I am fascinated by the CouchSurfing phenomenon.
In case you haven't come across it, it's a web-based project which allows travellers to network, enrich their lives, expand their horizons (and to stay in someone's home for free). Say you plan to meander through Italy for a week: you check out the registered couchsurfers in various towns, email them to see if they can let you crash on their couch for a night or two, and schedule your trip accordingly. You get to meet a friendly local, and although you don't pay them anything, you try to do something nice for them in return: cook dinner, fix a leaky tap, whatever...
I know, it sounds like it's just waiting for the serial killers to sign up and ruin everything, but it seems to be working. Over a quarter of a million people have signed up so far.
Their mission statement is:
Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time
CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance and facilitate cultural understanding.
CouchSurfing is not about the furniture, not just about finding free accommodations around the world; it's about making connections worldwide. We make the world a better place by opening our homes, our hearts, and our lives. We open our minds and welcome the knowledge that cultural exchange makes available. We create deep and meaningful connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures. CouchSurfing wants to change not only the way we travel, but how we relate to the world!
I presume if they have a spare room you could stay there instead. It seems pedantic to make someone sleep on a couch.