In Shimla, a dodgy internet cafe virus wiped my SD card, and I lost all the photos from Nainital, Haridwar, Mussoorie and Dehradun that were on it. The ones I was most upset about losing were the ones from my day in Dehradun and the two couchsurfers I’d met.
When I got back to the UK, I used Recuva to recover the data from the SD card. Some of the photos were immediately recoverable in perfect condition, while others were corrupted to differing degrees: some were completely destroyed, while others had bits and pieces still salvageable.
The best aspect of couchsurfing isn’t financial, but social. Free accommodation does help to stretch the travelling budget, but what’s far more valuable, especially for a solo traveller, is the way it makes it easy to meet people in the areas you’re visiting, see their homes, meet their friends and family, and get a feel for their lives. There’s also the bonus of getting their advice on the best places to visit.
Couchsurfing caters specifically to this by allowing people to arrange to meet just for coffee, or food, or for sightseeing, even if they’re not surfing/hosting together.