Casey Fenton And His CouchSurfing.org Social Travel Community Just Got $15 Million Richer But They’re Stickin’ To Their (Grass)Roots
I had my first CouchSurfing experience back in February. My traveling buddy and I needed a place to stay in Santiago, Chile, and decided to try out the social travel movement everyone had been talking about on the backpacking circuit. We showed up to a beautiful doorman building in the middle of the city to find our welcoming host Carlos with a bottle of wine, a blow-up mattress, and a large comfy couch. He also had a globe with pins indicating where his previous CouchSurfing guests came from. He was an amazing host, gave us some great advice and we even had a couple meals (and drinks, of course) together. An excellent way to be inducted into the CS community.
Now, if you’re a non-traveler (or a boring one, yeah I said it), this concept might seem weird and/or terrifying. Staying on a random person’s couch, in a random country…for free? There’s got to be a catch. But, if you’re part of the community you understand what an amazing experience it can be to host or stay at a local’s house, receive local knowledge and hospitality and, yeah, save a few bucks.
Luckily, this grassroots project has turned into a gigantic social movement of over 5 million adventurous, open globetrotters that has changed the way we travel.
And, it all started in Iceland…
Casey Fenton and the Icelandic beginnings
It was 1998 and Casey Fenton was planning a trip to Iceland. In an effort to find a place to stay, he randomly emailed 1,500 University of Iceland students asking for accommodation. He was surprised to get a large response of generous hosts.
When he got back home to Boston he started the CouchSurf Project. Many years and inspiring trips later, the project evolved into CouchSurfing.org:
“A global network of travelers, adventure seekers and lifelong learners.”
The site even offers features like events, live chat, discussion groups, etc., making global connections even easier.
Casey is now the co-founder and Executive Director of the company and, after running around the globe for a while, has found a home in San Francisco where he is continuing to help grow the CouchSurfing community.
And what about the money, man?
Oh yes, the awesomeness and growth of CouchSurfing has not gone unnoticed; the company just landed $15 million in funding, bringing its grand travel budget total to $22.6 million to date. CEO Tony Espinoza says despite the large amount of capital, the company will remain a word-of-mouth, grassroots movement. But, he’s probably not sleeping on anyone’s couch.
If you’re a curious traveler, or even a non-believer, check out the inspiring company video here. I absolutely love it and my few experiences have been so memorable since joining the movement. I hope to continue my adventures and couch surfing for many years to come. If I ever settle down (someday, I swear!), I’ll be happy to open my home up to others. Pay it forward and all that.