Brandon Clifton spent two weeks driving up the east coast staying with Couchsurfing hosts. His goal: Interview, photograph and get to know them in order to tell their stories.
My next Couchsurfing host was a guy similar in age to me and goes by the name, “Krupa,” probably because everyone seems to botch his real name, Krupanidhi. I stayed with him and his girlfriend, Emma, in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. Krupa and Emma were so laid back and easygoing. We literally stayed up late each night watching episode after episode of Catchfish. I felt so comfortable in their presence; I’d often joke about being the third roommate. Before long, we started taking photos and sharing stories. I asked him about his first experience on Couchsurfing.
“My first experience as a couchsurfer would be back in India when I first discovered couchsurfing. I hadn’t couchsurfed anywhere, but used it as a way to show people around the city. For me, couchsurfing started as a way of meeting people, making new friends. Being an introvert, I haven’t been to a lot of places to meet people, but couchsurfing gave me the opportunity to meet many people. Even after I moved to the States it was hard to make friends outside of your classes. During that time, I met people through couchsurfing and made friends with them. When I first moved to Willmington, it was like, ‘I’m all alone, it’s a new city and everything and I don’t know anyone else,’ so I was hesitant to go and meet new people in this Wilmington couchsurfing event I had learned about. I was so hesitant and initially said ‘I may not come,’ but eventually said, ‘I’m going to give it a try,’ and that’s when I first went to the Wilmington couchsurfing event and met fellow couchsurfers and the rest was history. After that, I met so many people.”
The conversation then shifted to family and home life back in India.
“Life growing up was pretty simple back in India. Growing up in India was a completely different experience than the US.”
“I’m an engineer. The thing is, coming from India there’s obviously the background difference and the expenses. Coming from India to the US is not cheap and is a really expensive thing to do, so when you come and your parents give you all their support and pay for some of the expenses, it’s important that I need to clear my part of the expense first. For me, it’s more of a responsibility because they spend their entire life on me and it’s my responsibility to take care of them. The thing is, in the US you can earn so much money and I can only send a tenth of it to India and they can still live happily because of the costs of living differences. I know they have pushed me towards something I may not like and stuff, but they had still supported me through what I did. So I have a responsibility and respect for them. I wish things were a little different but it’s okay.”
Krupa took me to some hidden gems in North Carolina that he oftens goes to when he wants to relax and take photos. He’s a fellow photographer, but prefers shooting landscapes over portraits. He even invited some fellow couchsurfing friends of his to dinner to meet me. My time with Krupa was spent relaxing, exploring and meeting new people. It still blows me away to think that these people didn’t know me, yet took the time out of their busy schedules to show me around town, give me a place to sleep and make sure I was as comfortable as possible during my stay.