CouchSurfing is a website that people who are traveling use to find a free place to stay for a night or two. You create a profile, add information and pictures, form connections, and then when someone needs a place to stay in a particular city they can look at and see who has a couch available. You can describe the place you have for people to stay and also set stipulations: only a certain number of nights, only females, etc. CouchSurfing was started in 2003 and has since grown to have millions of users. I’ve never used it before (never really needed to), but seeing as how I’m soon going to be living in France and traveling all around Europe, I thought it might be good to get started. My friend Jennie recently spent a month in France and had several successful CouchSurfing experiences, so she encouraged me to create a profile as well.
At the same time, I randomly got back in touch with my friend Tyler (yes, the same one who took my header photograph and helped me buy plane tickets) who found out I was living in the suburbs near-ish him and invited me to a CouchSurfing potluck in Schaumburg. It was open to CouchSurfing members who are part of the Schaumburg group, and is just a cool way for people new to the area to meet some locals and for local people to meet some newbies or some international people. Of course, I agreed to go!
I made pretzel bars to take and they were a hit. There were about 7 of us there, I believe; first we all sat around the table and ate and talked, then as more people arrived some of us moved to the living room and continued talking. We touched on the most random of subjects; traveling was mentioned, of course, but we also talked about poop and drugs and suicide and war. We kept finding ourselves on serious/depressing/gross topics and inevitably someone would go, “So kittens…” It was funny but kind of cool that we talked about more meaningful things than just TV or celebrities or whatever other menial things groups of people who don’t know each other talk about. Like poop 🙂 maybe not the most meaningful, but everyone has a good poop story and let’s be honest, it’s funny.
By the end of the night, everyone was joking around and super comfortable with each other. It was awesome that a bunch of people who don’t know each other (well, some had met at the first Schaumburg potluck) could meet together, share a meal, and have fun. That’s kind of the CouchSurfing principle: that most people are good. CouchSurfing has some safeguards in place and gives you tips to remain safe, but mostly it’s left up to your own good judgment. If I decide to use CouchSurfing for a place to stay you bet I’ll be smart about it. That’s why I’m building up my profile now–adding pics and forming connections and getting references and such–because I know I only want to stay with people who have those things as well.
The potluck was a really good experience and I hope we all meet up at least one more time this summer before I go. I’m also hopeful about using CouchSurfing in Europe as a way to find a free place to stay and meet some cool people; I’m sure I’ll post about it when it happens!