moving on from the couchsurfing corporation

some more local and modern pipes, dazkarieh

in sync with all the studies i published, CS has finally become a for-profit organization. as some other organizations have done, they started as a pseudo-non-profit (they never got the status approved) and with it, accepted donations and volunteer work to make the website grow. thanks to all that volunteer work, the website grew to a staggering 3,000,000+. once it got too big to fail, they sold it off and now it’s owned bycompanies such as ebay to investment groups that have in their funded website list organizations like twitter and are owned by, among others, the people behind ebay. while this is a big blow to volunteers, since i never volunteered more than my own couch, i don’t feel as bad as many do right now.

but that’s not really what i’m writing about today. today i’m writing my eulogy to my own participation on CS. i might still use it, but i certainly won’t use it the same way.

CS changed my life more than any other online community i’ve been a part of. not because it is very good as an online community, but because it promotes offline connections. this allowed me to meet almost 1000 amazing people from all over the world, allowed be to grow and test my own political ideologies, and most importantly, establish a network of friendships all over the globe. let me make it very clear: CS has made my life incredibly better in many different ways, and i’d be a fool to get angry because they decided to go a different ideological route than they did at the beginning.

what CS does is priceless in terms of breaking cultural boundaries in a select group of the traveling population. in practice, a couch is not commonly given to the poor, the needy or the oppressed. i ran the tests, see GDP data. the people that use CS are the people that don’t need to use CS. but that’s what makes them special. these are travelers that (still) believe traveling is more than a tour guide and a hotel, and no matter how naive, superficial or materialistic they might be, these core values create a very idealistic community.

it was there that i got the support and like-mindedness to advance my ideas for community building, and most importantly, understood how diverse we are and how important it is to listen to each other.

so seeing CS go for-profit (even if they call it “B”, it’s still for-profit), is both its coming of age and mine. since i started, i have been on permanent state of deepening my own understanding of how things work between common people. what i found, that can be seen in all the studies i’ve done all these years, has not only surprised me but given me a stronger basis for when i say people are generally good, trusting and above all, creative and empathetic. i have gathered evidence that demonstrates that age, race, gender or nationality are irrelevant, and that what still matters is the real human moments created and the setting they are created in. it matters more if you are tired and need a bed, hungry and need food, or lonely and need a hug, than whether you are rich or poor, black or white, man or woman or other.

i have also learned one of the biggest lessons of my life. though this wasn’t through CS, it was thanks to CS that i met the amazing people that helped me achieve it. i learned that the homeless, the weak, the junkies, petty thieves and low-lives that surround us are not hopelessly trapped, not invalids and certainly not lazy, no matter how the capitalist individualist mindset tries to push that through propaganda. i have seen hiv positive people with their eyes lit about the future as they worked for a common goal even though their lives had been dramatically shortened, i have seen junkies reduce their drug use for the simple fact that they were fed and happy. above all, i have see that social justice and a meaningful existence are the most powerful tools one can have to change the world around us. empathy and compassion but also bravery and relentlessness to exert them.

but it was also through these experiments and experiences that i learned that new ideas are necessary. i grew frustrated with the middle class european activists that i would meet, that seemed to be more focused on hypothetical situations and impossible practical options than getting their hands dirty. and above all, the overwhelming majority of humans that though having their hearts in the right place, feel they can’t do more, powerless to do more, and hopeless for the future.

i can say that certainly there is little hope, but hope is for those who don’t know what the consequences of their actions are. we are only hopeful and faithful if we don’t know what will come of our doings. i have no hope and no faith on my own future now because i understand what works and what doesn’t, and above all, have finally detached myself from the veiled need for survival.

i grew frustrated, as time went by, of how many people were telling me they wanted to change the world. of how many were telling me others were wrong and they were right. but when asked a concrete ideal for our present, there was none. this is the value crisis we live in, and this is where i focus my ideological work now.

none of this would have been possible without CS and the wonderful people i met through it. but CS itself was an organization i had a high moral respect for. what they were doing, though naive, was sending a message to the world that borders and property weren’t realities, but man-made fictions. what CS confirms now is that the idealistic, when naive, are quickly capitalized by the unscrupulous elite. CS has gone from the wonderful idealistic and incompetent group of people that just wanted to meet foreigners and do parties with all of them, to a serious business venture. this, therefore, makes it incompatible with the way i see things should be done. either one is for profit openly, as airbnb for example, or one is for other goals, like servas. what CS did was a bait and switch: get volunteers, raise enough social capital, and once you’re big enough, sell and go for profit with all the work done by the volunteers. the only thing wrong here is the fact that there was a clear claim they were non-profit when it wasn’t true. i certainly don’t appreciate being lied to or deceived, so now i will provide alternatives to whoever seeks equivalent systems.

i wouldn’t say CS owes me anything or that i owe CS anything. for the years i worked with it, it was more of a mutual reciprocity exchange. now that my experiences will be sold, i feel that trust has been broken and will move on.

here’s my list. i recommend anyone who hosts on CS and wants to leave to maintain their profile and write to people to request to them through other networks. that way, one can transition people from CS to other networks, to stop the deception.

bewelcome.orgsimilar to CS in values, but not for profit (yet)
workaway.infowork exchange (people work for your couch)
helpx.netpeople work for your farm or place in exchange for food and lodging
wwoof.orgpeople work for your farm for food and lodging
airbnb.compeople PAY to use your couch or house
warmshowers.orgsimilar to CS but for cyclists
globalfreeloaders.comlike CS, not very big
servas.orgone of the oldest hospitality networks
tripping.comlike CS, for profit company
hospitalityclub.organother one of the oldest hospitality networks

if i missed any let me know! and above all, thank you for everything CS, but we have grown apart and it’s time to move on

7 thoughts on “moving on from the couchsurfing corporation

  1. is not just one of the oldest – it’s the first dedicated hospitality network. And it’s tied to Couchsurfing not Bewelcome. There’s also CS is not owned by eBay. The founder of eBay has a non-profit foundation which has invested in CS. Very big difference.

  2. hey, thanks for the feedback. while i personally wouldn’t monetize on hospitality, in line with that article, i’m not against it, as long as it is clearly stated in the organization’s goal. what pissed me off was the bait and switch CS just did.

    i corrected the post and added your data, thanks!

  3. Hey, there is HospitalityClub as well, it has around 300.000 members and is somewhere between Sevras and CS, i was there before CS, its founder is German, and it lost its users to CS when broke down several times.

    1. thanks, i added it. i’ve been a member of HC for 3 years and had 2 requests, i guess i just forgot

  4. You can add the following, if you feel it’s relevant to your table:

    BeWelcome has a sort of “democracy, transparency, community empowerment” culture, and they love free software. They’re trying right now to move the site from the homebrew “rox” free software framework to drupal. They don’t have leadership. It comes with its set of drawbacks.

    Hospitality Club has a very possessive owner that believes in total control. The ex-volunteers sound like like gulag survivors. The volunteers have all left which is why the site looks so old. Now the guy is talking sweet about open source and stuff to attract new workforce. He might be sincere.

    Servas is paper based, it has the charity status that CS claims it was chasing. It is entirely paper based, and it decided to offer an online version as well, based on the BeWelcome software. That one that is being worked on.

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