Here is how Couchsurfing.com has helped me thus far....
I have been searching for a place to go after Costa Rica. George and Greg from Surfer Supplies told me about a small town in France, Guethary. I tried googling the town, but all that came up were super expensive bed & breakfast's and castles for rent. I remembered one of my customers before mentioning a site - couchsurfing.com, so I checked it out. Sure enough, there is one person in Guethary, France who had a profile. His name is Jon Tak. He is a big wave surfer, has traveled all over the world, grew up in Japan, then moved to France, and has also lived in the United States. Basically he was raised in 3 of the most diverse cultures in the world. His profile said that he had a couch available, and that he could accommodate 1 guest for a few days. I wrote to him, asking about the town, the waves, his couch and if he had any friends that may want to rent a room to me for a month and make some extra cash. How great to have a local connection in a town that is half way around the world! He wrote me back by the end of the day explaining that he had just moved to a nearby town, Hosseger. He would be traveling through Paris for the month of March, so his apartment was all mine for the month if I wanted it -- I would just pay his rent, $375. He offered other places for me to stay, and recommended some places to go (Spain is only 20km away!).
I haven't decided on France just yet, I've also been checking out some couches in Spain and Thailand. This isn't about saving money on a place to stay, it's about really really being into the culture. How better to learn about France than to stay with someone who lives there and knows all about it? I'm sure that Emily Corkill would vouch for this statement -- when she lived in South Jersey one summer, the Callahans took her in and she really experienced the Jersey Shore. Fishing, crabbing, clamming, surfing, backyard BBQ's, family parties, enjoying Carmen's seafood -- compliments of Carmen himself -- without a local showing her around she would have just been one more shoobie hanging out at La Costa and renting little dingy's from Frank's Boats.
So next time you think about traveling, check out couchsurfing.com. You don't have to stay on their couch, some people just offer "Coffee". If you're in Norway, find someone from the site to have coffee with -- maybe they could recommend some great, local restaurants, or something that you can't leave without experiencing.
This is my profile, check it out: http://www.couchsurfing.com/profile.html?id=6ECN160
This is couch surfing's mission statement:
CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance and facilitate cultural understanding.
As a community we strive to do our individual and collective parts to make the world a better place, and we believe that the surfing of couches is a means to accomplish this goal.
CouchSurfing is not about the furniture, not just about finding free accommodations around the world; it's about making connections worldwide. We make the world a better place by opening our homes, our hearts, and our lives. We open our minds and welcome the knowledge that cultural exchange makes available. We create deep and meaningful connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures. CouchSurfing wants to change not only the way we travel, but how we relate to the world!