This weekend, about 100 travelers will visit Columbus to experience the city in an uncommon way: with pirate costumes, art tours and a sex discussion forum.
The visitors will come from different cities and countries to attend the first Columbus Couch Crash, a weekend-long barrage of events, gatherings and parties put on by some of the city’s members of Couch Surfing to show off Columbus.
Couch Surfing, an international organization that has had its roots online since 2003, connects travelers all over the world with hosts who let them stay for free on a couch or spare bed.
For those who don’t wish to stay with strangers, the site also connects people who are just looking to meet up and have help exploring the lesser-known parts of a city.
The organization currently has more than 2.8 million members worldwide, according to Couch Surfing’s website.
The Columbus group, a combination of students, graduates and professionals, are all Couch Surfing enthusiasts who have been planning the Couch Crash since March.
The welcome weekend will officially kick off today with the “I’m on a Boat” party aboard the Santa Maria, the replica of one of Christopher Columbus’ ships, downtown in Battelle Riverfront Park from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Paul Fisher, a Couch Surfing member and one of the group’s organizers, said he is also advocating attendees to dress in a costume that fits with the old-world theme of the ship, such as pirate or explorer costumes.
“Anything 1492 will work,” Fisher said.
Elizabeth Kimble, a first-year graduate student in social work and a Couch Crash organizer, said this will be the ideal time for students interested in traveling through Couch Surfing to get information and learn about the organization first hand.
“There will be a lot of people from all different cities that have a lot of different experiences,” Kimble said. “So people can get a really good view of the organization.”
The weekend won’t only be cocktails and costumes however, Kimble said, there are additional events and gatherings for the out-of-town guests and locals.
There will be a tour through the Columbus Art Festival and local distilleries such as the Brothers Drake Meadery and Watershed Distillery, Fisher said.
There are also the options to participate in an afternoon of biking through the city or join in on a body positive discussion held at Kimble’s home.
That particular event, dubbed “Body Freedom,” will take place Saturday afternoon, and Kimble said the event will be a safe environment to foster an open conversation about body image and sex.
“There is so much stigma attached to sex and body image,” Kimble said. “If we can just get together and talk about it, it will help support a more positive body image for everybody.”
Kimble cautiously said the event will be clothing optional, based on the attendees level of personal comfort.
The weekend will finish up with two days of camping in Hocking Hills.
Bill Anderson, a local Couch Surfer who has traveled extensively, said the organization is the perfect way to travel as a student because it can let people see the world without breaking the bank.
“I recommend it for anyone who likes to travel casually or make an entire lifestyle out of it,” Anderson said. “It’s the only way to really see and experience the world on a budget.”
Anderson has spent the past several weeks traveling the country and attending other major cities’ couch crashes and said he is excited about Columbus joining in.
The four-day festivities are open to anyone wishing to join the group or learn more about Couch Surfing. Though the boat party is only available by RSVP to Couch Surfing members who are at least 21 years old, all other events are open to anyone wishing to join in, Kimble said.