Ever thought about having travelers sleeping on your couch? If you already know what couchsurfing is, you probably have. Then do feel free to jump down a few paragraphs to the stories from the road, while I enlighten the unlearned.
Couchsurfing is a simple, but effective, idea about how we should visit a foreign country; how best to learn about it and share ideas, stories and knowledge. The idea goes like this: Get a profile on couchsurfing.org, fill it and start to either offer your couch to travelers visiting your town or surf and sleep on couches when you travel yourself.
It might sound complicated and as a sure way to invite thieves and troublemakers in to your home. But it’s a little more sophisticated than just that. First off, you can indicate if you’re taking surfers in: yes/no/maybe. And most (good) surfers will have an extensive profile with background stories and photos;they will have been vouches for by either other surfers or their friends.
And once someone have either surfed or hosted they will leave a reference. These can be good, negative or neutral, so you will be able to get an idea about who to take in and who not to. It’s of cause more difficult if you want to start surfing without references, so it’s a good idea to begin by hosting a few people who can give you a few good references. I will promise you that you’ll get hooked on the idea after that!
Couchsurfing the North
Both given the prices of accommodation and that I wanted to ease myself into this solitude of travel, I’ve been couchsurfing on my first few stops.
First off was a weekend in Swedish capital Stockholm. Here two Turk-Swedish friends, Dogan and Can, had been nice enough to welcome me into their apartment. And that even though they had a Russian girl, which name I’ve forgot because it wasn’t very Russian, staying there too. Obviously the first few hours of conversation will be about travelling. The girl, around her early twenties, had no intentions to believe me when I talked about travelling for seven months. To her it was simply lunacy. She herself wasn’t much travelled and rather young – at least she acted like that – so maybe that had a say too about it.
I think we finally manage to convince. Not about the idea of travelling for seven months was a good one, but that some people actually lived like that and is indeed was possible. And so, in the late hours of that Friday night the conversation could finally turn to other subjects. I when to sleep, not on a couch but an air mattress surprised that the Russian girl was actually a university student on exchange in Berlin. I’m suddenly very happy for my break years before starting university.
Fixed with rum-brunch
The Russian girl left late Saturday evening, but was replaced by a friend of Dogan and Can’s, an Estonian girl who spend most of the rest of my stay hanging out, procrastinating from her studies.
Most of my days, nevertheless, were spend out in Stockholm, trying to get in to museums for free and eating strange fish burgers, which Swedes apparently think for good fast food. Two days of walking the streets of Stockholm I suddenly realized just how bad my stamina has gotten. It’s a catastrophe!All the working and hauling my backpack around on this trip will luckily restore it to some of its former glory. I was bombed out! So I had to decline all three of the party invitations I got from my two hosts and they house friend. Interestingly enough they all went to a separate party.
and Turkish coffee
We were all four in the apartment the next morning – more about noon –in various conditions. Treating ourselves to an improvised brunch Can and I figured it would be a good idea to serve some nice rum on the side. And so rum-brunch was born. The rest of that Sunday was spend in slow pace with movies and fast food, conversations about my trip (what to see in Turkey, what to see in Estonia, and what they should see in Stockholm) and them mocking my Danish languish.Even though they all were born outside Sweden they’ve done a good job picking up the Swedish/Norwegian humor making fun of Danish.
All in all it was very fun and easy to couchsurf in Stockholm. Then again couchsurfing isn’t always that easy. I wasn’t really sure that I had a host in Rovaniemi, Finland. So just before my overnight train, I did a few more panicked requests to hosts hoping someone could save me, if the first arrangement fell through.
Movie theater made of snow and ice
After a night in a train up through Sweden, a bus to the Finnish border and yet another bus in Finland the last few hundred kilometers to Rovaniemi, I finally got a call from my initial host, who had worked out all the details.Nice to get that worked out after 24 hours of uncertainty. Even so, while I was sitting in a café waiting to be picked up another host actually replies to my try for help and offer me a spot at his place – even though he is technically full.At that point I can happy decline the offer, but promises to get him a beer if he and his couchsurfers join me at the café. Half hour later we all – including my host – shake hands, before I buy the guy a beer and leave with my car towing host.
All in all, the entire couchsurfing concept is amazing – even though it sometimes bring uncertainty, some key swooping and some very awkward times with people you can’t connect with. At just three places, the last one in Ivalo,Finland, I got a close look on how people live in Stockholm’s suburbs, provisional Finland and a little peek into life in a Finnish derelict farm.
I’ve already talked too much about the Stockholm experience, but just to sum up a few at the highlights of couchsurfing in Sweden and Finland:
At the Arctic Circle!!
Getting tips about local sights and hideouts visitors normally doesn’t see, rum-brunch, road-trip to the Arctic Circle(!), visiting a sled-dog farm (sorry for the missing photos), getting tips on the best hiking grounds, hits to the best bars and cafés, home cooked meals and reindeer meat.
The last few days have been spend in Murmansk, on the Russian coast of the Arctic Sea. I know I’m a little behind, but I’ll update you on that once I’ve completed a 28 hours train ride south to Sankt Petersburg.