More than once when I tell someone I have a "couch surfer" at my place, they think it's someone taking advantage of friends and family. But far from it, couchsurfing.org is a website where people from around the world meet, travel and find a place to stay.
Lately I haven't done much traveling, so I've been hosting. One thing about San Diego is that it's a very popular destination, I get at least three requests per week. Of course, you don't have to accept all requests, only the ones that are OK with your schedule.
The concept itself is a bit scary, after all I am inviting perfect strangers to sleep in my apartment. They would be there at a time when I am most vulnerable, yet I can honestly say I've felt perfectly safe with all my couch surfers. I do take basic precautions, like accepting only those with references and verified identities.
My first surfer was a girl from Netherlands, then I had a lady from UK now living in Atlanta, a girl from Canada (she's vegan and showed me great recipe for kale salad), a guy from Canada on a journey from Los Angeles to Chile - I think right now he's in Costa Rica - and several others. Each surfer has been a delight and I get to know a lot about their countries.
In some cases I've been a tour guide and in others I just been a place for them to sleep and relax. My place is very quiet and since most of them have been traveling for months, staying at hostels or wherever they can find a couch, they appreciate some peace and quiet.
In a way I feel like I've been traveling through my guests, they bring so many cultures and experiences right to my doorstep. And I'm still in touch with some of them via e-mail, so this really is a great way to meet new friends while bragging about my beautiful city!
There's quite a big community of hosts in San Diego, there's a weekly event called Tipsy Tuesday where you can mingle with locals and couch surfers. I've been to these events twice, the first time I saw an ex-coworker and the second time I got to meet Kaboom @thecrazymagnet in person after months of tweeting with him.
In 2012 I plan to go on a trip to England / Scotland / Ireland, I already have places to stay, but just in case I'll have my couch surfing peeps ready to offer me couch, especially in Dublin!