OPINION: Surfing the world, one couch at a time

Couchsurfing.com is available for travelers and hosts alike to meet and interact. ( Flickr/Viaggio Routard/ Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC 2.0)

Couchsurfing.com is available for travelers and hosts alike to meet and interact. ( Flickr/Viaggio Routard/ Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC 2.0)

Have you been saving up for an upcoming trip? Maybe you’re putting money away for the next big music festival or even a trip to the mountains this winter.

It doesn’t matter what the occasion is, the price of traveling has risen dramatically over the years. Whether it’s gas prices, airline tickets or hotel rooms, the world has become an increasingly expensive place, and to ensure your next big event is enjoyable it’s safe to assume you’ll need some extra cash saved away.

Rather than spending a good portion of your savings on a hotel or hostel, one great way to save some extra coin for your next big adventure is to check out the website that offers free housing for travelers, couchsurfing.com.

Couchsurfing.com offers a platform for travelers to connect with hosts from all around the world who offer a couch to sleep on at no cost.

You may be somewhat skeptical going to a foreign country and sleeping on the couch of a complete stranger, but the website offers more than just a free couch to sleep on.

Both travelers and hosts alike have the ability to create a personal profile where they can upload photos, personal details about themselves, previous travel experiences and future goals to give others on the website an idea of who they are and what they find interesting.

These little details go a long way when trying to connect with others on the internet.

“The more information you put about yourself the easier it is to find a host willing to let you stay at their house,” 25-year-old couch surfer Cindy Colombo said. “ The more open you are about yourself the more accepting hosts will be.”

That was the case for myself in 2012 when I decided to take a trip over to New York and then up to Montreal,Quebec Canada to photograph the student protests against an increase in college tuitions.

With limited funds and not much travel experience, couchsurfing.com appeared to be the best opportunity for my low budget travel plans.

After uploading a few pictures from previous trips, a brief bio on myself and a tentative itinerary for my trip to Montreal, I had a profile and was ready to search for a host I felt comfortable with.

All it took was typing in my destination before hundreds of generous hosts profiles became available for me to view.

While scanning through the hosts it became apparent what profiles appeared to be more inviting. I wanted to find a young traveler who had used couch surfer and was comfortable with the website, but also who had a handful of reviews.

Reviews are left on hosts or travelers pages by the people they previously stayed with. The idea of staying with a host who had a number of positive reviews felt more comfortable than seeking out a host with no experience on the website.

After sending a number of messages to numerous hosts, it wasn’t long before I received a response explaining that there was a couch waiting for me in the downtown area of Montreal.

My host ,Cindy Colombo, had a variety of pictures, a lengthy bio and most importantly 12 positive reviews on her page from other travelers who she had hosted or encountered.

She seemed to be everything I was looking for in a host and it turned out she was. Colombo welcomed me into her apartment with open arms, gave me the keys to her building and took me out to see the nightlife that Canada has to offer.

I was able to sleep for free, learn the details of the protests from the students themselves and experience Montreal as if I were a local.

Couchsurfing.com may not always be as easy and accommodating as my first experience, but if you’re thorough with your profile and persistent in finding a fit host, your upcoming travel plans can be significantly cheaper than you might have anticipated.