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Couch Surfing

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By Suzanne Boyd - bio | email

(WFLX) - Most people have crashed on someone's couch before, but using a stranger's sofa for a vacation?

Believe it or not, it's a traveling trend that is catching on. "It's surreal because it's someone I've never met before who's about to become a family member," said David Sapp.

Melissa and Jim Hyman are traveling musicians making a pit stop. Aside from a couple of phone conversations and e-mails, they've never met their host, David Sapp.

"We always stayed with friends and family, and when you go to a new place, you gotta find new friends and family, and that's what couch surfing is for," said Melissa.

This newly formed group of friends met on the Web site CouchSurfing.org. The non-profit network pairs travelers with local hosts in 230 countries and territories.

According to the site, their mission is to "create inspiring experiences: cross-cultural encounters that are fun, engaging and illuminating".

"It's my chance to live out a change I'd like to see in society. I'd like to see people be more open, less private," said Sapp. He has hosted more than 50 people at his home thanks to couch surfing. "Having been raised in a culture of hospitality, I wanted to be part of a community in which hospitality is focused on."

So, what makes it all worth while? "You've got a personal guide. Somebody who knows how to have a good time in that city. Someone who can introduce you to their friends, take you to a house party instead of just sitting up at a bar."

Whether you want to surf or host, getting started is pretty simple. Just head to the their Web site and create a profile with a picture, as well as your likes and dislikes. "So you tell what your policies on smoking, drinking. Do you have pets? Just what your place is like."

You're essentially staying in a stranger's home or hosting a stranger for free. So safety is vitally important. "Screen your guests, look at the feedback about previous experiences they've had in couch surfing. Is it all positive? If there's anything negative, why is it negative?"

Sapp says his more than 50 couch surfing experiences have been pleasant. He's also made lots of friends along the way. "If you're willing to open your home and your life to someone, you will find some of the most rewarding experiences of your life."

"We're building a community, and we're expanding a culture of trust and hospitality as far as we can."

To check it out, go to www.CouchSurfing.org.

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