CouchSurfing is the act of trading hospitality, practiced by the over 2 million members of the CouchSurfing network present in 230 countries worldwide. A CouchSurfer will stay at the host’s house for a day or more, depending on the arrangement made between the host and the guest. CouchSurfers contact each other through the organization’s nonprofit website, which exists in 33 languages and boasts 20 million hits a day. The movement began in San Francisco in 2003, merging a utopian idea of a better world with the web 2.0.
CouchSurfing was created in order to allow everyone to travel and share the widest possible range of cultural experiences. CouchSurfing is always free, as one of the few rules is that money cannot be exchanged between members. It has become a truly global phenomenon, with couches available in more than 70,000 cities around the world, from Antarctica to northern Alaska, from Tehran to Washington, from the Maldives to Timbuktu.
Riverboom’s Gabriele Galimberti traveled around the world with CouchSurfing for more than a year in order to discover this young, diverse, multicultural, multiracial global community. He has CouchSurfed on all the five continents and has hosted dozens of CouchSurfers in his house in Tuscany. He has slept on a bed worthy of a 5-star hotel in a fairytale villa in Texas and in a room ten square meters in Sichuan, which he shared with 3 generations of a Chinese farmer family. In Ukraine he was hosted by a couple that welcomed him naked, informing him they are “house nudists” and in Botswana by a young man training to become an evangelical pastor. CouchSurfing gives rise to stories of sharing, of friendship and sometimes even of love. Most of all, CouchSurfing provides a way to get to know places and people in a more profound manner and that, after all, is the true essence of travel.