I had my first ever couchsurfing experience yesterday and I must say, it was beyond incredible. I was amazed, ecstatic and just humbled by the whole thing.
One guy and two girls had come all the way from America to travel in my country and due to some strange twist of fate, ended up spending a night at my home in Hapur, a small village which you probably have never even heard of.
They ended up having a nice time and I ended up learning a lot, getting inspired and making three new amazing friends.
The whole story
I had signed up on this website called couchsurfing a long time back but I’d never really used it. It’s a travel/hospitality community where you can find people to stay with for a few days if you’re travelling to a new place, virtually anywhere in the world. So If I’m travelling to say Europe and I want a little help getting around somewhere, I can look up people on couchsurfing who are willing to host me and even show me around if they can. Not only do you end up saving money, but you also end up making friends, meeting people and learning about a whole new culture from the locals. It’s just incredible the way it works.
One fine day, Kim, a public health nurse from Michigan sent me a message asking whether she could stay at my place in Hapur. She, along with Alec and Melissa, were planning to go on a cycling expedition from Delhi to Kathmandu and Hapur was their first stop! I was rather surprised. To be honest, I didn’t believe them at first. Who in their right mind would want to come to Hapur?
But they did arrive, and I went to receive them.
The funniest thing was that when they had stopped in Hapur and were waiting for me, a whole crowd had gathered around them because people in Hapur had probably never seen a foreigner so close. They had formed a sort of horseshoe around them and were staring at them, clicking photos and videos from their mobiles, laughing and thinking what the hell are these three goras (white people) doing here on cycles that too! They probably thought that they had lost their way. Melissa later told me that she thought the crowd wanted to see them perform or something so she bought three oranges from a roadside cart and started juggling it!
So they were relieved when they saw me because it does get scary if you’re surrounded with so many people who are just staring at you and not even talking to you! I took them home and they met my entire family. Everyone at home had been waiting to meet them so they were really excited too when these three adventurists arrived! Everyone in the factory, all the staff and help at home were just bewildered to see firangs. On cycles.
I took them to my place and made them feel at home. It was a very new experience, playing host to such random travelers and getting to know them. Some might say I am crazy because you never know what you are letting yourself in for. I took a chance and it turned out pretty well I’d say. I guess that’s how you learn and have new experiences, by taking chances! They were three extremely nice people with a warm, funny sense of humor.
After resting for a while, we lit a small fire outside in the cold winter night (coincidentally, it was the coldest night Hapur had experienced in the last 44 odd years!) and sat down for a while, talking, drinking and just getting to know each other. Me and family, talking to these three random nomads, on a chilly night.
Alec was a computer guy, Kim was a nurse who had been working in Cameroon and Melissa was a climbing instructor. All three loved cycling and traveling and that’s what led them on this trip. It was fantastic to know how these guys just followed their hearts and did what they wanted. Yes, their parents were very concerned. But they let them do what they wanted. No pressure. The way it should be.
These guys really taught me a lot in the little time that I spent with them. They inspired me to challenge myself and do things that I have not done before. Their confidence, their childish curiosity and faith in the general goodness of the world synced with my view of life and I felt better thinking that there are others like me who do things without thinking much. Who just do things because they want to, and do things just because others think they are “impractical” or “impossible” or “stupid”. Their ability to adjust anywhere, be non-fussy about anything, and their humility was really remarkable.
They are probably cycling on some highway in India or resting in some god-forsaken highway hotel, unsure of what lies next. And they are probably having a good time doing it. I wish them all the best for their journey! (Note – if you want to follow their journey, subscribe to their blog.