Just how comfortable is your sofa? Would you be prepared to let a stranger crash out there for the night? And, on the basis of a bit of email correspondence and seeing a photo of the sofa belonging to 'A. N. Unknown', would you travel halfway across the world to do the same? It might sound crazy, but this is exactly what millions of people have done whilst participating in an activity known as couch surfing.
Couch surfing is travelling on a budget, using a broad network of contacts in order to get overnight accommodation for free, or at as little cost as possible. Participants, dubbed couch surfers, join dedicated websites, providing as much information about themselves as possible in order to make others feel comfortable hosting them, or using them as a host. Various safety features are generally available in such online networks, like verification of names and addresses, personal references, and 'vouching for' a particular member as a reliable host or guest.
As well as the financial advantages of couch surfing, participants also claim that the practice gives them a more unique, authentic travel experience, allowing them to experience culture and cuisine through the locals, rather than from the confines of sanitized tourist accommodation.