Stranger Encounters

After those crazy nights partying in another city, you might occasionally wake up the next morning to a few unfamiliar faces. Although this time it's not a one-night stand. It's CouchSurfing. The website,, was founded in 2004. It is a non-profit organization that connects people in over 230 countries who open their homes to travelers.

On their website, CouchSurfing describes its mission to be: "To create inspiring experiences."

Thanks to past online nightmares like Craigslist, it's only natural that people might hold some reservations. When asked if he would consider joining, SMC student Nate Wunderman said, "It would depend upon what sort of personal information they would require. I draw the line at my social security number."

Although the website does ask for personal information, it stops short of social security numbers. To join the CouchSurfing community people create an account that reflects what kind of person they are in regards to personal interests, CouchSurfing history, hosting availability and images from their travels.

The profiles are then perused by those searching for couches to determine which hosts would best fit for them based on anything from how much room they have to how they spend their weekends.

SMC student Sarah Martin is not as worried and trusts one of her friend's referrals. "I would totally do it. It sounds pretty legit to me," says Martin. "I want to take a road trip around the country and I definitely would use CouchSurfing instead of having to pay for hotels all over the place."

After the initial hesitation, many veteran CouchSurfers have turned that fear into a feeling of security.

"Most of the people in the community have something special in them, " said Chile native Roberto Corona. "There is a special energy that lets you trust them."

Upon recommendation by a friend he met while traveling, Corona joined the CouchSurfing site in June of 2008. He has since hosted over 100 visitors on his couch, including a few Angelinos.

"I'm just hosting for now, but soon enough I will start my travel around the world, and I'm already looking forward to [having] great experiences," said Corona.

In those two short years, Corona incidentally learned a new language. "I didn't speak any English two years ago...but I achieved so much more than that."

SMC film major Tobias Deml has been a member for over three years now. "My friend said, ‘Yeah, you can sleep on other people's couches,' and I thought ‘That's kind of weird,'" said Deml.

Despite his first judgements, Deml gave it a shot and decided to stay with someone for over a week when travelling to Italy. "People there were so chill. [The host] was so friendly. He didn't have much money...but he shared everything he had."

While some are just trying to save a buck, it seems there are certainly friendships to be made.

"I really believe there is hope and a lot of good hearts out there, " said Corona. "And CouchSurfing is proof of that."