A big part of what makes any place interesting is the people who you end up hanging out with in the place. Though hostels can sometimes provide awesome people, traveling through places like Uzbekistan and Ukraine in the off-season yield mostly-empty dorms in even the most popular cities.
This makes something like Couchsurfing really useful for getting far deeper into the heart of a city than is normally possible as a traveler just passing through.
The idea is that you set up a profile on the couchsurfing website, describe interests and travel philosophy and other basic info about yourself, and then send a request to “surf” with somebody shortly before you head to their city. If they look over your profile and decide to, they can accept your request and let you stay at their place for the time you spend in the town.
My time in Moldova was a prefect example of this. Without having surfed with Ilia (pictured in the previous post), I wouldn’t have had nearly as exciting a time in Moldova as I did. We went to Alexandrovka to visit his friends from college, I learned a bit about stage-prep while helping him set-up for a band, went to my first heavy metal show, was introduced to a bar where the only way in is to call the bartender’s cell and have him unlock the door for you, and had a chat with a former Soviet sailor who had scares with American ships during the Cold War.
Without Ilia I would have probably stayed in a hostel in Chisinau for two or three days, spent a lot of time on their wireless killing time at night, and left the country a little bored and wondering why I spent travel days hanging around town.
All the hospitality I’ve been shown through Couchsurfing has been phenomenal, and I fully recommend it to every other traveler. You can be certain that once I finally get a (semi-)permanent place again for a few year, I’ll be opening it up to other travelers through Couchsurfing.
So, some of the next few posts will be Couchsurfing experiences that I neglected to mention as I talked about the cities where they happened.