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Travel the world on a couch

Bitten by the travel bug, but can’t really afford to stay anywhere but at a youth hostel? Well, here’s a solution for you — go Couch Surfing. CouchSurfing is not just about finding free accommodation around the world, but also getting into the heart of the local culture, writes Ruchira Hoon.

india Updated: May 10, 2009 00:47 IST
Ruchira Hoon

Bitten by the travel bug, but can’t really afford to stay anywhere but at a youth hostel? Well, here’s a solution for you — go Couch Surfing.

No that doesn’t mean that you have to drag your couch around. CouchSurfing.org is an online network that helps you connect with people across the globe and then crash on their couches, whenever you visit their country.

Travelling on a shoe-string budget can really get tough, but marketing executive Sahil Kothari has really seen some great times when he’s visited Mexico, several states in the US and even Greece. “I met a number of people through Couchsurfing and have saved up money to travel to these countries and then live with them for a while,” says the 35-year-old. “It’s a great way to seep in local culture and stretch your moolah to the maximum.”

The concept of CouchSurfing has been around for a couple of years now. And while in 2006, there were barely 760 Indian members; today, there are about 17,390 members. That’s 22 times more than you would imagine! While Mumbai logs in the highest number of members at 3,661 (it used to be 180), associates in Delhi are nearly 2,500. A growth spurt that is only going to go up.

With social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Orkut also helping the surge, as more and more communities form, and Indians are seriously contending to become number two users.

“This is because, not only are Indians happy to travel around the world, we are happy to have people from different countries as well,” says banker Hemant Gupta, who hosts people in Ludhiana. “I have been hosting people for the last year and a half and have learnt so much about the various countries they come from.” He goes on add that this is the next best thing to do, if you can’t go and visit another country yourself.

And that’s not all, India is also considered to be in the Top 20 destinations. For most people, CouchSurfing is not just about finding free accommodation around the world, it’s about getting into the heart of the local culture.

Dutch national Rebecca Bellini, who has been in India for the last two weeks, has been crashing out at fellow CouchSurfer, Rohit Kapoor’s place in Mumbai. “Some of my friends had stayed with Rohit earlier and he’s really been helpful in hooking me up with things to do,” says Rebecca. “I think this is the best way to see India especially since for several travellers, a compass is their only friend, but for CouchSurfers travelling is never a lonely exercise.”