Couchsurfing is not about saving money, that’s not the essence of it at all, it’s about meeting like-minded people; it’s about sharing stories and learning cultures; it’s about paying it forward and it’s about making new friends.
I couchsurfed in Estonia and what a great decision it turned out to be. I had spoken via email with my host in advance (lets call him Tim because I don’t want him inundated with a thousand requests after this!), told him how I was getting the boat from Finland to Estonia, told him I wasn’t sure about how long I was staying, and he had been nothing but understanding.
Anyways, after I stupidly bought an Estonian-Finland boat ticket instead of a Finland-Estonia ticket, I told Tim I would be a couple of hours later than planned. When I finally landed in Estonia there he was, picking me up from the port in his car, and driving us back to his place. I set myself up on the sofa bed in his apartment right in the Old Town in Tallinn, it was perfect.
We went out for a beer and dinner in a great local restaurant, the food was delicious and the local beer was great. We had a great evening, chatting about traveling, the countries we liked most, future travel plans etc thoroughly enjoyable. After Tim disappeared I suggested paying… but the bill had already been taken care of by my ridiculously generous host.
The next day I had to apply for my Belarus visa, and the embassy was a bit out of town so I was trying to work out how to get there. “Don’t worry johnny, my client works around there, I can drive you, what time do you need to be there?”. I tried to resist but he was insistent so off we went and he dropped me right at the door. Unbelievable!
I continued to fight with travel admin that day but we met around 5pm again where we went for dinner at another cool local restaurant. Once again the food was amazing, and the conversation was great; however, this time I was planning to pay to say thanks for everything but alas when I went to the bar to pay, I was charged only for the extra mayonaaise I ordered, Tim had taken care of it again! Damn, next time I’ll be quick!
The best band in Estonia were playing a private concert to only 100 guests that night as a farewell before they toured Europe and become internationally famous. There was a gathering at Tim’s house where 15 of us were drinking wine and chatting, a cool group of cosmopolitan people – art dealers, tantric yoga instructors, tour guides. When the few tickets had been released, Tim had know I was going to be curfing with him so he had picked me up a ticket.
Off we went to the concert, where finally I managed to pay for a few beers for us. The concert was loads of fun in the back of a lowkey bar. I reckon the band really have a chance, think snow patrol meets coldplay.
The next day was my last day, so I did some things in the city, met a ‘fan’ of my site and then from around 3pm we planned to do some sightseeing too. Off we went to the park, bought some beers, walked around. Then into the old city, where I checked out the themede restaurant Old Hanse, we met some of Tim’s friends at their place, great people. Drank some red wine and made our way to the 24th floor of the Raddison hotel.
This is a bit of backpacking secret, not in any guide books. Drinks on the terrace on the roof, overlooking the Old Town of Tallinn, watching sunset. A great last evening.
The next morning, almost predictably by this point, Tim drove me to the bus station, took me right up to the correct platform and set me on my way to Riga.
It’s often the people that make the journey just as much as the sites you see. There’s no way I’d have gone to an Estonia rock concert, or been drinking on the roof of a skyscraper had I not couchsurfed with my new pal, so thanks for everything mate!
Hope this convinces you guys to couchsurf too, it offers so many cool experiences that otherwise you’d never see. Getting drunk in a hostel with Americans and Brits may be fun sometimes, but it’s with the local people where the real traveling happens.