Traveling the Globe, One Couch at a Time

Web Site Provides Travelers with Cheap Lodging Options


Published: November 15, 2007

Forget questionable hostels or dirty motels. Crashing on strangers’ couches has recently become the most desirable way to live while traveling—and the further away from home, the better., created by Casey Fenton, a 29-year old travel enthusiast from New Hampshire,  enables users with specific travel plans to make new friends who live in or near the regions they plan to  travel. It also allows users to secure a place to stay during their vacation. Members look up people in a certain part of the world who are offering their homes (and couches) to travelers, and the two parties can get acquainted beforehand through features like chats and discussion groups.

Everything about the Web site is free to use, including stays on the makeshift crash-pads other users offer up. In addition to location, the ‘Couchsearch!’ function allows users to search for couches based on a number of criteria, including gender, language and minimum age.

The site boasts high figures on the community’s impact, including one showing that 266,645 couch connections have been made. In one section of the site, testimonials from enthusiastic travelers who come from a diverse array of countries are piling up. Suggestions for eco-friendly traveling are also given on the site, as well as safety tips for women traveling alone and guidelines for being a good guest in someone’s home.

The Web site ensures safety by using a verification process, otherwise referred to as a ‘vouch’ system, whereby one member indicates another’s trustworthiness. Members have the right to refuse their couch to anyone, whether they are uncomfortable with the match or because they are not available to host at any given time. A safety administrator regulates the site and has the ability to field any possible reports of safety breaches.

Although negative reviews of experiences   within the Web site account for less than one percent of the total, these figures may not sway everyone to get in on this new trend.

“I would never use a site like this,” said Danielle Cecala, FCLC ’09. “I think it’s way, way too risky. It’s a nice thought that people would allow strangers to stay in their houses, but there are too many crazies out there. Even if some sort of background check was done on those who register, that can only go so far.”

Others are more willing to take a chance  in order to save some funds. “I would totally let someone surf on my couch,” said Josiah Guitian, FCLC ’08. “I think it’s a great idea. If I have a choice between free and a hotel, I’m going to choose free first. I like that there are situations in which you can communicate and get to know the person first.”

There is plenty of communication offline, too. A couch surfing festival called the Paris Rendezvous was held this summer in France, gathering members together for events including a treasure hunt in the middle of the city, a picnic and tours. The CouchSurfing Collectives are trips held specifically for people who volunteer to improve the online community. This year’s Thai Collective will be the fifth such event (previous collectives have been held in Montreal and New Zealand). has garnered frequent media attention in the last couple of years, receiving coverage in major papers, most recently in the   New York Times. Fenton was interviewed on the program “Nightline” and Jay Cooke, an editor of Lonely Planet, an independently owned publisher of travel guidebooks, lists as one of the top five Web sites for travelers on

Traveling around the world is a popular aspiration, and with the help of, it can be a much more affordable dream. Not to mention the surplus of opportunities to meet new people available along the way.

For students short on cash, this is a great opportunity to check off a few destinations on your list and return from your trips with amazing stories. As the new face of exciting travel, the couch has arrived.