RTW trip: The first two months of couchsurfing

RTW trip: The first two months of couchsurfing

I signed up for CS (couchsurfing) back in 2007 when I went on my first big trip to Western Europe. I used it on and off for both hosting and surfing (i.e. being hosted) but I have been the most active over the last year, since August 2016.

I wanted and still want to use CS as much as possible on this trip. And it’s so much more than saving money although it’s a good way of seeing more of our beautiful world without spending too much. For me it’s also about meeting great people, locals who I can experience the country in a more intensive, interesting and less superficial way with. I believe that using CS I turn from just a tourist into a real traveller and adventurer. Locals can take me to places I would never see by myself. They can give me useful tips about where to go, what to see, where to eat and what to do. All away from the crowds of tourists. I can see how they live, I can sit at the dinner table with them, I can go to places with them they haven’t been to themselves yet.

I thought it might be hard to find hosts just because I had a hard time finding hosts on my last trip in Europe. And also I heard from a traveller who went around the world that CS didn’t work for him. But when I started looking for hosts I was amazed at how easy it was to find hosts for the first days of my trip. I had my first, second, third, fourth host in no time with very little effort. Great! I travelled the first 27 days without having to stay in a hostel or guesthouse. Amazing. I didnt’t want it to stop but I couldn’t expect to find hosts in every single place. One can’t be that lucky can they?

The title of my first host on this trip belongs to Marynka from Lviv. She hosted me with her flatmate Yulia. Very welcoming and cheerful girls. They were smiling all the time and we shared some good laughs. It was such a good couchsurfing start for me.

Marynka and Yulia from Lviv

Kateryna hosted me in Kiev. A very inspiring host who works on her project ‘Girl travels solo’ meant to inspire women to travel and do it in a smart way. I was even invited to one of her travel events where I shared my experience as a CS member. Also, she sent me the best directions ever which included photos so I could find her place easily.

Kateryna from Kiev

Anton hosted me in Moscow. He runs a very unique shop which he calls his art place. He sells second hand books, computer games but also his own hand made products from ceramics. He also organizes a flea market there. Very underground place. He was really passionate about his work and his hobbies like board games.

Anton from Moscow

My first host in Kazakhstan was Yakov. He was the only person I sent a message to in Petropavlovsk and I was so amazed at how quckly he accepted my request. He introduced me to his family and friends and I had such a nice time playing the game Mafia with them. It was so much fun.

Yakov from Petropavlovsk
Yakov’s friends – playing mafia

Ivan, nicknamed Vana, hosted me in Shchuchinsk. It was the first time when I communicated with my host almost entirely in Russian. Vana was a very generous host. He helped me arrange a tariff for my local mobile phone number and he paid for it himself without accepting the money from me. He also drove me to the Burabay national park and came to pick me up in the evening.

Ivan from Shchuchinsk
Ivan and his friend Nastya

Dinara was my first host who was a vegetarian. I was happy to meet somebody like me in a country of meat lovers. When I saw the different demonstrations of Kazakh hospitality while visiting Expo in Astana I thought of Dinara because it was Kazakh hospitality in practice. She told me a lot about Kazakhstan and prepared really delicious soups. And she has a very funny and sociable cat.

Dinara from Astana

I was so surprised when Ayzhan accepted my request because she hadn’t been online for a year and I usually don’t expect such a user to be active any more. It was the same with the very few other hosts in the town of Karkaralinsk, really off the beaten track place in Kazakhstan. She and her mom were really kind and caring. And she was also a vegetarian. So many surprises when surfing with her.

Ayzhan from Karkaralinsk and her friend Fariza

Ascar, a keen mountain biker and a beer lover. A very free spirited person who hosted me in Almaty and gave me good tips where to go in the mountains. He was kind enough to host me longer than I originally wanted so I couldn’t be happier.

Ascar from Almaty

Orynbassar and his kind family hosted me in a village called Shaga when I was visiting Turkestan, my last place to visit in Kazakhstan before moving on to Kyrgyzstan. It was my first time being hosted by an Uzbek family and they told me all about the reconstruction of their house, their life, showed me around the village and I shared dinner with them and slept outside with the amazing skybwith countless stars above my head.

Orynbassar from Shaga

Shyngdaulet hosted me in Almaty after I had returned from Kyrgyzstan. He accepted my request while I was sitting in a cafe waiting for somebody to accept my request because I wanted to make Kazakhstan a country where I would couchsurf all the way. And it happened. He accepted me. I couldn’t be happier. So Kazakhstan is the first country where I stayed more than just a few days and couchsurfed all the way. Shyngdaulet was a cheerful and positive host who was also a vegetarian. Amazing! An excellent goodbye Kazakhstan host.

Shyngdaulet from Almaty

My couchsurfing streak ended when I arrived in Kyrgyzstan. Althought I sent more messages to people in Bishkek than in all Kazakhstan I failed to find a host. I was really disappointed.

I found my first Kyrgyz host in Balykchy. Her name was Nurgul. It was a very short stay but really nice and interesting. She showed me the family farm, showed me around Balykchy in a car, introduced to her family and we went to Bosteri where she has a flat and we went to a very nice sandy beach there. Encouraged by Nurgul I took a dip in Issyk kul and it just felt so good.

Nurgul from Balykchy
Nurgul from Balykchy

Jaliko hosted me in Karakol. Even though he was going through a rough patch he still hosted me. He was a very kind host who really made me feel at home. He is building a guesthouse just next to the house.

I gave Bishkek people a second chance to host me after I had travelled all over Kyrgyzstan and I met Daniel who accepted my request. A very friendly host who I finally found good vegetarian lentil soup with. I was so happy.

Daniel from Bishkek

Apart from being hosted by locals I occasionally meet up with locals to go for a drink, chat, walk and even take a trip. And so I met Ruslan from Kokshetau and we agreed to go and visit the Burabay National Park together. A couple of his friends joined us and we spent a nice afternoon together. I have already posted an article about my camping trip with Altynbek, another Kazakh guy I met via couchsurfing. Together with his friend and two other surfers from Germany we took a two day trip to Kolsai and Kaindy lakes. A great trip it was.

Ruslan from Kokshetau
With Ruslan and his friends in the Burabay National Park
Altynbek from Almaty
A party of five and a funny guy riding a horse

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