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The modern couch potato
The most established organization--and nonprofit to boot--that connects you to complete strangers who will host you while you're traveling is the Couch Surfing Project. We introduced it last year, when it was already a couple years old (but still considered in its infancy).
Now it's hit prime-time. Membership has apparently tripled in each of the three years it's been up, averaging roughly 5,000 new members each month. The editor of Budget Travel, Erik Torkells, nicely sums up the reasoning behind the phenomenon's booming popularity. "If I couch surf I could be on some cool ex-pat's or local's sofa. I've already leapfrogged barriers. It would take weeks under ordinary circumstances to get in someone's home."
I think the next time I'm in South America, or anywhere else, I'm going to try being a couch potato.