Saturday, December 31, 2011

Couchsurfing is a part of traveler's life



WHAT IS COUCHSURFING?

This post will be interesting for many people, except these ones:
-         You don’t like to travel
-         You don’t like to talk about the city/country, where you live
-         You don’t like the other nationalities
-         You don’t want to learn new cultures
-         You are lazy
-         You have close-minded personality

I guess, for the rest people, this post will be interesting. I wrote previous sentences to prevent some people of losing their time by reading my blog post.

This time, I am going to talk about the project called Couchsurfing. This website is mostly used by travelers for finding accommodation, local people (for hang outs, for guiding local places) and travel-buddies. It has more than 3 million users all over the world. Here is the page: www.couchsurfing.com

This is not advertisement. Trust me, after reading all possibilities of this page, you will realize, that it really helps to people. So, first I will tell few stories and then tips.

Here we go!

MY FIRST TIME

Giacomo (left) and Federico (right) are making Italian pasta
First time I heard about this webpage in Romania, when I was doing EVS (European Volunteer Service) in 2008. One English guy, Chris, taught me the possibilities of this page and I really liked it. I decided to register. Next day, I got a couch request (like this we call the requests for staying at somebody’s place). It was two Italians: Federico and Giacomo. I hosted them at my place two nights. I learnt from them many things, such as hitch-hiking rules, the real taste of home made Italian pasta and the fact that Italians hates ketchup on pizza! J

I liked it! I liked to learn more about cultures by having them at my place! So, I was looking forward for sending myself first couch request. After a week I have done it. It was to American guy Tim (Peace Corpus volunteer) who lived in Timisoara city (Romania). As I didn’t know all the “tricks” of couchsurfing, I had my first disappointment. The place, where I supposed to sleep was a carpet on the ground. His house was almost empty. Tim saw, that I am shocked, so he added “I wrote about all these in my profile”. I thought “hm.., next time, for sure I have to read entire profile of person, to whom I am sending couch request”. I had a night there in the end and it was really cool one. At least, I had new experience!


LIFE AS A COUCHSURFER

I am cooking Azerbaijani traditional food
"Heftebejar" for my host in Cluj, for Codruta
After some time, I became a real couchsurfer. The city, where I lived (Arad) had a little community, so I traveled more to meet other users.

I also helped to many couchsurfers in Arad by guiding this city to them. Mostly travelers would like to know the interesting places in the city, cheap fast-foods with a good quality of product. This automatically changed me always to look for new places to show to my guests from couchsurfing.
After my EVS project, I came back to Baku (Azerbaijan) and started to involve to my city community for the first time. When I made search in our city, it appeared around 50 users. It was in 2009. Now, they are more than 200.
Dima (Russia) & Simona (Romania) are relaxing
with Azerbaijani tea and Shisha in Baku

Incredible things happened: I found out about my city more, than ever by walking around Baku with couchsurfing guests. Probably you know these feelings, you live in your own city and suddenly, travelers says to you “You know Abbas, there is this place, let us go there”. You think “WTF, I live here all my life and I don’t know about these places”. So, couchsurfing helped me to know more about my own city.

with Georgian couchsurfers in Baku
In 2010, I had a job appointment in Eskishehir, Turkey. I didn’t know anybody from that city and I had to stay there one week! I decided to look for friends via couchsurfing. Well, I found two girls from Poland. They agreed to meet with me. So, I have arrived to that city. After my working hour, I went out with these girls, who showed me the local bars, life and cheap places for eating. Exactly, the things, which I was doing for others in Arad and Baku J
When we were in bar, they told, that they know some guys from Azerbaijan. I was really curious and said “hey, call them here please”. They did it and guys came. It was pleasure to meet them and after that meeting, we became friend and met a lot. Imagine, still we are friends. We also met in Azerbaijan! So, couchsurfing helps you to make friends!
I organized trip to Quba (Azerbaijan) with couchsurfers from
Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Romania and Azerbaijan

The last story: Since I was active, I became a member of several groups, such as “Azerbaijan”, “Baku”, “Romania” and so on. There I was/am helping to travelers with their questions. Few month ago, coordinator of couchsurfing ambassadors (ambassador is special user, who is in couchsurfing team. He is helping to develop the community) contacted me and thanked me for my active participation. After 2 years of being users, he made me a couchsurfing ambassador! J



TIPS & IMPORTANT NOTES

I organized couchsurfing meeting in Baku
  1. Always fill your profile. It is very important for the users, who will accept you.
  2. Never forget to read others profiles, when you send any request!
  3. If you want to send couch request, do it individually, not to groups
  4. After having experience with any users, try to leave a reference for them. But of course, if you have no opinions about that person, skip this part.
  5. Expect any kind of answer from users. Be calm, when you respond back in case of negative answer
  6. Couchsurfing is not a dating page!
  7. If you had negative experience with anybody, don’t forget to put negative reference to that user. Plus, report his/her profile.
  8. Learn more about the city. Try to find out where are the cheap places for eating, cheap transport till airport/train station, cheap hostels, cheap and good bars/pubs/clubs and of course, interesting places to visit.
  9. When you show your city, always ask from couchsurfer, weather he/she is hungry. Also, ask which places he/she wants to visit first. Offer your suggestions!
  10. If you have possibility, organize meetings to meet your local community.
  11. When you are at somebody’s place, try to contribute. In my case, I always cook Azerbaijani traditional food for them.
  12. Be ready to see people from any culture and religion!
  
I hope, the information, which I shared here will be useful for you and may be, you will be a part of CS (couchsurfing) team. Believe me, whatever I wrote here are not even 50% of CS possibility. Try it, you will see! 

Picnic of couchsurfers at Botanical Garden of Baku
Hitch-hiking with couchsurfers to Khinalik,
to the mountains, which are 2500 metres
up from Caspian Sea (Azerbaijan)