Creeped Out by Couchsurfing
Is couchsurfing.org a brave social experiment spreading love and hospitality around the world—or a hedonistic haven for creeps seeking an easy lay?
Illustrations by Morgan Elliott
The pretty ponytailed blond plucked me out of travel purgatory and offered me a place to crash during my one-night layover in Rome. Milena smiled in her photo, as if caught mid-laugh, raising her wine glass in a toast.
I found her on Couchsurfing.org, an Internet community recommended by a friend for travelers and hosts to exchange camaraderie and couches free of charge. Milena’s profile skimmed the basics: She had not posted a description of herself, or written anything in the category “One amazing thing I’ve seen or done.” She had no references. But I needed a place, and she was giving it to me. I was in no position to expect much. Based on her photo, she seemed like a kindred spirit, a young traveler who spoke English. I figured I might even walk away with a new international friend, someone who could potentially accompany me on future travels. Plus I didn’t want to pay twenty-five Euros to stay in a hostel for a couple hours, especially since my tour …