Couch Surfing Essay

1003 WordsAug 27, 20125 Pages
It's 1 a.m., and I'm in Hong Kong for the first time, sitting in a bar in the Lan Kwai Fong district. I'm waiting for two girls I met on the Internet to show up and take me to their apartment, so my friend Harry and I can stay there for free for a few nights. Having been on flights for the past 24 hours, I am worn out and nervous when they don't arrive on time. But my faith is restored when I hear a thick Chinese accent asking, "Are you Cody?" Even though Jess and Jin are as much strangers to me as anyone else in the bar, I trust them. It seems as natural as being set up by a mutual friend, and, in a sense, that is exactly what is happening. Facilitating the interaction is CouchSurfing.com, a travel-oriented social-networking site that was started in 2004 and has grown to more than 2.4 million members, including 25 in Antarctica. The nonprofit site, which aims to connect travelers, or "surfers," with hosts willing to offer a free place to stay, has some similarities to Facebook in that it includes user profiles, photos and friend requests. But it also incorporates a familiar eBay feature: feedback. After every CouchSurfing interaction, the people involved leave references about each other — positive, neutral or negative. As on eBay, a negative reference can be the end of someone's ability to participate. But of the more than 6 million experiences CouchSurfing has facilitated, the company says 99.83% of them have been positive. "We believe that people are fundamentally good, and our service is designed around that premise," says CouchSurfing chairman and co-founder Daniel Hoffer. "Anytime you make yourself vulnerable in any way, you take a risk, and typically life rewards you for that risk." I first learned about the site last fall from my mom's friend, a middle-aged divorcée in Greenwich, Conn., who was planning on hosting travelers in her home to add a little

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