Many university students go traveling and the following two issues are taken as the important conditions of traveling: culture and money.
Most students have tight budget and they want to save money from accommodation, but still it is difficult for tourists to give up on adventures and cultural experiences. When I was traveling around Europe last year, the struggling between the budget problem and my eager to experience local life was a huge dilemma. However, one of my friends suggested me a great solution, which was: Couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing is a volunteer-based worldwide network connecting travelers with the members of local communities, who offer free accommodation and/or advice. It is essentially a Web site that people can look up other members’ profiles. If someone is living where a tourist wants to visit and has something in common, the tourist can send a Couchsurfing request, and the host is going to reply after reading through his/her profile. The whole process of making an appointment to actual meeting up is based on the faith in people. Some people might think it is dangerous, but more and more people are using Couchsurfing Web site for cultural exchange nowadays.
As a foreign girl in Europe, I was worried for the same reason at the beginning. I was scared about the chance that I get fraud or sexual harassment. However, after participating in Couchsurfing for 3 times, more than 20 days in total, I can now recommend it to my friends with a confidence. I did Couchsurfing in Paris for 13 days, Barcelona for 2 days, and Rome for 7 days. The local hosts I met showed me around their cities, and took me to some cool places that only local people might know of. As a kind of return, I cooked Korean food for dinner to my hosts and left small souvenirs. Couchsurfing is more than just getting a free accommodation, but is a cultural exchange under the condition of favorable trust in people.
When I was visiting Barcelona, I sent the request to my host, Henrique, only about 6 hours before my flight. Henrique and his sister approved my urgent request, because they felt that I was really in need. They showed me how much trust me, and on what Couchsurfing is based.
The important thing is that the other members who joined the Web site overcame the same uncertainty that you have. However, everyone can read through everyone else’s profiles, and can use their judgments to choose good hosts and travelers.
Couchsurfing is a money-saving way to travel, but certainly much more than that. It gives you a change to adventure, and to feel the warmth of people around the world.
Written by Shin Ji-won (Journalism, 4)