Couchsurfing: Taking over, one couch at a time

Most travelers are familiar with Couchsurfing at this point. That great nonprofit initiative that connects travelers from all over the globe, providing them with a couch to crash on, some great company and events around the city, or simply a local’s advice. As someone with a decent number of couchsurfing experiences under her belt, I can attest to the organizations quality. I’ve had singularly amazing experiences when traveling in foreign cities, all thanks to the great Couchsurfers I’ve hooked up with while on the road. However, these days, Couchsurfing is an organization that is familiar to almost everyone, not simply travelers.

Couchsurfing promotes a deep communal philosophy, and because of this hugely active CS communities have sprouted up all over the globe. Some communities have regular meet-ups, weekly outings, and organize an endless cascade of events. Some CS communities have effectively taken over local events and made them their own, re-christening them as CS events, like the famous Braderie of Lille. This event, called the largest event in all of Belgium and the North of France, is in essence a huge flea market whose tradition stems back to the Middle Ages. Once Couchsurfers in the area were turned on to it, the event grew exponentially. These days, turn out ranks in the millions, and couches are booked months in advance throughout France, Belgium, and England. To call it simply a flea market is to do it an injustice. The event is packed with musicians, dancers, DJs, dances, and any other spectacle one could imagine.

Other events like Santarchy in the States have largely become Couchsurfing events. Santarchy became so popular an event within Couchsurfing that some communities organize huge roadtrips to hit the meet-ups in as many cities as possible.

Some of these events take on huge festival proportions reminiscent of Burning Man. Only they’re not Burners, they’re Couchsurfers (though many are one and the same). Have you had the opportunity to experience any of these huge Couchsurfing traditions? How was your experience?

And if you are going to be couchsurfing in the future, you might want to check out Jill K. Robinson’s article about how to be a good guest.

Posted by | Comments (10)  | August 23, 2010
Category: Europe, Hospitality, North America

10 Responses to “Couchsurfing: Taking over, one couch at a time”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Santarchy is so much fun! Of course, if the event’s held in Scottsdale, AZ, it could be “too hot” for some travelers to handle. And, couchsurfing is always an option.

  2. GypsyGirl Says:

    Couchsurfing is a wonderful community!Great people-fun times and lasting friends!

  3. Mark Lawrence Says:

    Couchsurfing is the greatest thing on the planet. The way that Couchsurfing has enhanced my life and allowed me to give back through the hosting of others has been nothing short of truly amazing.

  4. Dimitri Says:

    Most of the people I met during my travels was through couchsurfing! As well as locals as travelers.

  5. » Burning Man as vagabonding? :: Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Says:

    […] and I have made a few mentions of Burning Man when describing other extreme festivals such as Couchsurfing events or the Love Parade. However, those readers that have never been to “a Burn” may not […]

  6. Thomas G Says:

    Oh you’re also the author of the article about north of france’s food! You must think I hate you, but I don’t, just love my region ;p

  7. Colleen Wilde Says:

    I’m glad so many people have had such great experiences with couchsurfing! It truly is a great organization, open to new cultures and experiences.

    @Thomas: No, Thomas, no offense taken. You’re right, the Braderie has always been huge. However, living in Lille, I’ have found that the presence of Couchsurfers is undeniably huge, compared to the relatively small size of the city. I love how active and close the community is. The CS Lille community gears up for the event for months and couches are booked out months in advance. It’s really great to see people Couchsurfing as far away as London and throughout Belgium, just so they can come to our Braderie. And turnout at the event really does rank in the millions. I never said that there are thousands of CSers around, but I’d be willing to wager that your number isn’t that far off. I’m disappointed to miss the event this year.

  8. Jeanna Says:

    Is couch surfing something you can do with your kids? I intend to take my children on a 6 week trip where we maintain a very minimalist approach to seeing Europe. I want them to see it not as a tourist but as a native would.

  9. Jeannette V Says:

    I never heard of couchsurfing until last month while staying at a hostel in Sicily. A french girl was checking-out and going to meet a person who’s place she was going to couchsurf at which pinged my curiousity and led me to this article.