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Personal experience: what you need to know about hitchhiking and couchsurfing

Edition told the story of a girl who decided to travel for free using travel blogger tips. As a result, she received a lot of impressions, but not quite the same as expected. Therefore, the tourist decided to dispel the popular myths about such trips.

This summer I ventured on the most adventurous trip in my life: my friend and I decided to repeat the alpine travels of various travel bloggers from Instagram. We armed ourselves with leaflets and a marker for hitchhiking, wrote off with the inhabitants of the Alpine cities on the site CouchSurfing (for those who do not know: this service allows people to spend the night free of charge at people abroad and also receive foreigners at home without any medical help), they loaded their backpacks and rushed to conquer the mountains. This was my first such experience. And, at once I confess, the last one.

Our 5 day route ran through the Eastern Alps, starting from Munich (Germany) and ending at Graz (Austria). Every day we spent the night at the rubber, short and difficult distances covered by buses, long ones - by hitchhiking.

Myth number 1: Couchsurfing is the obvious equivalent of a dating site. And sometimes it's dangerous.

This is quite a popular rumor among those who have never used the service. I admit, I considered it the same, but in the end we were alternately guests of the most educated people: German engineer BMW, Italian architect, Austrian graduate student of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering and French engine designer. All these guys were older than 30, single, intelligent, traveled a lot, knew a lot of languages ​​and continued to learn the world through couchsurfing. In this case, no strange hints and frank moments - everything was perfect, until we reached our last host in the Austrian city of Graz. It was there that my most skeptical suspicions became reality, and my friend and I still ran into a pervert.

Initially, he had everything in his favor: a large number of positive reviews in the profile, messages with promises to show us the city and have a party, despite the weekday, etc. But when we arrived, this couch, lying down impressively in front of us in shorts and A roll-up, sharply told us that he was too lazy and we would not go anywhere. Well, after my friend and I found out that there was nothing to talk with him about except the clubs, we understood his plan. And then, as if reading our thoughts, he moved on to the 10-minute most embarrassing and unpleasant dialogue in my life in order to have joint pleasure with us. In general, this dude with raging fantasy and testosterone barely got to calm down. In response, he got angry and stopped talking to us - a gentleman of the XXI century, nothing to say.

After these emotions, I still have a bad impression of couchsurfing and of Austria in general. Although it is fair to say that my friend, whose couchsurfing experience counts in dozens of hosts, was the first to happen, so you can say that the 98% service is safe. We didn’t write a review to our Austrian, because we thought that such a person could also write something bad in our profile, thus lowering the rating of the page (so that in many cases negative reviews are simply not left on the site, keep in mind).

Myth number 2: Thanks to couchsurfing, you will recognize the country from the inside.

Yes, the locals will tell a lot more than you can read in the guidebooks and find in the tourist forums. But! Here I’ll make a small private clarification: if you stop at a mountain for just one day (and usually do), you’ll most likely don’t have time to see anything: you will be able to just hear about unique places, nothing more.

Because you need to understand that couchsurfing is not just a free overnight stay, but a cultural exchange. If you come to visit a foreigner, he perceives you as a person who should occupy him, entertain, tell a new thing, and not just use his free room. Therefore, on the one hand, this is cool, but on the other - you can easily pay for it by spending more time getting to know the hosts than getting to know the city itself. But each has its own interests, so I do not presume to judge what is best.

Myth number 3: Boys "host" only girls, girls - guys

This is partly true. When my friend announced to me that all our hosts would be guys, I was a little worried and went to Google to search for something about the gender theory of couchsurfing. That was not, therefore, relying on the Reddit forum and the experience of my acquaintances, I decided to bring it out myself: the guys “host” mostly girls or mixed companies, because they are generally more pleasant and comfortable in a female or mixed society than in purely male. Girls, in principle, “host” less and choose more likely not on a gender basis, but according to reviews and a first impression.

Myth number 4: With couchsurfing and hitchhiking, you absolutely do not spend money

There are bloggers who claim that money is not needed for travel, it is enough only desires, and in general, the whole framework is only in our head. Here I categorically disagree: without money, it’s still nowhere.

Couchsurfing - yes, it is budget, but for 5 days of my “homeless tour” I spent almost 200 euros. And on what they left:

  • For food. Despite the fact that we lived with rubber, we even bought food ourselves, even for a joint dinner.
  • For cocktails and other drinks in bars and on walks, which we paid not only for ourselves, but also for our rubbers (we are still guests). Although, to be ponaglee, you can not offer this.
  • For souvenirs to our hosts. After all, without a gift to visit, too, you will not come. By the way, a curious observation: it turned out that only the Russians and Poles adhere to this “philosophy of the guests”, judging by the stories of our hosts. The rest usually arrive empty-handed.
  • On the road. As I wrote above, for short distances, where the bus could be reached cheaply, and you stood at the curb with a raised hand for a long time, we spared no expense.

Myth number 5: Thanks to couchsurfing, you make many new friends around the world.

If you are an extrovert, then this is true: you will have many friends abroad. Immediately proceed to the next item.

If you are an introvert, then everything is harder. I would even say: couchsurfing is not for us guys at all. Imagine: a hard day, flights, transfers, a lot of impressions ... And here in the evening you come to the host, and you need - oh, horror! - talk to him all evening. And morning. And maybe even a day ... In fact, this is a serious emotional problem for many people. This is not at all funny.

I was very lucky: my friend is the purest extrovert. She shared her energy with new people with joy and without any tension. I actively supported the conversation just for the sake of helping a friend, for sometimes the conversation was reduced to silence with the sounds of crickets due to the lack of common themes with causas (besides cultural ones, of course). In the meantime, I just wanted, after a hard day, to hug the phone and keep quiet. With our schedule - all the 5 days we had with different rubber - this need for an emotional respite increased just to unrealistic dimensions, overlapping the need for new friends.

Myth number 6: Hitchhiking - this is Russian roulette

When we were drawing signs with destinations in some alpine village toilet, suspecting that in the Alps, in general, they were not hitchhiking, I was scared.

An extreme thing was added to all this by the fact that there was an unbearable heat and that is why we were in some short skirts / shorts. In short, on the side of the track, we looked like some kind of long-distance call girls. But an adventure is an adventure - you can not retreat.

In the end, we were brought up by quite unexpected characters: an Italian girl with a mother, an Austrian grandfather, a Slovenian hippie grandmother and two adult Georgians. All were extremely kind, interesting people, the latter generally had to drive past our final destination, Budapest (this no longer applies to our Alpine route), but in the end they took us right to the apartment where we had to stop, although we had to stand 40 minute traffic jam in the city center. It was very embarrassing for such kindness, but they insisted that the real gentleman could not do otherwise.

And the Italian girl told us that in the Alps hitchhiking is very rare, because now it is not very popular, because there are all sorts of services like "bla-kara", car-sharing or rent a car. The Slovenian grandmother, who, as it turned out, had a lot of hitchhiking in her youth and took us in solidarity, also confirmed the fact that today such a phenomenon is rare. It's funny that, as she said goodbye, she shouted to us: “Remember, we do it for all of us!”, And looked mysteriously, with some strange gleam in her eyes. We decided that she was a bit crazy, but we were immensely grateful to her.

In general, hitchhiking exceeded our expectations. This is unpopular, because "specialized maniacs" in this area are not operating, at least in Europe. You can use. Plus it is beautiful and does not leave the feeling that you are driving behind the wheel itself.

But let me remind you that before that you need to stand an incomprehensible amount of time at the track with a feeling of utter helplessness.

So, is it worth repeating my experience

  • As I have already said, if you are an introvert and are not ready, figuratively speaking, to give away a part of yourself to please cultural exchanges, think carefully about all these ways to travel. Or at least alternate between the couch, the hotel, the couch, the apartment, so that from time to time you can emotionally relax.
  • If you want to save money, then yes, it is worth it. But it’s still impossible to reduce expenses to zero: do not believe the constantly motivating travelers from the Internet.
  • Well, in general, now there will be a hypersubjective point: despite the fact that this trip was unbelievable, I realized during it that for me personally all these ways of driving, living, proest and generally exist, honestly say “for free” humiliating. Probably, many will disagree with me, but I’ll rather spend more money, I will travel much less and maybe because of these principles I will not see half-planets, but I’d rather travel at my measured pace, with my program and only close to me the company. This is a pleasure trip for me.

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