Couchsurfing (also couch) — one of the biggest communities of independent travelers. Unites more than 6 million people over 246 countries. Its members offer free homestay during travelling and organize trips together.
Couchsurfer — member of the Couchsurfing community.
Host — a person who offers homestay; to host – to offer a homestay.
Surfer — a person in search of a homestay; to surf – to stay over.
Having finished the first university year in Penza, my hometown in the ass end of nowhere, I spent my summer holidays trying to move to Saint Petersburg. Initially I wanted to leave and become a bartender, though a figure of a military commissar – horny for idle boys to recruit – blew it off. Another way was to transfer to Saint Petersburg State University. Alas, the academic deficiency of 13 subjects was too much to overcome despite my success in the entry exam.
Pretty soon, I had to take a backseat with moving. A quick 5-day visit to Petersburg turned my world picture inside out. I’ve seen the whole world without leaving Russia. Dazzling beauty of streets and yards was a common thing in this world. People travel all over this world: sometimes carrying Dostoevsky’s anguish or Mayakovski’s pep. I fell for anthropology and embraced the spirit of wanderlust into my soul.
Having returned to Penza I spent the rest of the summer quarrelling with father, working as a courier in the tax office and hanging out with strangers. That summer was much better than the previous ones as I was obsessed with computer games, poisonous pubertal virginity, thoughts about teen suicide and fear for the future. Still, that summer was boring, so I was making my plans for the next one.
That’s how I got that idea to go to the States via Work&Travel. Many students knew about it, but few would actually try it out. I saw the goal, not the obstacles. I was able to save money for the first payment by working small jobs, and I was lucky to make it before the ruble collapsed. For the second payment I borrowed money from my mother which I returned to the cent upon the end of the program. It took me half a year to improve my English to look smart enough at the interview in Moscow U.S. Embassy. I even managed to surprise my interviewer by knowing a bunch of hotline numbers by heart.
I had one month left before the trip. Finished the summer session ahead of schedule and was looking forward to having a great time. I didn’t want my Work&Travel to slide into Work&Work, so I planned a trip across the States. Just draw a circle route between the biggest points eastwards and closed it in New York.
The only question was where to live. That’s when I learned about CouchSurfing. Honestly, I can’t really recall how I found it. Most likely it came across in one of those TED videos watched millions of times. I instantly fell in love with an idea of multicultural homestays. I felt vibes of freedom, adventure spirit and desire to discover something new.
The States seemed both familiar and strange piece of land for a Russian. I’ve had no idea of the subtleties of life overseas. What’s important for them, what worries them, what they dream of.
CouchSurfing seemed like a perfect place to get comprehensive answers to such complicated questions.