Couchsurfing.org melds travel and social media in a way that saves tourists money on accommodations while making new friends.
The website allows people from all over the world to become members of the social networking site and to have interactive conversations about where they live or where they would like to travel.
Members are encouraged to post information about great restaurants, tourist sites, activities near their homes and most importantly—offer couch-space for tourists. If a member wants to visit a certain area, he or she can look up that area for hosts that will allow them to sleep on their couch for free.
Altug Turksen, a culinary arts student from Toronto, Canada, has been couch surfing since 2004. He uses couchsurfing.org to find homes to stay in and has met well over 50 people through it.
“I stayed in San Diego for four days last month with somebody from the website,” said Turksen, who currently resides in Turkey.
Not all members of the website offer a place for travelers to stay. Some members simply post information about their area or offer to meet travelers for coffee or act as guides.
Travelers are encouraged to rate the members they come into contact with through the website.
Turksen said that it is best to leave if one is uncomfortable with his or her host.
“You can ask them to leave if they are creepy,” he said. “Afterwards you can leave a negative review on their wall.”
Like most social media, couchsurfing.org encourages its members to build relationships and share their culture with one another. A message system allows members to write to each other.
The average couchsurfing.org user is in his or her late 20s. The website has grown to over 2.5 million users in over 200 countries and territories.
Other websites, like stay4free.com and globalfreeloaders.com, also combine travel with social media.
Turksen said the social aspect of the couchsurfing.org has been as rewarding as the travel.
“I keep in touch with some 50-odd people I’ve met through the site,” he said. “I’ve hosted some (people) when they visited Toronto and Turkey.”
Turksen said he met one of his closest and dearest friends via couchsurfing.org.