A month ago, I came back home from an all-too-short first trip to Warsaw, Poland, and the impression that this city and all the new people I’ve met has made has not diminished one bit; if anything, each new day I feel more and more that I miss it and wish to go back soon. I was there for 3 freaking days only, and I have made some great, lifelong friends in this country. The country is very deceptive: its gray, grim appearance (I was there when it was -30° C!) may throw many people off, yet it took me minutes to feel warm and welcome.
To tell you the truth, I hated the fact that I basically fell in love with Warsaw and Poland, because now I want to travel there again (and soon!), when instead I could be spending the same amount of time and money to visit a totally new destination. These are the dangers of world travel, and I am quite a bit more susceptible to these pitfalls of traveling than those that countless guides warn about, such as pickpockets, guerrillas, and other miscreants.
Anyway, I have committed already to saving for my next big trip to visit Hungary with my best friend, Reni, along with some of Hungary’s neighboring states (Reni changes the itinerary each hour, on the hour ;) ). That leaves another trip to Poland at the drawing board, for now. However, I miss my new friends in Poland, and wish I could spend some more time with them soon.
So, I was elated when I found out that one of my friends who I had met at the Warsaw Couchsurfing Saturated Party back in February asked me if she could come stay with me. Ania (Anna Z.) has never come to New York City, my hometown and current residence, and so she sent me a message on Facebook to see if I could host her for a week or so, to allow her to visit my city, which she says is at the top of her list. I had two roommates, but one has just moved out to live with her boyfriend, which leaves my remaining roomie and me a spare bedroom for our friends to utilize while in New York.
I immediately accepted her request, of course, and I think that I may even be more excited than she is! Ania tells me that she is thrilled and giddy to come stay for a week and a half in late April/early May, yet for some reason, I am almost certain that I am the one who is more happily anxious. I guess it satisfies that urge in me that wants to strengthen and keep alive my relationship with Warsaw and my friends there.
Which leads me to my point: When you can’t travel, why not bring your desired destinations to you?
I am talking primarily about couch surfing. The term “couch surfing” is a neologism that, though around for a bit now as a description for staying with friends, is just recently starting to enter common travel parlance. Couch surfing, the travel version, is when a traveler, often due to budget restrictions, stays at a private house in a spare room or on the couch while visiting, hence “couch surfing”. The traveler may have met this samaritan through friends or family, or through an online site, such as www.couchsurfing.com. It is a great way to experience the true culture of the place where you are visiting, because you will experience the daily life of a local and taste more authentic food.
My favorite way to travel is to somehow meet locals and experience the city like only they could know it. My travel to Warsaw had me surfing the couch of my good friend Sonia, and I met many other admirers and practitioners of the couchsurfing type while at the party and out for drinks on the other days during my stay.
So, when I write why not bring your desired destinations to you?, I am suggesting that it would be quite the mutually-beneficial scenario to host someone from afar (or perhaps, more specifically, your next intended destination) to surf your couch, spare room, or inflatable mattress.
I am very excited to be able to show off my hometown, the great City of New York, to my friend Ania, but I selfishly am able to promote my own agenda at the same time, which is to maintain and strengthen my friendships in Warsaw :) . Couchsurfing.org, which is the foremost facilitator of the concept and movement of couchsurfing, has been quite a godsend. When traveling, I can find a local who is willing and able to host me and put me up for a few nights, and I can locate some others to show me around or grab a bite and/or a drink with.
Since I am going to be home in Nowy Jork (NYC in Polish) during the end of April and the beginning of May, I welcome the opportunity for Ania to come stay. I can reciprocate, in a way, for being hosted in Warsaw, though that was with my great friend Sonia. It is very exciting to plan for Ania’s arrival, and I am rejuvenating some of my long-dormant enthusiasm that I carry for my city. Since I’ve received her request a few days ago, my mind’s gears have been turning at almost a dangerous pace, as I contemplate all my options – best attractions (standard touristy sights or hidden gems?), great restaurants (NYC has over 19,000!), etc.
This couchsurfing business is definitely one that any real traveler should get involved with; with the people you meet and the side of the city that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise, you may never wish to stay at a hotel again!