I joined Couchsurfing in 2006 after learning about it at the beginning of my yearlong trip around the world. It was a twist on an age-old hospitality, allowing the internet to be the conduit between travelers and hosts. Facilitating this basic exchange were forums, events, and — in time — self-organized, organic gatherings in cities all around the world.
During that trip I hosted a dozen people in Spain and surfed with hosts in Germany, Hungary, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan. Every experience was positive. It fulfilled my desires as a traveler — to gain local cultural experiences; to learn from people in intimate, personal settings; and to share in genuine, human hospitality.
Couchsurfing changed not only my life, but how I traveled and saw the world. It was how I met several of my best friends.
Today it is a shadow of its self, full of abandoned profiles and spam-filled city pages. The journey of how Couchsurfing rose and fell is a tale of the power of organic community, and how growth can often be a facade.