Special Report: Couch Crashers
Eli Barnes has been to "Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Belgium, all over Europe, and Canada.
The 25-year-old restaurant manager in Boston is a bit of world traveler.
But he's not booking into expensive hotels; instead he's crashing on people's couches!
Eli says when he went to Europe for a year, "I started emailing people from the places I was going, looking for people I would connect with."
Eli is part of the new Internet phenomenon, www.couchsurfing.com, where people around the world offer up a sofa to sleep on.
With more than 330-thousand members, the free site reaches everywhere from Phoenix to Figi, Manhattan to Mongolia, even Antarctica!
Mark Towner, a 31-year-old from Manchester England said, "I've only been in couchsurfing a few months. I thought I'd give it a go. It's really good, I've been to Toronto, Montreal and Boston so far."
Mark is now couchsurfing his way from Canada to South America, Tiera del Fuego to be exact.
He said, "I really wish it had been going 10 years ago. It's so awesome meeting loads of people straight away. Everybody's interested in travel."
The site works on a Myspace-Facebook model, where people's profiles are connected through a network of friends. Members can either ask for a couch to crash on or offer up a spot to sleep. "Technically I've been a couchsurfer for 2 years", said Melington Cartwright.
The artist from Olympia, Washington, is crashing here in Boston and she's not alone.
She explains, "My mother is 60 years old and she's on couchsurfing and she's actually surfing here with us. She decided to try it out."
The site ranks members by referrals and reviews. But it doesn't comment on the quality of couch! So don't expect a mint on your pillow!
Mark explains, "You're living in someone's house, you can expect to much. If you sleep on the floor or get a nice couch, you take what comes."
And the site doesn't offer any type of security checks. There's going to be a problem sometime, but that's life. You have got to take a risks sometimes."
When not traveling, Eli let's dozens of crashers into his home each month.
He believes it's as much about a free place to stay as it is about creating some global hospitality, "How it starts for everyone is a free couch. After the first experience, then it's so much more than that." Mel adds, "The overall mission statement of couchsurfing is to open your home your heart your lives to other people." Fellow couch surfers agree with the mission. Just ask Neil Hovey from Canada, "This is like instant friends in a city. That's what I would say it is. The free accommodation is quite nice as well."
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