20 September 2005

The CouchSurfing Project

After Hidde moved into the studio, but before Samantha moved into the house, I told Laurence, a friend of a friend, about my urban camping experiences and plans.

He pointed me to www.couchsurfing.com.

As I explored the site, I had one of those, "I found my people" moments and signed up immediately.

At the time of this post, there are about 30,000 people from over 7,000 cities in the CouchSurfing Project.

Casey Fenton launched the CouchSurfing Project in January 2004 after the concept evolved through some of his unique traveling experiences.

He first started traveling as a means of distraction after a break-up with his girlfriend, but the more he traveled, the more tuned in he became to "discover[ing] the gigantic world around me, and the even bigger world within me."

Early on he went to Egypt, just after American tourists were machine-gunned to death outside of Hatshepsut's Temple, near Luxor.

He says, "In a country devoid of tourists, I was able to discover Egypt in my own way. Powerful experiences on that journey molded me. Experiences like climbing the Great Pyramid Kephran at 4am, or sleeping in the King's Sarcophagus, or even spending the night with a family in a dirt hut."

After Egypt, he spent Christmas with a family in Trinidad, drove across the United States more than 20 times, etc., but it was a weekend trip to Iceland that gave definite shape to the CouchSurfing Project.

After buying a cheap web-special from Boston to Iceland, he contemplated his housing options.

He says, "I thought about the idea of contacting someone on the Internet and seeing if I could hang out with them and maybe sleep at their house."

He continues,
It wasn't easy. I emailed a couple Icelanders who had personal websites asking if I could crash at their place. No dice.

Then, eureka! I stumbled across the University of Iceland's student directory.

After a bit of sherlocking, I harvested 1,500 names and email addresses from the directory.

I then wrote a nice letter explaining that I was coming to Iceland and that I was looking for a place to crash.

Using a database and an email program, I mail merged the letter with the list of names and emails.

Each personalized email was then sent to each student saying, "Hey Bjorn, I'm coming to Iceland..."

In 24 hours I had between 50 and 100 people saying, "Yeah, come stay with me!" At that point I had the opposite problem. Who should I stay with?

To make yet another long story short, I went to visit Yoa and her friends.

They showed me 'their' Iceland. I had a ball too!

Great stories, great fun, and amazing friends were discovered that weekend in May.

When I was on the plane back to Boston, I thought to myself, "That's how I want to travel... every time."

And thus, the CouchSurfing Project was born.
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