As a young and poor albeit travel-obsessed chap, I have come up with a variety of interesting ways to travel as inexpensively as I can — among them studying abroad, going to graduate school, and traveling to the only Caribbean destination where flights from Boston are $300 roundtrip, year-round. But none of these methods are half as cool as couchsurfing.
If you know nothing of couchsurfing, you should begin by checking it out at www.couchsurfing.com. It is a website much like Facebook, (www.facebook.com) where you make a username and profile, slap up a picture of yourself, and begin to network. Only this network, consisting of 2 million couchsurfers in 238 countries around the globe, all let you stay with them while you travel — for nothing more than the cost of your company. In exchange, you offer to host travelers as well. You pay to have a background check done, to avoid the rapists and all, then travel at will — anywhere in the world. And the best part of it all, is that you get to meet some wildly interesting people who have likely seen all corners of the world. They tend to be hospitable, friendly, and fun.
When I tell my friends from the northeast about my the people I have met couchsurfing, everybody outside Vermont is petrified — visions of a granola-eating, weed-smoking, ax-murdering hipster immediately come to mind and couchsurfing is quickly brushed aside. Let’s put it this way — the first time I couchsurfed I ended up on a having drinks on a Hall of Fame baseball player’s yacht in the company of a Tunisian bellydancer. I kid you not. It was pretty ballin’, and not so “granola.”
Think of it this way — say you are planning a week-long vacation in an inexpensive, $100 per room hotel. That’s $700 extra bucks you could have in your pocket while staying somewhere totally beautiful and meeting a local who can tell you the real places worth hitting — no matter where your destination is. That extra $700 could really be the difference maker in your vacation — I’m pretty sure that’d buy you a week’s worth of $100 lunches — assuming you already have dinner covered. Next time you’re traveling, it’s worth a look.