If you have a couch, you can be an ambassador to the world.
by Allen Sacharov
Over 600 local residents have discovered this by belonging to the internet organization called Couchsurfing.com. In essence, the group seeks to match travelers with those able to host them. There are several million participants worldwide on all continents, including Antarctica. Travelers benefit by being able to learn about an area from local residents instead of guidebooks. Hosts benefit by having interesting guests enrich their lives.
Salt Lake City couchsurfers are diverse and eclectic. “What ties us together is worldliness and openmindedness,” said Josh Jentzsch, who has been a member for 1 1/2 years, hosting a dozen individuals and himself visiting Denver as a couchsurfer.
The process itself is simple. After registering on the website for $25, a person constructs a profile. Travellers seeking lodging will access the website to find hosts with similiar interests or ideal locations. Hosts are contacted via email and if they consent to the visit, an agreement is reached as to the length of stay and accomodations.
After a visit, references are posted by both the traveler and host, thus assuring the service is not abused. For although travellers visit without charge, couchsurfing is more than a free vacation pass. It is a way to expand minds and borders. “I love living in Salt Lake and I am proud to share this with the people who have visited me,” Jentzsch said.
Utah is a popular couchsurfing site for the same reason tourism flourishes here – proximity to national parks and a crossroads for those travelling cross country. And in turn, Salt Lakers have visited around the world.
But couchsurfers have expanded the parameters of the group to benefit members even if there are no exotic destinations on the horizon.
Allen Sacahrov is a guest contributor for Utah Stories, he lives in Salt Lake City and has traveled extensively throughout the United States.