Why the heck do I let strangers in my home – or the story of couchsurfing and warmshowers, and an unexpected turn
The best way to discover the world
Who are not familiar with couchsurfing (CS) and warmshowers (WS), these are sites where people can offer their couch, spare bed or any free space to travelers around the world. The first one is a more general site with a quite wide and big user base, you can even just connect and hang out with people through their mobile app. Warmshowers was more geared towards touring cyclists, I would define it as a smaller and more cozy kind of community. Both sites use a reference system, with which we can better decide about who to host or stay with. Despite this, everyone started as a beginner, and after a thorough profile check-up it happened that I hosted some youngster without a reference, but this also requires some pretty interesting introduction from their side. It also helps if they show some interest in what I do.
Because the whole essence of the system is to meet with unexpected friends with similar interests perhaps, and learn about the world in a unique way. Plus it is a great opportunity to travel almost freely and discover cities through the eyes of the locals, since it works in two directions. Although I started hosting around a year ago, my first CS experience goes far back into 2010, when I went to Paris with my now ex-boyfriend. We spent 4 days there and only had to pay for food and the pretty low fair plane ticket. After this I didn’t really use the site, until my plans for the world trip started coming to life. I thought it would be useful to start building connections, which will become quite handy on the road. And while meeting all these wonderful people I truly felt that I’m already travelling, listening to their stories and getting some insight into their daily life.
Adventures, friends, unbelievable encounters
Getting nice experiences started already when I rode my bike from Budapest to Brussels last summer. I spent half of the nights at warmshowers hosts, while rushing along the Danube, Main and the Rhein. (The next post will really be about that tour, I promise! :)) If I don’t use it for example in Würtzburg, I never meet Marta from Vienna, who was touring around Europe for a few months, and we eventually spent two days riding together. We even swam in the Main, and she really helped me slow down and enjoy the ride a bit more. I really think this experience made me sure about the world bike tour, and which way I want to do it, with a tent and through meeting other people. Because this is the true purpose of seeing the world (besides nature of course), getting to know others and their culture 🙂
Because I was living alone in a small studio from last November, there were no obstacles for me to start hosting anymore. My first couchsurfer was a guy from Melbourne, and we both had such a good time that I was immediately hooked and started hosting a lot. 🙂 When the weather got better, I also got requests from bikers too, and hosting quite a few Turkish tourists helped me practice the language, which was again another goal for me.
I can really say that I have met with so many awesome people and made many friends from a lot of countries, where now I can really expect them to host me back also, or help me find someone who can at that time. I also got loads of good travelling advice, some coming from world travelers who actually travel by bike, so seeing some first-hand experience about putting my dreams into practice. I even made friends with an Indian guy who organizes bike tours around India and Europe 🙂 But after all this, something truly unexpected happened.
How life depends on little things
At the end of the biking season I got less and less WS requests but still, there were a few rare birds in September. And especially if a world bike traveler sends a request, I usually can’t help myself to accept that. So I happily agreed to host Alan, a Danish guy on an open-ended trip around the world, although he sent his request just a few short days before coming. Eventually we only spent quite a short time together, but it turned out that he only intended to turn east around spring. Since our plans were pretty similar in regards to discovering the world, we agreed to keep in contact and probably start pedaling towards Turkey together, around the end of May next year.
Only a few weeks later he decided to turn back from south and come back to Budapest. He wanted to spend winter around Spain, working on a farm, but wasn’t too sure about his route yet. He spent the next week with me and we had such a good time actually, that he finally decided to stay with me 🙂 So to all the folks who were worried that I start my tour alone as a girl, you can relax now. My plans changed just a bit, but my life really turned upside down 🙂
From now on, the blog will document our journey together (and the road to get there). I will continue to write most of the posts, although I may ask him to write a post about his ride so far. He had an awesome 4 months already in Scandinavia and the Baltics, riding through stunning scenery. And I will delegate photography duties to Alan, which I’m sure you gonna love, he takes beautiful pictures. And besides, I don’t really consider myself good in that regard 😀
Last but not least, check out the gallery at the end to get a glimpse about the nice CS experiences I had so far. I’m not too big about making photos with guests, so it’s truly just the tip of the iceberg. 🙂