The Shoestring Catch

June 1, 2009, 3:40 pm
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One of the most important aspects of traveling on a tight budget is finding free places to stay.  Crashing with friends and family is certainly the easiest way to sleep for free, and it’s what we’ve done so far, but it’s unreasonable to assume you are going to be able to find a second cousin or friend of a friend in every city (especially on a 13 city road trip) to put you up for the night.  So unless you are incredibly well connected, you’re going to have to find a supplement somewhere.  This is where couchsurfing comes in.  Couchsurfing is an online service that helps connect budget travelers with couches to crash on in cities all over the world.  Each user sets up a facebook-like profile that includes when they can host surfers, how many people their couch (or spare bedroom or floor) can accommodate, and when they are available to host.  As a prospective surfer I set up an account and started emailing hosts in all of the cities we still needed places to crash (Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee).  With the exceptions of New York and Boston, I found willing hosts in every city we needed.

To the faint of heart and paranoid, couchsurfing seems like a dangerous proposition.  How do you know the person you are staying with is not an axe murderer?  To help alleviate serial killer fears, couchsurfing has implemented a vouching, verification, and feedback system.  If you see 100 people have left positive feedback and personal blurbs on a host’s profile, the odds are that the host is not murdering all of these people.  Our first ever couchsurfing experience will be tonight in Philadelphia; I will post my impressions after I have some.


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