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Couch surfing

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Everyone knows that, when it comes to traveling inexpensively, the best way to do it is to crash on a friend's couch. But what if you've already used up all your visitation rights? What if you desperately want to visit Antwerp but don't know anyone there? Well, some geniuses have come up with a perfect solution: CouchSurfing. It's Facebook for backpackers, Friends Reunited for people who've never met before…

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According to its website, CouchSurfing seeks 'to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.' That's the vision. Sounds nice. Here's the practicality. Join CouchSurfing, and you can stay for free almost anywhere in the world. Find someone on the site who has a couch where you want to go, make contact and start planning your trip. Some people have made six-month journeys using the network.

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It's a brilliant idea, if you're inclined to stay with complete strangers. The website has all kinds of safety checks they use to make sure nothing creeeeepy happens when you show up at Joe's apartment in Chibougamau, which is good to know.

The idea for CouchSurfing was born when its founder Casey Fenton visited Iceland for a long weekend. Before he left he spammed 1500 Icelandic students in Reykjavik to ask if he could crash on their couches. The locals rose to the challenge and he had the time of his life. He's never looked back – and by the testimonials on the site, many others haven't either. RM

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