Thursday, September 24, 2009


Am I the last person under 30 to have discovered It certainly feels that way. Recently, a friend of mine told me he was hosting some couchsurfers and after seeing my confused look, he explained how it works. It's an online network made up of thousands of travelers who offer up their home as a free place to stay for those passing through and vice versa, they are hosted by fellow members when they go on vacation. What a great idea! Somewhat scary, I'll admit, since you can only trust about 50% of what people write on the Internet, but if the person is who they say they are, and they're genuinely interested in getting to know people from other cultures, what better way to accomplish it?

Much to my grandparents horror, I'm sure, my friend Vanessa and I decided to give it a try on our trip to France. To our delight, Phillipe offered to host us in Bordeaux. We were a little nervous that he might not show up or worse yet, he might turn out to be some kind of crazy serial killer, but the process was incredibly smooth. He was such a gentleman! He got us settled and then spent quite some time helping us figure out the rest of our open ended itinerary. It was thanks to him that we ended up in St. Jean-de-Luz, which was probably the highlight of the trip for me. What a great deal- a free place to stay, good advice from a local on what to see and do, great conversation about all the trips we've taken and we want to take...

He's hosted at least 45 people and couchsurfed himself in many different countries, but despite repeated questioning from us about the horror stories he must have inevitably experienced, he really didn't have a bad story to tell. Our experience honestly gave me a whole new level of confidence in humanity. Alright, that sounds a little extreme, but in the words of a fellow travel blogger, "in the moment I was truly overwhelmed by the efficacy of the couchsurfing project and overjoyed that such sharing between strangers even exists in today’s world." Not that you shouldn't exercise caution when using it, read the reviews about people before accepting offers, etc., but perhaps the vast majority of participants out there, really are good at heart and genuinely looking to help out fellow lovers of travel.

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