The CouchSurfing Project provides
an innovative method of travel to
those looking to broaden their horizons,
make new friends and save a few
bucks. Outside the realm of hotels and
tourist traps, CouchSurfing gives travelers
a unique opportunity to absorb the authentic
culture of a city by pairing them
with someone who lives there.
How does it work?
Much like MySpace and Facebook, users
create personal profiles on the CouchSurfing
Web site (www.couchsurfing.com) to
find people to host them in the city they
would like to visit. Users list anything from
the languages they speak to their hobbies
or “current mission” in life.
Profiles can be viewed by any member
of the project, and all communication
through the Web site is recorded. From the
information listed on a surfer’s profile, users
can gather if that person would be their
The only cost to surfers and hosts is the
willingness to open their homes and hearts
to other travelers.
Is it safe?
Sleeping on a stranger’s couch in a foreign
city has been an unnerving concept for
some. Crystal Murphy, an ambassador for
CouchSurfing who is based in Birmingham,
Ala., said she has hosted more than
70 people and has “surfed” more than 20
times without having any problems.
The CouchSurfing project is a nonprofit
organization so no money goes into advertising,
Murphy said. Most users learn about
the project through positive referrals from
others, she said. It’s those referrals that have
helped more than 475,000 users worldwide
become involved in the project.
Of those users, there have been more than
720,000 positive experiences reported to
the Web site.
“I think people think [CouchSurfing] is
dangerous,” said Anna Wilhelm, a senior
math and Spanish major at TCU.
She said a trust mentality has to exist between
users similar to the idea behind eBay.
If someone receives a bad reference, no one
will shop with them again, she said.
Of about 80 CouchSurfers in Fort Worth,
a few are TCU students.
Name: Jennifer Pippin
Major: International communication with a global advertising/public relations
Current Mission: “To finish my senior
year and figure out my life”
For Pippin, CouchSurfing in Ibiza, Spain,
last summer was more than an alternative
method of travel 8212; it was necessary. In Ibiza,
one of the world’s renowned vacation destinations,
hotels and nightclubs are expensive.
Her vacation could’ve cost more than
$1,500, Pippin said, but she spent about
$300. She said her host put her name on
VIP guest lists at nightclubs, drove her
around the island and introduced her to
“I felt like I was in paradise,” Pippin said.
Most people unfamiliar with the goals of
the CouchSurfing Project think Couch-
Surfing is a dating service, she said, and
it’s not. The project is about opening your
home to experience a different culture
without judging it first, she said.
Name: Mary Bauman
Major: Graduate student, speech-language
Current Mission: “To do it all”
Although she’s a trusting person, Bauman
said, she had her fair share of concerns
before embarking on her first CouchSurfing
experience in Barcelona. Bauman has
surfed eight different times and her first
experience remains her most memorable
mostly because of the excitement, she said.
Her host’s mother cooked for her and she
also had her own room, she said. Her host
was very involved with CouchSurfing and l
liked to take others around to show them
the city, Bauman said.
CouchSurfing is not just a Web site to find
free places to stay 8212; that’s not the point,
she said. It’s a tool to help travelers meet
others and form connections to people
around the world, she said.
Name: Matt Buongiorno
Major: Political science
Current Mission: “Be silly. Be honest. Be
Buongiorno said he joined the CouchSurfing
Project because he wanted to immerse
himself in a city’s culture.
“I wanted to step out of the conventional
frame of travel,” he said.
His first CouchSurfing experience started
one weekend when he couldn’t fight the
urge to climb a mountain 8212; literally. He
flew to Salt Lake City and hitchhiked to
the base of a mountain.
Before his flight he had contacted a Couch-
Surfer, a student at the University of Utah,
and arranged to stay with her. He remains
in contact with her and the other four people
he has surfed with.
Buongiorno said he hosted a CouchSurfer
from England, while living in a residence
hall. A meal at The Main and a shower in
the community bathrooms gave the surfer
a true-life view of life at TCU.
A student in Flagstaff, Ariz., hosted Buongiorno
and his friend so they could hike in
the Grand Canyon. He said an entire wall
of her apartment was covered in artwork
other surfers had made for her.
The CouchSurfing Project brings together
like-minded people to travel uniquely, he
said. It brings people outside the travel industry
to form global connections.
A small world
The U.S. is the most popular country for
CouchSurfers, and Europe follows close
behind. CouchSurfers span the globe from
San Francisco to Istanbul, Turkey, and anywhere
Alex Allin, a senior social work major, said
she stayed with a young woman in France
and then hosted her when she visited Dallas.
She said the idea of “giving back” is the
most interesting and important part of the
With more than 345,000 couches worldwide,
it’s just a matter of figuring out
where to visit.