Couchsurfers: We all know a few. Maybe we’ve been one. One of those guests who crashes in the living rooms of a circle of friends in lieu of paying their own rent. But now there’s a new breed of couchsurfers: world travelers who stay on other “surfer’s” couches around the world (in exchange for extending their own living room to other travelers). The Couchsurfing Project dubs itself as “a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit.” How? Simple – you create on online profile and search your desired travel locale. You then request accommodations from local hosts. In many cases you are welcome to stay for up to a few nights. All absolutely free. That’s right, no expensive hotel costs. But this network is more than just free accommodations – it’s about creating a worldwide social network and experiencing the culture with the locals. Sure, most everyone who goes to Paris for the first time is going to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but your Couchsuring host may take you to all the yummy local cafes and chic shopping spots.

Sounds sketchy? It’s surprisingly not. The website uses a system where current members can “vouch” for hosts and guests. It’s similar to the system Amazon and eBay use to rate sellers. There are also other safety precautions listed on the website.

I’ve never been a Couchsurfer, but I think it’s such a cool idea. And I’m not the only one. There are currently over 200,000 Couchsurfers in over 200 countries. And countless friendships and priceless travel experiences.