Couch surfing opens doors to new travel experiences

It was 4 a.m. Canadian traveller Jason Globerman had to catch a plane. Problem was he was a guest trapped in his host’s home in Berlin, Germany.

“I was forced to bang on (the German couple’s) door and wake them up so that they could tell me (how to get out),” Globerman said. “I felt bad and was almost late for my flight, but I’ve since learned to monitor all escape and exit routes before agreeing to stay somewhere!”

Globerman has been a part of the CouchSurfing community for five years now. CouchSurfing is a service that invites travellers into willing hosts’ homes to spend a couple of nights free of charge, with the prospect of gaining knowledge and friendship. There are about 3.8 million CouchSurfers in 251 different countries where people welcome others to stay.

Most people choose this form of accommodation because it is free of charge, but according to Globerman, members don’t think of the experience as “free.”

“I think most members would tell you that CouchSurfing is not free. Whether it’s making dinner with someone or spending time with them, there’s always a give and take,” Globerman said. “Sometimes it’s culture, sometimes it’s language, sometimes it’s food or history or politics, (but) unquestionably I am always wiser and more knowledgeable after a hosting experience.”

Cassandra Ciarallo is a Toronto resident who used CouchSurfing on her trip to Europe with two other friends. She said while it was sometimes difficult staying with strangers, the experience was unique and unforgettable.

“You truly have to be ready for anything because you have no idea how the person you are staying with will be or how they live as a person,” Ciarallo said. “It was great to see the eyes of the city as a local and not a tourist so in that sense it was great.”

“CouchSurfing introduces (people) to a ‘pay-it-forward’ community,” Globerman said. “The idea that little by little, we can make this world smaller and better place … and all it takes is a click of a button!”