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Archive for Monday, June 16, 2008

Couch surfing’ a new wave in travel: Free lodging offered in living rooms

Kelley Rushing, Lawrence, is one of about 100 Lawrence residents who are "couch surfers" - people who offer up their homes and apartments to travelers visiting town or just driving through. Rushing hosts travelers and also plans to take advantage of the program when she takes a summer trip to Oregon.

Kelley Rushing, Lawrence, is one of about 100 Lawrence residents who are "couch surfers" - people who offer up their homes and apartments to travelers visiting town or just driving through. Rushing hosts travelers and also plans to take advantage of the program when she takes a summer trip to Oregon.

June 16, 2008

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How to surf

¢ The Couch Surfing Project is a nonprofit social Internet network of people who offer their homes to travelers across the world.

¢ It was created in 2003 after co-founder Casey Fenton traveled to Iceland and arranged housing by sending mass e-mails to Iceland students requesting a place to stay while visiting.

¢ The project has 570,000 members in more than 200 countries worldwide. The service is free and provides users with tools to increase safety.

¢ For more information, visit www.couchsurfing.com

Lawrence is quickly developing into a hot spot for area surfers.

Couch surfers, that is.

More than 100 people in the Lawrence community are registered as official couch surfers at couchsurfing.com, offering up their homes to travelers visiting Lawrence or just driving through. Registered couch surfers are able to send out requests on the nearly 600,000-member social networking Web site, also referred to as The Couch Surfing Project, when needing hospitality in more than 200 countries.

Becoming a couch surfer is simple: You create a profile on the Web site, similar to a MySpace or Facebook profile, listing your accommodations and interests. Those looking for a temporary place to stay browse the profiles, find someone in the place they are traveling, and send a message requesting to "surf."

Members can then accept or decline the request. The lodging is free.

Lawrence resident Paul Linder stayed with someone he met on the Web site when traveling to California and has hosted several groups of people in his home. While it helps travelers save money, Linder said couch surfing has also introduced him to some interesting and adventurous people he would not have met otherwise.

Kelley Rushing encountered couch surfing when she and a friend were planning a trip to California. They found a host within a few hours of sending a request, and Rushing has since hosted that person in Lawrence. Rushing, who said her couch surfing experiences have been "amazing," appreciates the chance to learn about a new city from a local person.

"You really get to know a place," she said.

Cecilia Mills hosted her first surfer recently - a woman traveling to Georgia from Colorado. Mills said couch surfing provides an opportunity to offer the same type of hospitality she has received from generous hosts when traveling through Europe.

"I thought, 'Why can't we do this in the U.S.?'" said Mills, who found that opportunity when she discovered couch surfing.

Offering up your home to a complete stranger might sound dangerous. Those concerns are considered by members who utilize the Web site's safety tools.

Couch Surfing spokeswoman Crystal Murphy said the Web site includes Web references from other members, a verification system for participants, and a team that investigates all negative experiences reported by members.

She cautions users to check out other members as best they can to ensure safety and a positive experience.

"We can't guarantee anyone's safety," said Murphy.

Linder said that when considering hosting someone, he first checks the person's profile online, then talks with them on the phone. He says this enables him to make an educated guess about the person's personality and character.

For some surfers, though, having faith and trust in strangers is exactly the point of couch surfing.

"People are such strangers to each other in America," said Rushing. "This (couch surfing) is exactly what our country needs."

Comments

blessed3x 6 years, 6 months ago

"...and in other news a Lawrence woman was beaten and raped after allowing a complete stranger to take up residence in her living room. More at 11:00."

Kelly Anderson 6 years, 6 months ago

Well, Daytrader23, since we live here in Kansas we don't know what a passport IS let alone how to get one 'cause they don't allow us rapers, murderers and stabbers to apply for one, but we really don't have to worry about that kinda stuff 'cause we are enjoying our 15 minutes of fame on TV.......snort!!!

shlomoek 6 years, 6 months ago

Sometimes when you're traveling you just need some good old alone time at the cheapest motel you can find.

fu7il3 6 years, 6 months ago

It's all well and good to put your faith in mankind and say that 90 percent of the people are good and aren't going to rob you, rape you, or kill you. But it only takes one bad one to ruin your life.

fu7il3 6 years, 6 months ago

I think the site is a great idea for would-be serial murderers, burglars, and rapists that can research their victims and select them from what is a virtual menu.Like blondes? Look for the blond chick. Interests: Xbox360? Has one to steal. Almost no one will have experiences that will be anything more than funny years down the road. But what happens when you are the family of that one person that didn't survive the experience in tact?Seriously, why even put yourself at risk?

supernik 6 years, 6 months ago

i think its a great idea as long as you are careful. good for everyone involved for trying to make america a more friendly location!

acg 6 years, 6 months ago

Well golly-gee daytrader, I don't know nuttin' about no passports. I mean, why on earth would simple folk such as ourselves ever wanna go anywhere? You know us KS people were never much on your book learnin' and fancy travelin'. We're content to stay here in Possum Holler and breed with our kin. Go play under a traffic light, d-bag.

fu7il3 6 years, 6 months ago

A complete stranger with full access to you and your house while you sleep. What could possibly go wrong?

Daytrader23 6 years, 6 months ago

Ahh, Fond memories of my couch surfing ski bum days in Aspen, Colorado. Now I couch surf in my vacation home there.

Daytrader23 6 years, 6 months ago

Not every place is as ghetto as Kansas. Actually KS is the only place I have ever lived where the news was dominated by rape, murders, stabbings etc., etc. I can honestly say I felt safer in Gaza then I did the last time I visited Lawrence. I think this couch surfing site is a great idea! I have been traveling the world in this fashion for over 20 years and have never had any problems, only minor inconveniences such as a bus breaking down or missing a flight. But sometimes I do have to check into a resort and get pampered at a spa, but thats normally at the end of traveling for weeks. How many of you even have a passport?

as_I_live_and_breathe 6 years, 6 months ago

OOHH teddy you're getting a little smelly to be on my couch. I stupidly let my daughter talk me into letting one of her friends "couchsurf" overnight at my house. 6 weeks later I thought I'd have to burn the house down to get him out.

lawrencebigjock 6 years, 6 months ago

I get sick at all my freinds surfing on my couch and my food and drink!! Who needs stranders? But if I need my TV gone and kids raped I will go to that site!

junkhand 6 years, 6 months ago

For those of us who travel throughout the world and are trying to save a dollar this is awesome. The next step is a reliable ride sharing website. If you're afraid of strangers then don't sign up to be a host. Personally I'd be more worried about someone peeing on my couch than anything else...

bearded_gnome 6 years, 6 months ago

wow,daytraitor=elitist! no, wouldn't do this! so, they have a "team" that investigates bad experiences. and, ratings. how about requiring references before you are allowed in? naive, yes. what this country needs, no, I don't think so. **once, I was at a 4th of july parade, it was Salinas CA, probably 1978. sruck up conversation with a young brit, "young" he was my age then. invited him to sling his sleeping bag on the floor of my apartment. I had a great time talking with him, and answering his questions about that area, and the U.S. he left the next day, no problem at all. glad i did that. wouldn't sign up on a register for that though.

Daytrader23 6 years, 6 months ago

Wow, people are calling me elitist and euro trash. Rather be euro trash than white trash, at least the euro's can find Bali on a map. As far as being an elitist, you are somewhat correct. Yes I do have lots of money, two vacation homes and I'm waiting for this weather to clear up so I can take my sailboat down to Greece (it's docked in Italy) However I don't turn my nose up to anybody of any class (only ignorant arrogant people) I give a lot to charity, build houses for Habitat For Humanity in Africa and I try to educate people on how to become financially independent so they too can live a life that most will only dream about.I find when someone tells me they hate rich people or call me an elitist it's really them saying "I wish I had your life"It's jealousy, thats all it is. I mean who doesn't want to be retired at an early age traveling the world and being able to do what you want when you want? Anybody can do it, the first step is stop blaming other people for your misfortunes and take responsibility for your life because no one is going to give you anything. Most people say they are waiting for their ship to come in, well I hate to say this but the ship never comes in, but it is available to those who swim out in the water and chase it down.

fascinating_person 6 years, 6 months ago

Like any online social networking tool, couchsurfing.com can be dangerous if misused. But by using common sense and heeding internet safety tips, it can result in some fantastic new friends.My (now) husband and I have hosted couchsurfers twice through this website, and just stayed with our first couchsurfing host about 2 weeks ago during our honeymoon in Malaysia.The 'worst' experience we have had was hosting some extremely fragrant travelers, who clearly had been living out of their backpacks for a little too long. The stale odor was the only problem; we exchanged travel stories and really enjoyed talking with them. They ended up finding a permanent home here in Lawrence after spending the weekend with us.We also hosted two college guys from Austin who were coming to Lawrence for a somewhat obscure concert - which happened to be one my husband and I had been looking forward to. This coincident of tastes turned out to be only one of many - the four of us talked for hours like old friends within an afternoon of meeting one another. It's a great feeling, too, to know that the next time we travel through Texas, we've got contacts and couches in Austin.Our most recent experience was our first ever staying with (rather than hosting) another Couch Surfer. We got married at the end of May and took a 2.5 week honeymoon in Malaysia. During most of the trip, we stayed at hostels or hotels, and met many friendly English-speaking travelers at these places....We both agreed, however, that our favorite leg of the trip was the time we spent in Kuching (in the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo). Charles, a college student, was our host, and his parents, who were on holiday, were also excited to show us around. After picking us up at the airport (and refusing our offers of gas money), the three of them showed us the sights of their city, took us to the best hidden beaches on the South China Sea, ordered the most delicious dishes from seemingly random (but family favorite) street vendors, and gave us both historical and personal accounts of their city. It was simply amazing! No travel book or tour guide can give you the insight of a local. To say we had an incredible time is an understatement. The four days we spent with the Tings was exhilarating.

fascinating_person 6 years, 6 months ago

...I would guess that many of the Lawrence residents posting here have their own town favorites (food, museums, bars, parks, etc) that they love to take out-of-town guests to. Hosting a couch surfer is just as fulfilling; discovering local secrets in a town unfamiliar to you gives you the same sense of satisfaction.There are many precautions you can take to be safe when using couchsurfing.com: 1. First, research the person you're thinking about staying with or hosting. Read their profile thoroughly, read the feedback left by others, and visit the pages of those 'others' to make sure they're legitimate, reliable members. Check their facebook or myspace pages to see if their profiles are consistent. Exchange a few emails or even phone calls with them to get a sense of their personality. If they creep you out, don't stay with them!2. Second, share your plans. Let your friends and family know who is staying with you, or who you're staying with. Leave phone numbers and addresses, and set up 'safety calls' - if you plan to phone your brother at 7pm on Tuesday, an hour after meeting your new couchsurfer, and your brother doesn't hear from you, have a procedure in place to contact the authorities with a list of information if he can't get a hold of you. If you live alone, plan to have a friend at your home when your new couchsurfer arrives, who won't leave you alone unless you feel comfortable.Just be reasonable. Some of the most memorable, informative, inspiring moments in my life have resulted from taking a chance, from sneaking into a mysterious dark building, or from talking to a stranger. Sure, none of it's 100% - just like the rest of your life, you can decide to play it safe and die of old age, or to take a chance to see the exciting, unknown side of life - even if the results aren't guaranteed to be good.Personally, the exciting experiences in my life are what make it worth living - and meeting new friends from faraway lands through couchsurfing is one of those worthwhile, exciting experiences.

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