Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Cloudy
33°
Cloudy
Hi 36° | Lo 19°

Couchsurfing brings travelers and hosts together

  • SARAH CROSBY<br/><br/>Have couch will host<br/><br/>Fariba Ghayebi of South Hadley, left, and Catherine O'Brien of Nebraska clean up after dinner at Ghayebi's home May 19. O'Brien is a Mount Holyoke College graduate and returned for her 10th reunion. The two women connected on couchsurfing.org and Ghayebi provided O'Brien with a place to stay for the night. For a story and more photos on this kind of informal hospitality, see Page C1. <br/><br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    SARAH CROSBY

    Have couch will host

    Fariba Ghayebi of South Hadley, left, and Catherine O'Brien of Nebraska clean up after dinner at Ghayebi's home May 19. O'Brien is a Mount Holyoke College graduate and returned for her 10th reunion. The two women connected on couchsurfing.org and Ghayebi provided O'Brien with a place to stay for the night. For a story and more photos on this kind of informal hospitality, see Page C1.


    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom, left, does his laundry on April 16th, 2013 with the help of Finian and Auden Fremstad of Amherst, 5 and 8, at the Fremstad's apartment laundry facility. Lindstrom is originally from Sweden and surfed on the Fremstad's couch in 2012 while waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom, left, does his laundry on April 16th, 2013 with the help of Finian and Auden Fremstad of Amherst, 5 and 8, at the Fremstad's apartment laundry facility. Lindstrom is originally from Sweden and surfed on the Fremstad's couch in 2012 while waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom walks the Fremstad children Auden, 8, Finian, 5, and Annika, 2, back to their Amherst home after doing laundry in the apartment complex laundry facility on April 16th, 2013. Lindstrom is originally from Sweden and surfed on the Fremstad's couch in 2012 while waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom walks the Fremstad children Auden, 8, Finian, 5, and Annika, 2, back to their Amherst home after doing laundry in the apartment complex laundry facility on April 16th, 2013. Lindstrom is originally from Sweden and surfed on the Fremstad's couch in 2012 while waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Anders Fremstad of Amherst, left, awaits an arriving couchsurfing guest while UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom uses his phone to browse couchsurfing.org on April 16th, 2013. Lindstrom, originally from Sweden, met the Fremstad family by "surfing" on their couch the previous year, while he was waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Anders Fremstad of Amherst, left, awaits an arriving couchsurfing guest while UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom uses his phone to browse couchsurfing.org on April 16th, 2013. Lindstrom, originally from Sweden, met the Fremstad family by "surfing" on their couch the previous year, while he was waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY reacts to a large, sunlit room in the home where Ruthy Woodring lives in Florence on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her housemates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY reacts to a large, sunlit room in the home where Ruthy Woodring lives in Florence on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her housemates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY tests out a loft bed provided by Ruthy Woodring of Florence on on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her housemates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY tests out a loft bed provided by Ruthy Woodring of Florence on on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her housemates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ruthy Woodring of Florence, left, watches as couchsurfing guest MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY tests out a light switch on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her housemates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Ruthy Woodring of Florence, left, watches as couchsurfing guest MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY tests out a light switch on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her housemates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Catherine O'Brien of Nebraska, left, eats dinner with Fariba Ghayebi of South Hadley on Sunday, May 19th, 2013. O'Brien is a Mount Holyoke College alumnae and returned for her 10 year college reunion. The two women connected on couchsurfing.org and Ghayebi provided O'Brien with a place to stay for the night.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Catherine O'Brien of Nebraska, left, eats dinner with Fariba Ghayebi of South Hadley on Sunday, May 19th, 2013. O'Brien is a Mount Holyoke College alumnae and returned for her 10 year college reunion. The two women connected on couchsurfing.org and Ghayebi provided O'Brien with a place to stay for the night.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alicia Robinson of Guatemala sleeps on the Fremstad's couch in Amherst on April 18th, 2013. Robinson traveled to Amherst to visit her grandmother and used couchsurfing.org to secure a place to sleep during her visit.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Alicia Robinson of Guatemala sleeps on the Fremstad's couch in Amherst on April 18th, 2013. Robinson traveled to Amherst to visit her grandmother and used couchsurfing.org to secure a place to sleep during her visit.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Catherine O'Brien of Nebraska, left, eats dinner with Fariba Ghayebi of South Hadley on Sunday, May 19th, 2013. O'Brien is a Mount Holyoke College alumnae and returned for her 10 year college reunion. The two women connected on couchsurfing.org and Ghayebi provided O'Brien with a place to stay for the night.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Catherine O'Brien of Nebraska, left, eats dinner with Fariba Ghayebi of South Hadley on Sunday, May 19th, 2013. O'Brien is a Mount Holyoke College alumnae and returned for her 10 year college reunion. The two women connected on couchsurfing.org and Ghayebi provided O'Brien with a place to stay for the night.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Auden Fremstad of Amherst, 8, on left, plays in a tree with UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom on April 16th, 2013. Lindstrom is originally from Sweden and surfed on the Fremstad's couch in 2012 while waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Auden Fremstad of Amherst, 8, on left, plays in a tree with UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom on April 16th, 2013. Lindstrom is originally from Sweden and surfed on the Fremstad's couch in 2012 while waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Annika Fremstad of Amherst, 2, eats pancakes over a thank you note from couch surfing guest Alicia Robinson of Guatemala on April 18th, 2013. Robinson spent two nights with the family during her visit to Amherst and left the note expressing her gratitude for the lodging and hospitality of the family.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Annika Fremstad of Amherst, 2, eats pancakes over a thank you note from couch surfing guest Alicia Robinson of Guatemala on April 18th, 2013. Robinson spent two nights with the family during her visit to Amherst and left the note expressing her gratitude for the lodging and hospitality of the family.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alicia Robinson of Guatemala leaves the Fremstad's home in Amherst on April 18th, 2013 after spending two nights with the family as a couch surfing guest.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Alicia Robinson of Guatemala leaves the Fremstad's home in Amherst on April 18th, 2013 after spending two nights with the family as a couch surfing guest.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY reacts to a loft bed shown by Ruthy Woodring of Florence on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY reacts to a loft bed shown by Ruthy Woodring of Florence on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY unloads a travel bag from her car at Ruthy Woodring's home in Florence on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her roommates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY unloads a travel bag from her car at Ruthy Woodring's home in Florence on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her roommates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH CROSBY<br/><br/>Have couch will host<br/><br/>Fariba Ghayebi of South Hadley, left, and Catherine O'Brien of Nebraska clean up after dinner at Ghayebi's home May 19. O'Brien is a Mount Holyoke College graduate and returned for her 10th reunion. The two women connected on couchsurfing.org and Ghayebi provided O'Brien with a place to stay for the night. For a story and more photos on this kind of informal hospitality, see Page C1. <br/><br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom, left, does his laundry on April 16th, 2013 with the help of Finian and Auden Fremstad of Amherst, 5 and 8, at the Fremstad's apartment laundry facility. Lindstrom is originally from Sweden and surfed on the Fremstad's couch in 2012 while waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom walks the Fremstad children Auden, 8, Finian, 5, and Annika, 2, back to their Amherst home after doing laundry in the apartment complex laundry facility on April 16th, 2013. Lindstrom is originally from Sweden and surfed on the Fremstad's couch in 2012 while waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Anders Fremstad of Amherst, left, awaits an arriving couchsurfing guest while UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom uses his phone to browse couchsurfing.org on April 16th, 2013. Lindstrom, originally from Sweden, met the Fremstad family by "surfing" on their couch the previous year, while he was waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY reacts to a large, sunlit room in the home where Ruthy Woodring lives in Florence on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her housemates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY tests out a loft bed provided by Ruthy Woodring of Florence on on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her housemates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Ruthy Woodring of Florence, left, watches as couchsurfing guest MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY tests out a light switch on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her housemates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Catherine O'Brien of Nebraska, left, eats dinner with Fariba Ghayebi of South Hadley on Sunday, May 19th, 2013. O'Brien is a Mount Holyoke College alumnae and returned for her 10 year college reunion. The two women connected on couchsurfing.org and Ghayebi provided O'Brien with a place to stay for the night.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Alicia Robinson of Guatemala sleeps on the Fremstad's couch in Amherst on April 18th, 2013. Robinson traveled to Amherst to visit her grandmother and used couchsurfing.org to secure a place to sleep during her visit.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Catherine O'Brien of Nebraska, left, eats dinner with Fariba Ghayebi of South Hadley on Sunday, May 19th, 2013. O'Brien is a Mount Holyoke College alumnae and returned for her 10 year college reunion. The two women connected on couchsurfing.org and Ghayebi provided O'Brien with a place to stay for the night.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Auden Fremstad of Amherst, 8, on left, plays in a tree with UMass international graduate student Sebastian Lindstrom on April 16th, 2013. Lindstrom is originally from Sweden and surfed on the Fremstad's couch in 2012 while waiting to move into his dorm. He has developed a close relationship with his "American family" and often drops in for visits.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Annika Fremstad of Amherst, 2, eats pancakes over a thank you note from couch surfing guest Alicia Robinson of Guatemala on April 18th, 2013. Robinson spent two nights with the family during her visit to Amherst and left the note expressing her gratitude for the lodging and hospitality of the family.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Alicia Robinson of Guatemala leaves the Fremstad's home in Amherst on April 18th, 2013 after spending two nights with the family as a couch surfing guest.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY reacts to a loft bed shown by Ruthy Woodring of Florence on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson of NY unloads a travel bag from her car at Ruthy Woodring's home in Florence on March 22nd, 2013. Woodring, along with her roommates, provided temporary housing accommodations for Scheblein-Dawson, who was in town to teach at a Zentangle conference at the Hotel Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

For the last three to four years, Janessa Landeck and Anders Fremstad have been letting people crash on their couch in Amherst. Their guests are not friends or relatives, though. They are couchsurfers.

“We love sharing our couch with people who need a place to stay,” Janessa Landeck said. “It’s a great cultural exchange.”

Couchsurfing is an online network that connects travelers who need a place to stay with people who want to host them.

It started in 2004 when founder Casey Fenton emailed students in Iceland, hoping to find a free place to stay and to get a more authentic experience of the country than he would get if he stayed in a hotel, according to the couchsurfing.org website. Now, the network includes six million people in over 100,000 cities around the world.

The sponsors can offer just a place to sleep, but some play host, giving their visitors tours, cooking them dinner and sharing about their different cultures.

The Landeck-Fremstad clan first heard about couchsurfing from friends who’d enjoyed it, so they created a couchsurfing.org profile and offered their couch to the online community of travelers. While they most often play hosts to visitors, they have couchsurfed in Portland, Ore., and are surfing in India.

“Especially because we have kids, we love having lots of different people here for them to interact with,” Janessa Landeck said. “Some are from other countries, some are a different socio-economic status. It’s just a good way to expose them to different people.”

Some of their guests have become good friends, too. They let a Swedish graduate student named Sebastian Lindstrom stay at their home last September while he looked for an apartment to rent near the University of Massachusetts, and now he regularly comes over for dinner, she said.

Landeck said people are sometimes surprised they let strangers into their home, but they have never had problems.

Couchsurfing is most popular with people in their 20s, she said. But Janessa said her parents couchsurfed on a recent trip to Europe after seeing how much the Landeck and Fremstad enjoyed it.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.