Weekly meetings match up people interested in other cultures with travelers...
Couchsurfing has become the preferred way of travel for some people. While the idea of letting strangers camp out at your house may sound insane to some people, others find the experience to be quite rewarding.
There is one official website to publicize your spare room or couch, and it is now run by Couchsurfing International.
People who use it as a generic term can also use international classified ads or bulletin boards to find matches. Once a person starts to couchsurf, they often get recommendations for other hosts to contact in different cities and no longer need to rely on websites.
The key item that differentiates couchsurfing from other services is that the guest is not expected to pay for accommodation. They can, of course, bring a gift or offer to pay for meals.
The couchsurfing community is very active, and not only on Internet. Tuesday Toast, a group organized by Petra Brymová, has meetings that take place in different bars in Prague. Despite its name, not all meetings are on Tuesdays. The group can be contacted over Facebook if you are seriously interested in the topic.
“Approximately 15 to 20 people come to each meeting,” Brymová says. “I prefer regular events when people are able to meet every week and be able to create real friendships, rather than going to one big event in the month and meeting 100 people at once, and then in the end you are actually left with nothing.”
People interested in couchsurfing have a variety of reasons for going to meetings.
“This is a good way for me to keep up my English level because as a student I don't have a lot of time to travel. This is a great way for me to get to know new cultures,” one person said.
She is still planning to travel, but hasn’t yet. She wants to learn about different culture before she starts. She said she has met so many people at the meetings that she knows that one day when she starts to travel around she will definitely have many places to stay at.
Another couchsurfer said the Tuesday meetings were a great place for meeting expats as well as local people “It already has become like a regular meeting with your crew, but besides seeing them you also meet new people.”
The atmosphere at the meetings is nice and open and at the same table you get to meet people from different continents and learn about their lives and traveling experiences. “It is way better then clubbing,” said Andre, who declined to give his last name. “And you still have a chance to get a drink if that is what you are looking for.”
In Prague, after all, beer is cheaper than water. “But that's not the main reason why we are here,” says Jorge from Venezuela. He has been couchsurfing for five years now. At the moment he lives in Prague, but he honestly says that he doesn't know where he will be next year. “I came here by luck and got a job in advertising, also by luck. I enjoy Prague a lot.” He says he attends at least two meetings per week because like most couchsurfers he enjoys meeting new and different people.
For the guest, couchsurfing is certainly a special kind of experience, a new and different memory to take home after the trip. The accommodation and atmosphere can actually be as comfortable as it is at home.
Some couchsurfing hosts also like to offer sightseeing tips of even act as tour guide. Hosts are often born and raised in that town, or at least live there for some time. They can be better tour guides than the professional ones, not to mention the free-tour guides. If you are offered guidance through the city, your host will surely show you things and places that you are personally be interested in.
Brymová also regularly organizes Czech-language meetings over Facebook, and while foreigners are welcome, they should have good language skills.