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For those of you that know me, you might know that I not only played a significant role in “One Couch at a Time,” one of the only major documentaries unearthing the beauty of Couchsurfing. Fast forward years later and I also consulted with Couchsurfing several days a week on the marketing and community side.

Anyway, what I’m REALLY excited about is that Couchsurfing has released a new feature on beta in San Francisco that allows people to list themselves as available to “hang out.” The pre-loaded suggestions include things like: grab beers, share a meal, go hiking, grab a coffee, and several others – but you can also make your own suggestion for what you’d like to do.

This exact idea has been tried so many times and I believe it’s failed through avenues like Foursquare’s, Swarm because people don’t necessarily want to hang out with the same people they’d want to broadcast their social life to. The power of Couchsurfing is that there are 12 million plus worldwide members in every corner of the world who are curious about others, oftentimes traveling themselves, and sometimes hosting guests. IMG_2548

When I was in Italy five years ago, there was a function on Couchsurfing that allowed you to see who was nearby by default. Of course, it wasn’t always accurate as it was done by IP address, but I can’t tell you how many people I discovered and new friends I met that way – both men and women. When you know someone is near and down to hang out and you’re looking for an adventure buddy, there no better way than on the fly. They took that feature away several years ago, but it’s back and back more directly as “Hangouts.”

Regardless of who makes real time social interaction between strangers work, I really think Couchsurfing has a strong shot at making this work on Paddle Board Mania. While this first iteration is on iOS only and leaves a bit to be desired, it’s still certainly moving in a beautiful direction of connecting people in the moments they want to connect. There are a few places where I’ve been people rant about this, calling it a dating feature… however, when people are meeting on the basis of human connection…duh – of course they are going to find people they romantically click with.

The great thing about travelers is that they are in an open frame of mind, willing to test limits, have more tolerance, less boundaries, and associations as to where they belong. Many travel specifically to have this experience. I will be following this with eager anticipation.

Let the serendipity engine begin.

Official word from Couchsurfing:

“We’ve heard feedback from members all over the world who want an easier way to meet with travelers and locals spontaneously. Hangouts allows you to find and make plans with other members that are nearby. Members can join existing hangouts, or create one of their own.

Use Hangouts to find travelers in town to grab a beer with, locals who might be down for a pick-up basketball game, and more.

To find Hangouts, open the Couchsurfing app on your phone and navigate to your Dashboard. Right near the top you should see a button that reads “Hangout Now.” Since Hangouts was built to connect people on the go, it’s currently only available on the Android and iOS Couchsurfing apps.

Since we’re still in testing mode, we’d love to hear your feedback. As a heads up, right now the feature is limited only to the Bay Area. It’ll be available worldwide in a few days!”

Couchsurfing Hangouts – Official Annoucement
Couchsurfing Mobile Hangouts – FAQ