Tuesday’s Tip: Couchsurfing to Your Past

I’m planning a genealogy trip to upper South Carolina this summer and when I go, I have to admit that I will Couchsurf if I possibly can.

Screenshot from Couchsurfing.org
Screenshot from Couchsurfing.org

When you first tell people about Couchsurfing they generally have one of two reactions:

1.) They’re intrigued
2.) They think it’s insane and dangerous (I’m looking at you, Will & Carmen!)

All Couchsurfing is logging in to the site, browsing people with available couches or rooms in the place where you plan to go, and sending them a secure message through the system to ask if the couch is available for the night(s) you want to say. And not just anybody can host. I’m a host and I had to pay $25 to verify my address. They consider that a form of good-faith deposit to ensure that you’re serious and will answer the call when people contact you. You also need to collect references from other Couchsurfers in order to be considered trustworthy.

You meet interesting people, you stay in local homes, and everybody’s somewhat vetted. What’s not to love? And my favorite part about Couchsurfing? It’s free. Charging for a couch violates the terms of service of the site.

Also, for the longest time, there was no reported incident of crime related to the Couchsurfing site. In fact, most Google searches for Couchsurfing + danger or + crime usually end up with a bunch of stories about how everybody is doing it but it could be dangerous. Yesterday, though, I did finally find one incidence of Couchsurfing associated with a pretty horrific crime. So there’s that. Of course, one reported crime (that has gone public, at least) in the site’s history isn’t a very bad track record. I would, of course, be safe – stay with a woman or family, only stay with people who have references, tell people exactly where I’m going, talk to the person beforehand and trust my instincts.

I’ve traveled extensively and done some pretty crazy things and I can tell you that most of the people in this world are good people.

Y’all know from previous posts that I’m extremely cheap. The less money I spend on lodging, the more I have to spend on copies, museum admissions, donations to history organizations while I’m there, etc.

So, I want to know. What do you think? If you were planning on a trip to poke around courthouses and historical societies for a few days, would you Couchsurf?


10 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Tip: Couchsurfing to Your Past”

  1. Hi, couchsurfing would not be my first choice but your post made me think about it and I like the idea. If you are lucky you could end up at place where the couch owner has great local knowledge or might even be into genealogy. And as you said, most people are good people.

    • That’s what I was thinking! The awesome thing is that if you plan it early and are going to an area with a lot of couches available you can email several people and try to find out who lives near where you are going and maybe even hit on someone with local knowledge willing to show you around. I’m really excited about the prospect!

  2. I shared this on Facebook with the query who would participate. My husband said he wouldn’t but thought I would. Twenty years ages ago I most likely would have. I haven’t decided if I would or would not. I have shared my home with foreign exchange students and camp counselors over the years. I don’t see how this would be much different. Communication before is the key as you said. Go with your gut. It usually drives you in the right direction. Thank you for a thought provoking piece.

    • Thank you, Gussie, for stopping by and for your insight. It’s funny you should mention exchange students – I was just talking to someone (who found me through Couchsurfing!) about hosting one in the fall! A lot of my friends say they wouldn’t do it, but I think it would be a lot of fun. I’ll report back when I’ve tried it! 🙂

  3. Well considering in my youth I use to hitchhike all over and would throw my sleeping bag down on the ground when it got dark; I would couch surf. I remember one time my buddy and I slept in a stranger’s back yard. The next morning we woke up to the smell off eggs and bacon which they served us on the back porch.

    • Hah! That is awesome! I’m glad you got to have such a great experience. It makes me think of these stories you hear about people walking all over the country and relying on the kindness of strangers. Love it!

  4. Jennifer – I’m intrigued. Don’t know whether I’d do this or not, but I am interested enough to take a look at their site, learn more, and consider it.


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