wikipedia and on www.opencouchsurfing.org. I don’t discount them, although since they aren't about safety, but rather about internal controls (yuck), as far as I’m concerned, last night, I met great people who were wonderfully open-minded and fun.

It was a breath of fresh air. God bless the couch surfers.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !


Amias said...

So much to read, so much to catch up on. I am going to have fun here ... so many photos, wow!

Beav' your dream has come true --- you help others, and you get paid to do it, and on top of that you are traveling all over the world.

Maybe in my next life I will do bettter about making my dreams come true --- I will never give up hope in this one, but it gets hard sometimes.

Oh dear me -- I am so very happy for you!

- Amias

Beaver said...

Wow, you've made it all the way to my post about CS.

I think we all do something to change the world, Amias. Your writing is inspiring, and an form of advocacy for all that is good and true. Do not discount that.

My. I remember our first encounter, and I was broke and jobless. This is a long way from it. Now, I have a job and many adventures (It's over 2 years ago), but have to deal with loneliness. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be able to settle down and... *sigh* I don't think the white picket fence thing is for me. I need to find Mr Unconventional.

(Oh, clown-footed, high-strung, brilliant fool with the heart large like the sun and the courage of a soldier, where are you?)

This is me sighing a little. It will get by, I know.