Casey Fenton: Talk to Strangers
Fellow Since 2010
My Work: cultivating trust and appreciation of differences through a global travel community.
This profile was prepared when Casey Fenton was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Casey is reshaping the experience of travel and using it to essentially reset society’s default to trust, appreciation of difference, and inclusivity. Through CouchSurfing, travelers and hosts of all sorts and backgrounds find each other and arrange free home stays, averaging five nights. The matching is orchestrated via the Internet, and the community is reinforced off-line by lively weekly meet-ups of hosts and travelers in many major cities across the world. Open to anyone who can access the website, the community is anchored by guiding principles and various measures, such as rating features that ensure that as the community grows, it adds intelligence, self-regulates wisely, and supports personal safety for traveler and host. While the average participant age is 28, members hail from every age group, participating as single travelers, pairs, and even as families. If a participant cannot travel for whatever reason—financial hardship, disability, and so on—the experience comes to them through the active role of hosting a traveler in their home. Begun in 2004, CouchSurfing engages over 2 million participants from nearly every country, democratizes travel and encourages CouchSurfing-enabled experiences to foster empathy and advance global citizenship.