International CouchSurfing Day: Do you have a couch lined up?

Ten years ago on June 12, CouchSurfing was born–or rather was registered as a domain name and sleeping on the couch of people you just met became an organized system. More than just a way to hook people up with a free place to call it a night, CouchSurfing was created as a way to help make the world a better place.

See, if you stay on the couch of people who have agreed that they like people to stay on their couch as a way to get to know traveling types and expand their connections, the world becomes more friendly. When you make this a global scene, the power just grows.

As a person who CouchSurfed before it was conceived as an organized entity, I can attest to the value of staying with strangers. When I traveled across the United States with a friend of mine after we got out of the Peace Corps, we used our connections of friends to stay with their friends and family members. In most cases it determined where we headed and the experience created a sense that the U.S. was warm, welcoming and friendly.

Our couchsurfing found us staying in: Des Moines, Iowa courtesy of a home for wayward women; at a dairy farm in Vinita, Oklahoma, an itty bitty town; a bachelor pad in downtown San Francisco; and in a house near the beach in Carlsbad, California. At each place we hadn’t met the people before we showed up at their door (or they picked us up at the bus station). The rest of the time we stayed with friends of ours or my family members in various towns and cities in Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and California. Her parents sprung for the hotel room in Seattle and Vancouver and we tented it Utah and at the Rocky Mountain National Park.

That do-it-yourself couchsurfing experience has prompted me to welcome other people who have needed a place to stay into my home which has added to the feeling of expansiveness. It has also created a rich bank of memories of the people who have stayed with us who live in other parts of the world. One of them, Rita Goldman Gelman, author of Tales of a Female Nomad has made couchsurfing an integral part of her life. She stayed with her when we lived in New Delhi and we visited her two summers ago in Seattle.

Without our connections, there’s no way we would have been able to afford this trip and would have missed out on what helped me transition back into a life in the United States (until I moved overseas again).

Thanks to people don’t need to rely on their own connections which might be a paltry number. The whole world is ones oyster thanks to an organized, Internet based system. To date there are 232 countries, 59,929 cities and 1,168,136 people who are registered with couches.

To celebrate International CouchSurfing Day you can also begin looking for a couch in a place you’ve always wanted to go–or offer someone yours. Here are two events happening to celebrate the occassion.

For more Gadling couchsurfing perspectives check out Brook Silva-Braga’s experiences in northern Europe and Tynan’s in Haiti. Neil also vouches for couches and has fond memories of an experience in Kazakhstan.