Around Christmas of 2008 I was at my parents house watching the evening news when a story came on about Couchsurfing.org. The reporter talked about the growing popularity of the site and how it got started. Its mission was to improve the world one couch at a time. I’m such a sucker for bettering the world so sign me up! As luck would have it the local Columbia group was having a meet up in January! I RVSP’d and it turned out to be a life changing experience!
Before I tell you about how Courchsurfing change my life let me tell you what it is. Couchsurfing.org is a site that connects travelers needing a place to stay with hosts that have a free couch. The process is very simple! You look up the place you are going and find hosts in that area. You can browser the hosts profiles, pick one, and send a request. They accept the request and you go stay on their couch. Once the exchange is done the both of you can leave positive, neutral, or negative reference. It is this feedback, among other securities, which helps people gauge your trustworthiness.
The site goes beyond just hosting. If you don’t need a place to stay but want to party with locals, visit tourist sites with other travelers, or find popular events in town it is great for that too! There are groups for most major cities which can be an awesome for finding information about the town. I will always recommend the site to my friends who are moving to new cities. If you are needing to meet new people the local groups are perfect!
My first local Couchsuring meet up in January 2009 opened a door to a whole new professional network. We had about a dozen people show up at Gumby’s Pizzaria and one of them was Grant Howard, a developer for Carfax. Over the next few years we became really good friends and through him I met more employees of this amazing company. After quitting my job at Columbia College in 2011, one of the Carfax developers passed along my resume for an opening they had. Luck was on my side when I got an interview and later a job offer. It was all thanks to Couchsurfing that I managed to meet the first person who would help me establish a strong professional network. That network has landed me jobs at the best employers in town.