August 21, 2008

The Couchsurfing Experiment
Eger, Hungary

This, our third night in Eger, will be our last. I've grown weary of forking over US$25 a night for our college dorm accommodations, and will be pulling the plug tomorrow morning.

With town and castle exploration, fireworks, wine tasting, and many miles of walking behind us, we're in need of some serious rest. If we stuck around for another night or two, we probably wouldn't even leave the room to do much more than gather food.

Thanks to the range of Tatiana's diminutive laptop, and my lack of digital morals (read: I broke some router's wireless encryption), we've had free Wi-Fi in our room since night-one. With this speedy connection, I've been busy in the evenings plotting our next jump.

I told Tatiana that I wanted to give Couchsurfing a shot, as hunting for rooms during this peak season of travel has not been a loved labor. And trading some privacy for conversation and a free place to stay was certainly a deal we were interested in experimenting with.

So I sifted through the Web site, filtering out people with whom we'd all have to sleep in the same room and those with anything other than a vacancy, and came up with a list of six different profiles in six different cities. Whoever responded to us is where we'd go. (If not, off to some random Romanian location it would be.)

Of the six inquiries, I received two responses within a 24–48 hour period of time. One was no-go—"sorry we left the vacancy light on, we're in Austria at the moment"—while the other was from Laszlo, in the small town of S├írospatak (back northeast, towards Slovakia).

I was actually quite glad to hear from Laszlo, as Sárospatak (with its proximity to the Tokaj, the other Hungarian wine capital) was my first choice of the six. Additionally, his profile specified that there was an empty family home in town that we could shack up at if we were two people or more.

Laszlo's responses to my e-mails were in well-written English, but the overarching tone was "I hate to turn away a traveler, but can it wait until next week?" He has the final exam for his degree on the 27th, and was wondering if we could postpone.

I reassured him that we were a very low maintenance couple, that he need not worry about spending study time keeping us entertained or our days full (as our son does enough of that already), and that Tatiana would provide food for his brain, should he like to join us for meals.

A lot of back and forth e-mailing took place tonight, with the end result being a solid yes from Laszlo (and permission from his father for us to stay at the now unoccupied home where his dad grew up).

So, I've planned out and shared our train schedule with Laszlo, written down his phone number, and repacked my bag. We've no idea what to expect, or what the living situation is going to be like, but we're certainly excited and ready to give this a try.

Luck to us.

Comments:

The United States

Roosh

August 28th, 2008

Just curious… how do you structure your inquiry?

Hungary

Craig | travelvice.com

August 29th, 2008

Howdy Roosh,

To give you an idea, here's a copy of an e-mail I sent a newly wed couple (who we're actually probably going to be staying at after our next jump — the town after the next friendly CS couple that will host us when we relocate on the 1st or 2nd of September):

Hi Teri and Josef,

Hope you had a pleasant Saint Stephen Day yesterday. Here in Eger there was an absolutely wonderful fireworks display last night, shot off from the innards of the castle — quite a sight.

My small family and I are making our way towards Romania, and thought we'd get to know the area around Debrecen for a bit before jumping the border (Biharkeresztes sounds like a nice fit, as we love smaller towns). If you're open to hosting us for a few nights we'd absolutely love to stop by and get to know you and your corner of Hungary.

I believe that we will be here in Eger for one more night (Thursday), and ready to travel again on the morning of Friday the 22nd. I suppose it's possible we might find another city between Eger and yours that might make an arrival happen a little later next week.

What works for you if you're available?

Hope your honeymoon was a blast.

Best,

//craig, tatiana, and little aidric

That simple. I adjusted the e-mail slightly for each of the six people contacted, but you really just need to open a dialog and see where they're at and if they're available.

As we continue to surf we'll accumulate more credibility within the system (by commented feedback), though that seems to be a little more important with people who host than people who surf.

This is really an amazing collection of individuals.

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