All my friends know that “trouble” is my middle name. Somehow, I tend to get myself into weird semi-dangerous situations, turning the most mundane things into TV worthy adventures. And since I am usually on the road or meeting up with travelers who pass through my hometown as part of their own journey, there is always potential for crazy couchsurfing experiences with my fellow travel buddies.
I paused for a second before writing this article trying to remember the most memorable Couchsurfing adventures that happened throughout the years. I joined the platform when I was 16. I had to lie about my age, because they would only allow people over 18 to create an account. I wasn’t going to wait, so shhh, don’t tell that to anyone. Thanks. There have been lots and lots of fun times, but the next five ones are my absolute favorite and I got to share them with you. And potentially with my grandkids when they are old enough to understand that their grandma had the coolest friends on the planet.
But until then, here we go:
A late night rendez-vous with a big furry guy
I used to live in Brasov, a beautiful mountain resort in the heart of Transylvania, so you can imagine that each and every couchsurfer who visited me wanted to explore the nature waiting for them right outside my door. I couldn’t refuse, since the scenery is perhaps breathtakingly beautiful and it would be a shame for them not to experience it.
I was a regular hiker and I knew the ways of the mountains, so my trips there have usually been safe and sound. One day however, the script changed a bit. A couple from Madrid was visiting me at the time and they asked if we could go on a hike during the weekend. I’ve happily accepted and proceeded with the preparations. I knew a cabin around the Seven Ladders Canyon – which by the way you should totally visit if you’re around – and phoned the owner to book a night there.
Our hike until there was great, the guys loved climbing the rock that was awaiting for them at the end of the trail, we had a nice relaxing picnic after that and headed back to the cabin, later in the evening. The owner was nice enough to help us make a campfire, we played the guitar, sang some mountain songs and even danced some flamenco around the fire for some reason.
We decided to go to sleep late that night, I guess around 2 am. As we were still sharing stories while in bed, we heard a weird noise coming from downstairs. We thought it was the cabin owner, continuing the party without us, so we ignored it for a little while. The noises got louder though and it seemed like someone was trying to tear down the first level of the cabin. There wasn’t a human making these noises down there. I saw my fellow couchsurfers starting to panic a little, while still remaining intrigued. They were in Transylvania after all, so spooky things had to happen.
I heard the owner shouting in Romanian: “Ursu’, e ursu’ jos! Nu coborati!” meaning nothing else then “There’s a bear here! Do not come downstairs!”. Oh well, explaining that to my friends, in a nice calm manner, trying not to scare them, and also not to prompt them to go downstairs and check it out for themselves, proved to be quite difficult. I translated the man’s shouting words while asking them to remain calm, since we were in the end in the wilderness and the bear was at home there in the mountains. We gently secured the door and waited for the furry guy to finish its business and go back to the woods. It did not take more than five minutes but to us, it seemed like we were locked in the room for more than an hour. We watched him through the room window and saw him leave the cabin after stealing some food we left outside, in the camping area. The guys somehow managed to take some photos and video footage to document their Transylvanian adventure. The owner came upstairs to check if we were alright, jokingly telling us that we just met his buddy, the Brown Bear, who apparently visits the cabin almost every night. So here’s our late night rendez-vous, hopefully yours will be just as full of adrenaline.
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Meeting my idol at dinner
When I was in high school I used to volunteer for the local branch Hospice of Hope Foundation. The foundation is offering palliative care for terminally ill patients in Romania, Serbia and Moldova, while its headquarters and training centers are in Kent, United Kingdom. The founder of this foundation is Graham Perolls, known in my country as The Man who Brought Palliative Care to Romania. I was always fascinated by his story, inspired by his good deeds and grateful at the same time.
One day, I met up with a couchsurfer from Germany, who came to Romania to volunteer for the foundation. He is a photographer, environmentalist and travel filmmaker who has recently made it to Forbes 30 Under 30 list – a truly amazing guy and travel buddy. I showed him the city during the day and agreed to have dinner later on at one of my favorite traditional restaurants, so he can truly enjoy the Romanian cuisine. He said he’s got a surprise guest coming too, so I made a reservation for three.
Later that day, we met up at the restaurant, entered and started checking the menu. As I was explaining the recipes he was trying to read there, I saw a man entering the restaurant – a tall, grey haired man who looked exactly like Graham Perolls the Hospices of Hope founder. I paused and I subtly said: hey, check that guy out. He looks like Graham Perolls. My buddy laughs, stands up and waves to the man, inviting him to sit with us.
I told you we have a guest coming to dinner. Graham, this is my friend Alexandra. I was extremely excited and surprised, but managed to keep calm. We had a lovely dinner, I shared my experience as a volunteer at the foundation and Graham spoke to us about the beginnings of this project and inspired both of us to continue doing things that help our communities.
You never know who you’re going to end up meeting when you agree to share your stories with a fellow couchsurfer, but for me this was truly amazing.
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Why is there a Chinese guy in my living room?
Alright, this one is plain fun. I met my friend Wei around 2014. He is a globe trotter, world hitchhiker, but also a biomedical scientist and researcher. I mean it when I say world hitchhiker – he has hitchhiked EVERYWHERE. He believes in a religion he calls Nomadism, which has three gods: The God of Travelling, The God of Couchsurfing and the Goddess of Hitchhiking. You can imagine by now, how much fun he is.
I used to host couchsurfers at my family’s house before moving out for college, but I would usually notify them we will have guests. Someday, as the stress of the college application process caught up with me, I completely forgot to announce my new friend’s upcoming arrival. I was in my room, doing homework and my mom had just gotten back home from work. She went to take a bath and I continued doing my work. In the meantime, my guest Wei had arrived so I showed him the living room, the couch he was going to surf and he started unpacking.
As my mom comes out of the shower and heads to the living room to watch TV, here comes the shock…There’s a foreign Chinese guy unpacking his backpack on her couch, waving happily to her. Also, just so you know, my mother speaks very little English, so there’s that. She did not exactly know what to say, so she said “Hello, and welcome!”, while heading back to my room, wondering what to make of this.
“Alexandra, did you forget to tell me something?”
I burst into laughter and went back to the living room to introduce them properly. Now that I am thinking back, I bet it was not easy to live with me, but hey, as my friend always says there is always a wei!
Couchsurfing’s got talent
People tend to have hidden talents and the more people you meet, the more diverse the talents you’ll discover in them. It makes sense, huh? One day, as I met a fellow medical student and couchsurfer from Sweden this philosophy of mine proved to be right. After showing him around we decided to end the trip at the Medieval Fortress in Brasov, as it offered the best views in the entire city.
When we got there, we met up with some friends of mine who brought a guitar with them. It started to get dark and as the moon was getting brighter and brighter, our talent started to get louder and louder. We were singing and dancing, until my guest asked for a moment of silence. We complied and waited for him to tell us why he needed it.
He did not say a word, but took a deep breath and then… the whole scene around us seemed to have changed. We got transported somewhere far away, and invited to enter some sort of a shamanic deep trance. My Swedish couchsurfer started to do a Mongolian Throat Singing routine. If you’ve never heard it, please check it out, it is absolutely mind-blowing and thanks to him, now I know it.
When you don’t go to Russia, Mother Russia comes to you
I’ve admitted long time ago that Russia is one of my favorite destinations. There are so many fabulous things to see there and their history and culture is so rich, that I feel like I always have more to see there.
I have not visited Russia for a few years now, but Mother Russia has a way of coming to you. One of my first couchsurfers I hosted after moving out for college was a globe trotter from Moscow. As he noticed I know things about his culture and I love it so much, he promised that for the last night he was going to spend in our home he was going to do something special. I did not know what it was going to be, but I was happy to let him do it. I did not regret it.
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When my flatmates and I came back from work that evening, our kitchen table was full of Blini, Kasha and an absolutely delicious beef Stroganoff, accompanied of course by some vodka shots and Katyusha playing in the background – an absolutely delightful surprise from a guest who knew his culture and wanted to share it with us. We continued to party until morning, the Russian way.
The conclusion here is that, if you haven’t met your crazy tribe of travel friends yet, you should totally join our community and find it! As we say on Couchsurfing, there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet!
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