In the current phase of the crisis, where prices are rising rapidly, alternative ways of getting to know the world are playing an increasingly important role. Couchsurfing is an example. It is an international web project that opens up the possibility of sleeping on a sofa (or surfing as the name suggests) on a sofa anywhere in the world for free and with the motivation to exchange experiences with the host local.
It is a philosophy that focuses on flexible and adaptable people, and is open to meeting people, albeit open to everyone. “The profile of travelers are backpackers, young people who can forego more comfortable travel conditions to see the authenticity of destinations,” says Pablo Díaz, tourism expert at UOC’s Economics and Business studies.
The user must register and fill in two profiles, one for himself and the other for home. As the host, you can decide where to sleep – from the air mattress to the private room – whether to include topics such as house rules, accommodation images or activities with guests. “Many are looking for someone like them to have something to share,” explains Ana Mañas, the app’s ambassador to Spain.
In 2014, Jose Carlos Guillén decided to take a trip to Paris and try his luck with couchsurfing. He sent several requests and stayed in four different homes. “I wanted to save,” he explains. The 30-year-old couch surfer appreciates everything it has given him after visiting nearly 25 countries through the app: «You can connect with people from many cultures who open up perspectives on life to a level of wealth that is hard to achieve. Stay away from ». On a trip to Poland, she says she built her tour around people she wanted to meet rather than places she wanted to visit. It is more important for him to find extraordinary people than good accommodation.
And that’s the philosophy that Mañas stands out from couchsurfing. In 2014, it started to host foreigners at its home and has already hosted world travelers from 100 different countries. For the Ambassador, guests contribute to “knowing how to live in other countries and even how to explore the city”. The host has the freedom to decide what to offer at any time as well as the passenger. For example, while it is typical for the visitor to cook something from his country for the greeter, it is also common to attend local events together. “It’s not a direct exchange, it’s not an economic commitment, the more you travel the more you hope to be hosted and the point is to host when you don’t,” says Pablo Díaz.
Thanks to this application, the total budget of the trip can be significantly reduced, but this will depend on the chosen destination and the days of stay. If the expenditures of tourists coming to Spain for accommodation are taken as reference, according to the data of INE, an average of 1,336 euros per person was paid in August 2021. With this app, anyone traveling to Spain can save at least that much.
Born in 2004 and joined by more than 18 million people, the app isn’t the only one to offer free hosting through a collaborative economy based on resource sharing. Others, such as HomeExchange, whose users exchange their homes, have also been launched; or Gamping, where private owners offer their land for camping.
There may be people who do not trust the sacrifice of those who receive them. The website itself has recommendations for these situations, such as reviewing reviews and ratings, and a list of how to avoid the most common scams. According to Mañas, “It’s important to value the feeling that accommodation requests make in you and not rely solely on getting free accommodation when traveling”. “It’s about mutual trust,” adds Diaz.
Negative experiences are not common, according to Mañas, who has never encountered any. He also said that he had made a circle of friends and said, “Hey, I’m coming!” He says he has made a circle of friends. And it can be sewn to sofas anywhere in the world.