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Potluck: Couchsurfing

Crash and Learn

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner
and Mary Gottschalk

College kids with a bit of wanderlust have couchsurfed for decades, sometimes building their travel itinerary on the availability of sofa space. The informal strategy has now evolved into a worldwide business with operations in 253 countries.

CouchSurfing — a network in which no money changes hands — offers a way for visitors to learn the ropes of a new city and for locals to offer hospitality to a wandering stranger.

Activities for CouchSurfing members range from sharing a meal or an afternoon hike to overnight accommodations (and sometimes extended stays).

“It’s so not about free lodging,” says Seth Currin, a 28-year-old resident of Orange City who has been both a guest (twice in the United States and twice in Europe) and a host (half a dozen times).

“The whole idea is about getting to understand someone else’s life and culture, to see the world through someone else’s eyes, to meet interesting people.”

CouchSurfing is a B corporation, a new type of entity dedicated to — and legally responsible for — advancing a vision of a better world. The organization goes to considerable lengths to ensure that couchsurfing is safe and reliable.

CouchSurfing membership is designed for the young at heart, not just the young in years. Kevin Scherrman, a 50ish resident of Sioux City, has hosted more than 20 people over the past few years. Kevin and his wife, Mary, have been guests as well. “When we arranged to stay with a bunch of college kids in Melbourne, Australia, we were a bit leery as we’re not big partiers anymore,” he says. “But it was one of our best experiences.” Scherrman adds that his hosts took them on a CouchSurfing-sponsored hike, where they met people from all over the world.

Learn how CouchSurfing works; visit www.couchsurfing.org. — M.G.

Photo ©Istockphoto.com / Henk Badenhorst

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