A funny thing happened when we left Istanbul—our days of couchsurfing pretty much ended. We might be able to find something in Tblisi, and it might pick up in South East Asia, but it won’t be dependable.
From Paris to Istanbul, the website was our lifeblood. We surfed with at least 30 different hosts, sometimes over multiple nights. They were goldmines. They spoke English, provided amazing insight to local culture, and gave us comfortable places to stay. They also turned out to be some of our best sources for some of the stories that we wrote.
Now that it’s gone, the logistics of this trip just became more difficult. Opportunities for showers and wifi will be fewer and farer between, and we’ll have to shell out money for a hostel bed more often.
For the most part, it means that we’re back to mostly living out of our tent, scraping free accommodations whenever we’re lucky enough to find them. This has already changed the tone of our trip; I’ve left the reader with a few anecdotes to show how.
We needed a roof badly our first night leaving Trabzon. Chris and I had been on the road for just under
three hours, and we turned off with sixty minutes to go until sunset. That’s cutting it close by any
measure, especially when you’re on a major highway and have to find a place to sleep before dark. A dirt road through a small town seemed to be our best bet for finding a camping spot, and we attacked it hoping we could find a flat patch of grass in between the vast expanses of tea fields that covered the mountains. But these mountains were steep, and flat land was in short supply. Our first attempt got us chased off a field by a grumpy matron with a bundle of tea on her back. Our next try, 50 meters up the road, put us in a mud pit. Then it started to rain, and we doubled back and sprinted while the ground was still solid enough to wheel our bikes through, even if we were scraping gobs of mud out of our fenders to keep them pushing forward. It was time to resort to plan B.
Plan B was simple: ask whoever was in the street if we could sleep in their house. But there was a problem: nobody in town spoke a word of English or French, so all they did was point us in the direction of a city 20 km to the East, shouting “hotel!” It was pretty much a hopeless cause. Defeated, we ended up camping right next to the highway, hidden from the cars by a large mound of dirt that essentially
became a mud swamp. A less than awesome first night back on the bikes.
Three days later, in the city of Kutaisi, Georgia, we finally got a windfall in the form of a Peace Core volunteer from Chicago named Jon. We met Jon at an ice cream parlor in the city’s central park. After a brief conversation, he offered us his place to lay down for the night. It wasn’t really his, per se, but a small guest room in the house of his Georgian host family.
Jon was kind and quirky. It seemed as if he’d been alone for so long he’d forgotten how to deal with guests. When we asked where should go dinner, we received a twenty minute answer that included a description of everything we would find on the menu, a request for our precise time of return, and a question about whether we’d shower tonight or tomorrow morning. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it all.
Dinner took us longer than expected, because we wanted to watch the Olympics on the restaurant’s TV, but when we came back we chatted for an hour. It was a great conversation; we learned about him, his family, what it was like to grow up with eight siblings. We got to use his computer, which had an internet connection, and figure out what we were going to do next in the country. But then, since he had only one room, he asked if we wouldn’t mind sleeping outside.
Chris and I didn’t skip a beat. We said “sure, no problem!” But we still ended up back in our tent, on Jon’s roof, using the rainfly for protection from the light rain. Yup, couchsurfing is over.
Going forward, I can only imagine that this new pace of life will take even stranger turns. Sometimes we’ll luck out and find shelter. Sometimes we’ll be out in our tent. Even if we do find a free roof, sometimes it will be great, and sometimes it will get just plain weird. Whatever it is, the disappearance of courchsurfing resets the equation of how we operate. It’s turning this into way more of an adventure than I’d imagined.