By Lauren Yard
So, I read this article a while ago and I take issue with it for a couple of reasons. I realize that these two girls went out and successfully went through with this trip but at the same time, there are some significant points that aren’t really covered in the article.
They spent literally more than a quarter of their spring break on a bus. This means a MINIMUM of 46 hours on a bus. Nearly two entire days lost on transport. That doesn’t even include the time it took them to get to whatever house they were staying at for the day.
This means that they had less than a day in each city. It is a gross waste of a spring break. I mean, yeah, great, you got 6 tickets that came in under 15 dollars each. However, I have to ask what is the point of a spring break where you’re constantly on a bus? Public transportation is extremely uncomfortable.
This brings me to my next issue with the article. After spending hours at a time on a bus they meet up with strangers they met online to have a cheap place to stay the night. The girls decided to use Couchsurfer.com. While I am all for going out and embracing adventure, this has the potential to be extremely dangerous. My major issue is that she recommended the site without providing any information to her readers about all of the horrible things that have happened to women using this site.
In 2012, a 29 year old woman from China was raped by her host from Couchsurfer.com. The rapist was ultimately accused of two counts of rape and one count of sexual assault for more than one woman who interacted with him through the site.
Later in 2015, an Italian police officer sexually assaulted at least 16 women including a 16-year-old girl who he drugged and raped by using this website to lure the women to his apartment.
In 2013, Business Insider published an article on Couchsurfer.com framing the site as a dating site. With this kind of framing it is no wonder that so many women have been victim to sexual assault through using this site. There seems to be a growing expectation for sexual relations from visiting guests.
It is incredibly irresponsible as a journalist to not mention issues like this when recommending this site. While these ladies may have had a pleasant experience, they took a risk in making that choice and did not make that clear in their recommendation of the site. While the monetary cost is significantly lower, the risk to the users is not insignificant.
I can appreciate the need to avoid spending money. I can also appreciate that the writer and her friend were happy to spend more than 40 hours on a bus. I can appreciate that they made the conscious decision to stay with strangers from the internet. I can’t appreciate that they are glazing over the discomfort they had to have experienced on their trip and I can’t appreciate that they did not give their readers the full picture of what they were advertising. The lack of transparency is unnerving.