CouchSurfing phenomenon

FRESNO, Calif.

Shelley Duttarer and her sister Maryanne Tornquist began CouchSurfing five years ago. They stayed with a single woman in Guatemala and slept on the couch with Shelley's seven week old daughter Mariana, in tow. Shelley says she wasn't the least bit nervous about bringing Mariana along.

Shelley said, "I should have been ... that's the right answer (laughs) that I'm a good mom and I should have been nervous ... I tend to be a little more trusting and I was like 'wow that sounds like fun!'"

Since 2005 ... Shelley and Mariana and Maryanne have literally traveled the world without shelling out a dime for a hotel. They discovered the website "CouchSurfing.org" ... a non-profit network that connects travelers in over 230 countries worldwide. Since 2004 ... CouchSurfing.org has signed up more than 1 million members.

Maryanne Tornquist said, "On the website there's references, there's friends, there's people who have been there before and always say the greatest things ... so when we go ... especially with a baby and especially traveling single ... I would look at the references."

Signing up is easy ... you simply indicate whether you want to surf ... or host ... or both. You must verify your address and have people vouch for your character. And off you go.

Sheila Stroud, a CouchSurfer from Clovis said, "I felt like I was brining the world to me ... I couldn't go out to the world ... so I was bringing them to me."

Stroud signed up last summer after visiting a friend in England. She and her husband Schon have not surfed anywhere yet ... but they have hosted more than a dozen travelers in their home.

Schon Stroud said, "What a great idea because it gives people an opportunity from other countries to spend time with normal people in another country and develop friendships."

According to the website ... CouchSurfers have reported over 4.3 million positive experiences with a satisfaction rate of 99-point-seven percent.

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