when traveling to a new, foreign place, i often find myself wishing that there was someone, a local, who can take me to places that aren't written of in travel guides. while some guided tours are helpful, these usually further drive the point that you're a stranger in a strange place.
thankfully, i found couchsurfing (cs), a network of travelers from all over the world who offer their couches, their time, and their travel expertise to each other.
i registered for an account sometime in may, but forgot all about it until i was contacted by another member who was then living in london. he was asking if i could offer a couch (accommodation in cs terms), or be able to take him around manila when he arrives here some time this month. that's when i realized that i haven't done much to let people know who i am in the cs community.
much like a resume, your cs profile says a lot about you, and can be another traveler's basis for contacting you for a "couchsurfing experience." aside from the usual personal description, you will be asked to write a little something about your "couch," or what you can offer other cs members.
don't worry, you're not required to offer anyone sleeping space in your house. you can opt to meet up with someone for coffee or a drink, so you can show them around some of the places that you hold dear in your own town.
if you're worried about your security, couchsurfing has varying degrees of access so you can choose just how much information others can view about you. you can also choose to search for members who have been verified, to make sure that you're corresponding with someone who's checked out to some degree.
couchsurfing also focuses on your travel experiences, and will ask you to enumerate the places you've been to, places you have lived in, and places you'll be going to in the near future, so that other couchsurfers who want to contact you will know where you are.
already, i've met a number of couchsurfers who were asking for help about their trip to the philippines. there were also some who were willing to just chat and exchange opinions about my country and theirs. and next week, i'll be meeting up with some CSers when i arrive in singapore. for the moment, i am satisfied with meeting up for coffee or a drink, and haven't completely plunged into asking for anyone's couch.
thanks to couchsurfing and the world wide web, traveling today doesn't only open your eyes to new places and sights, but to new people, relationships, and experiences as well. if you want to meet people from all over the world and get travel tips from those who've been there, couchsurfing is a great way to start. you can also join some of the groups and communities for specific interests, so you can share your views with like-minded people.
if you're interested to register for a couchsurfing account, just go to http://www.couchsurfing.com. registration is free and easy.