Photostory

It’s been a whirlwind of a day, which has seen me getting through to the next stage in the Best Personal Blog category of the Irish Blog Awards (yay, and thank you to whomsoever put me there!) and embarking on a bus journey to Riga.

Yes, I have gone a-wanderin’ again. Sometimes the feet get itchy, and you get a good excuse to take off for a week to explore a different city… what’s a girl to do? I’ve got lots of sightseeing, walking, exploring and getting lost to do, so expect a week of amusing – or at the very least, unique – travel tales. In the meantime, however, I’m much too sleepy from the long bus ride to do anything but read for a while and get an early night.

I shall use this opportunity to acknowledge that Katyboo tagged me some days ago with a photo meme, and I never got around to doing it. The idea seems to be that you go to the fourth folder of photos on your computer, open it up, pick the fourth photo, and post it on your blog for the world to see. And here it is:

dsc01519I don’t like posting photos of people without their permission, so I have thoughtfully blurred out the face, but that’s not really what the photo was about anyway.

This picture was taken on one of my many  Couchsurfing experiences during my summer travels last year. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, Couchsurfing is basically a huge online community where you sign up, fill out a profile with as much information as you want to give about yourself, the type of person you are, your interests and so on, and offer to let people come and stay with you for free if they’re travelling around and need a bed (or couch!) in your city for a night or two. Then, if someone (like yours truly) is travelling rather haphazardly around for a few months, they can do a “Couch Search”, by specifying the city they’re visiting and how long they’ll be there for. And hey presto! A list of profiles appears on the screen, showing all the people who are willing to let you come and stay with them. You just send them a message, and you’re sorted.

It’s a really great system, because it’s not just about getting a free bed for the night – it’s a fantastic way of getting to meet the locals, of finding out about interesting, less touristy things to do, of making new friends and getting a bit of company now and again. I was overwhelmed by how kind people were, and how open they were with their homes. For the most part, it genuinely was a case of “my home is your home”. The photo I’ve posted, for example, was taken in a beautiful, quaint little attic bedroom above the bedroom of my host. She wasn’t even home when I arrived, but had left instructions for her housmate to let me in, and had written a note telling me to make myself at home, make some tea, help myself to food, and even use her laptop if I needed it for checking email. Bear in mind that we hadn’t even met at this point! I was a complete stranger, who’d emailed her asking for somewhere to sleep, and she trusted me without hesitation. It’s humbling.

The next morning, to make up for her absence the night before, she prepared a special breakfast with all sorts of local produce that isn’t in the photo (as I didn’t think to take one that day), and we had a lovely morning, together with one of her housemates, exchanging stories, eating, drinking coffee and smoking a few leisurely cigarettes. Bliss. It was so nice that we did it for the next two mornings that I was there, too, only with less food (they were very slim girls, I imagine that they don’t have that kind of feast every morning). It’s one of my fondest memories from my summer travels.

Every Couchsurfing experience has been positive, though – even when a couple of them turned out to be boys who lived in very studenty flats, if you catch my drift. Regardless of the personal hygiene involved, every single person I encountered was open, friendly, generous and helpful. I slept on a mattress at the foot of the bed of a guy who took me on a night out to meet his friends and made me pancakes at 2am before we went to sleep. I slept in a luxurious guest room in a beautiful apartment overlooking a fabulous city, where I drank coffee on the balcony with my hosts in the sunshine. I slept on a couch in the apartment of one unbelievably generous guy who was so involved with Couchsurfing that he’d pretty much opened up his home to anyone who needed it, and it had in effect become a sort of unofficial, free hostel, full of the weirdest menagerie of twenty-somethings from all over the world (at the time I was there, I met travellers from Sweden, Wales, the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada). I slept in the living room of a young couple who came to meet me at the train station and had even bought a tram ticket for me in advance, a simple gesture that was surprisingly meaningful to an exhausted traveller who was wearily carting her life possessions around with her. I slept in the flat of somone who’d rescued me at the last minute, seeing from my message on a Couchsurfing group page that I hadn’t managed to find a free couch – he offered me a mattress on his living room floor, despite the fact that he already had someone else on the couch, and came to meet me at the bus stop because it was dark and his place was difficult to find.

I could go on and on, but I won’t, because this was just meant to be about the nice breakfasts I had at one person’s apartment, and I’ve managed to go off in a rather different direction. Sometimes I think that I have no control over what I write, no matter what I start out intending to write. It goes where it goes. There is no discipline, skill, intent, or anything like that involved (although I often try to pretend that there is, for the purposes of obtaining work).

And if people want to nominate me for awards for that, then I think that’s pretty frabjous! :)

By the way, I tag English Mum and Grannymar with the photo thing.

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12 thoughts on “Photostory

  1. Sister – I’d love to, but (a) I’m still having trouble raising the money for a flight home and (b) it seems that I was meant to register for the awards before I even knew I was nominated this year, so it’s all sold out now anyway. :(
    Grannymar – Wow! That was an exciting moment. It’s nice having the Irish Independent writing about me!! Thanks for the link.
    Katyboo – It is… I can only hope that when the tourist season starts in Tallinn again I can give guests as much help as they gave me. Pressure!

  2. Croquecamille – :D Of course it was! And I bet you could make me abandon all thoughts of anything *but* cream puffs if you posted it and wrote about it. Your blog has that effect on me.

    :::hungry:::

  3. So I’m hopefully going to have a flat soon, and at some point after that I shall be buying a couch (or more likely a sofa bed) so if you ever feel like a trip to the south of Germany…

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