Written by Jeffrey, a Couchsurfer from London.
Couchsurfing can deliver wonderful surprises.
I live in an outer London suburb. I love hosting and I host at least one person most weeks. However, I had a week in October when nobody was booked to stay with me. I thought I was in for a dull week with no guests when I received a request from Ilya. He wanted to stay for three nights starting that night. His profile looked good, so I accepted him and my week was transformed.
Despite having spent forty years in IT, I am now technically challenged. I can tell you how a computer worked in the 1970’s, but I have no idea how they work now. Ilya is the CIO for an Estonian/French start-up. He got the thermostat on my new boiler to talk to its app and he made the app from my phone provider recognise me again. I had not been able to sign into it since I changed my phone in the summer. He also made some other minor repairs that I have not been able to do.
He is originally from Russia but has been working in Estonia developing the start-up and helping Ukrainian refugees. Although he is travelling on an Israeli passport and works for an Estonian company, the Estonian authorities refused to give him an extended residency because he still has his Russian passport and they kept delaying the decision on his appeal. He had several people plus his employer working to get him and his family their permits. His family’s Schengen visas were close to expiry, so they had to leave Estonia. He told me that they needed somewhere to stay until their Estonian residency permits could be sorted out. I do not normally offer long stays, but there was an exceptional need so I said that they could stay with me until it was resolved. They came to me a week later.
This was a very good decision for all of us. I, as host, solved Ilya’s accommodation problem and provided him with a proper base from which he could continue to work remotely. I ensured that his family was reasonably comfortable and was properly fed. I suggested some potential clients in the UK for him, which he followed up and his company is negotiating with them. Ilya, as guest, tidied my junk room and the bedroom where his family was staying. During his stay he also did some other repairs. My house is transformed and I am happier as a result. He bought the food whilst he was with me. We ate a lot of food, including two or three packets of biscuits a day. I enjoyed his visit immensely. It was Couchsurfing at its best and was full of surprises.
I had already arranged other visitors before Ilya and his family came to me. Although the house was pretty crowded, this is Couchsurfing, so I let them come. Ilya is an experienced host himself and he and his wife helped me. Having shown that it was possible to host other guests, I continued to accept Requests and I hosted a steady stream of short-stay guests whilst Ilya was with me. The experiences with all my guests were good, but three of them were exceptional and showed how Couchsurfing can deliver unpredictable benefits even to non-Couchsurfers.
On a day when my house was particularly full with pre-booked visitors, I received a message from Dani whom I had hosted in 2019. His was a lovely visit. He is originally from Morocco, but now lives in Malaysia. We got on very well together and at the end of his stay in 2019 he invited me to go to Morocco where he would take me on a tour. This time, he said that he was in Paris visiting his sister and that he would like to come to London to see me. Of course, I accepted him despite the house being full. We spent a day going around the local Christmas market then went into Central London to see the lights. We had a lovely day and he repeated his offer to take me on a tour of Morocco. I will probably take him up on it.
One of the stalls in the Christmas market was run by somebody from Turkey who was selling hand-painted plates and dishes from his family business. Dani took his business details to pass on to his sister in Paris who is a wholesaler. He did pass on the details. Hopefully this Turkish man and Dani’s sister have been able to set up a business deal. If so, then they will have both benefitted thanks to Couchsurfing.
Days later, I hosted Toby from Brazil. He is an exuberant and dynamic character. He is full of energy and knows where he wants to go in life. He is great fun and was a delightful guest. Before I accepted him, I looked at his profile and found that he had stayed with somebody else who lives nearby and who stayed with me a year ago whilst he was having work done on his flat. He was originally from Syria and his UK citizenship had come through during the few days that he was with me. I was able to witness his joy when it was approved. I invited him to join us for supper. We had a great evening together. It was a real highlight. The only thing we missed out on was that Toby sings and plays the guitar. There was no time for him to do that during his visit. Our loss, I think.
Finally, I must mention Tima. Tima came as a random visitor from Kazakhstan. He turned out to have exactly the 3D modelling skills that Ilya was looking for. Ilya gave him an assignment which he did immediately, saving Ilya the need to go through a search and recruitment process. Tima got an unexpected job and Ilya’s company benefitted from a shortened timescale and something to present to clients straight away. Tima also had a contact in a company in Kazakhstan that Ilya’s company was interested in doing business with and Ilya contacted them. Thus, Tima landed in Ilya’s lap as a contractor. Tima got an unexpected job and Ilya’s company and the company in Kazakhstan may gain a business relationship and it was all through Couchsurfing connections. How could anyone predict this? Couchsurfing is extraordinary and amazing. I love it.
Tima is sitting in the room with me on his second visit as I write this. He has just completed a second assignment that Ilya has told me he is very pleased with. He is planning to work with Tima long-term.
When Tima leaves later this afternoon, I will have an empty house for the first time in over two months. It will give me a chance to catch up on washing and ironing. I have more guests coming next week. One is a return visitor and one is new. I am looking forward to their visit.