Couch Story

Lenka, Czech Republic: You just write a message to somebody on a website and ask him for a sleepover

LenkaLenka is a dreamer and future architect, currently based in Prague and working in a café. Before I get down to talk to her she manages to contact me with three of her couchsurfers. They come and go and make Lenka’s life interesting and fast.

Let`s find out where it all started for her.

She did an one semester long trip to Estonia and stayed with a gay couple in a tiny apartment. Nowadays some really interesting people come to visit her.

Like Thais from our other interview.

 

Lenko, you are couchsurfer, traveler and a quite interesting person, as far as I got to know you. What represents you the most of all? 

I think you have to go to some Asian country, spend there more than month and almost die at least twice. Then you are a traveler.

It`s a complicated question. You are asking who I am. If I knew it I would say “Wow”! I have no idea who I am. I even don`t know if I can call myself a traveler. I like to travel but I think that if you want to call yourself a traveler you have to really get somewhere. I have left Europe just once.

So you have to travel at least to Africa? 

I think you have to go to some Asian country, spend there more than month and almost die at least twice. Then you are a traveler.

Morocco – photo by Jan Mastník

Morocco – photo by Jan Mastník

So far so good. We have came to the definition of a traveler. 

I`m not there yet but it`s coming. I have almost died twice…

When did you start to travel? 

Because I had a feeling that it wouldn`t be that funny just to go to Estonia. Moving in with a gay couple seemed funnier.

We never travelled abroad with my family. My father used to say that since we don`t know Czech Republic well enough, we don`t need to travel somewhere else.  Everybody went to the sea and we went to South Moravia. It was OK, but not enough.

Later I just decided I don`t want typical holiday and went to work to Estonia for b210. Because I had a feeling that it wouldn`t be that funny just to go to Estonia, I decided to find accommodation through couchsurfing. Moving in with a gay couple seemed funnier.

The apartment was 40 m2, there was a bedroom for them and one other room. It was very well organised. It had a sofa for me, a table for eating and a kitchen corner. It was crazy. I thought we would kill each other after three weeks. I am not used to live with somebody in one room and I was there with a gay couple in the tiniest apartment ever. With other couchsurfers…

I started to make backup plans but it turned out that I never needed to, because I spent there four months and it was just perfect. I was a part of their family. I celebrated the law for gay marriages. I was part of big events in their life.

Hamburg – photo by Zuzana Sagitariová

Hamburg – photo by Zuzana Sagitariová

Did they have any special rules?

I learned basics of couchsurfing there. You have to set boundaries.

My guys were very all organised. They used to host couchsurfers for a long time and had strong rules. Couchsurfers couldn`t never stay home alone for example. They were leaving with the guys and coming back home with them. They were very polite but when there was a party, couchsurfers went to a party with them because we all went to the party. When we went to theatre everybody went to theatre. We were a small family, these guys, couchsurfers and me.

I learned basics of couchsurfing there. You have to set boundaries. This is my life and my space and I want to live my way. I tend to be very helpful. So helpful that it`s not good for me. And the worst thing? It`s easy to feel they`re not grateful enough. It made me feel bad so I have learned to be very strict.

You came back from Estonia and started hosting couchsurfers. Why?

You have weekly prescription of nice people to meet and talk to and to train your social skills.

I used to host before but I didn`t live in Prague. And I was also a bit afraid of it. I guess I had to try it a bit. After Estonia I needed some detox. I just didn’t want to have many people in my room. Then I started to miss it. It is like when you break up with someone and after some time you start to think that it was not that bad. So when I moved to Prague I started to accept people. It`s like a hobby. At the beginning I hosted each week for one or two nights. It seems that having one person a week is enough.

I think it`s like a drug. Meeting new people is always exciting. If you want to socialize it`s like sport to you. You have weekly prescription of nice people to meet and talk to and to train your social skills. Sometimes it`s terrible and sometimes it`s great. The second great thing is that you have someone who`s on a holiday so you also feel like being on holiday. People are different when they travel. You are more relaxed with them and don`t have to travel anywhere.

Morocco – photo by Jan Mastník

Morocco – photo by Jan Mastník

How can you tell who is going to be nice? They can make up many things and you can just read their profile in advance…

If someone`s able to put together a great fake personality which interests me, than it means he has great imagination and I want to meet him.

Well, yes, it can be all fake… But if someone is able to put together a great fake personality which interests me, than it means he has great imagination and I want to meet him or her. I thought I had to be very precise and have a system how to choose somebody. But I don’t, if I feel it is OK, it will be OK. You just need to be a bit careful.

Was there somebody whose story got stuck in your mind? 

I met two guys who were interesting because of their way of travelling. They were from Germany and were travelling from Helsinki to Talin and then somewhere on. They had enough money from their parents but they decided that they would not spend any of it on travelling. They had 100 Euros for two people for two weeks. They wanted to try if it is possible and they used everything they could. In Helsinki they went to the church and asked for food which was for homeless people. They got the food but it`s kind of weird. I admired the idea but they were stealing food from homeless people just because they didn`t want to use their money.

The second was a girl from the US. I`m somehow attached to people from the States. She got fired from her job under some really weird circumstances. She had some savings and decided to travel Europe for a few months instead of looking for a new job. She was 37 and wanted to have some fun. She was a scientist… It was pretty cool!

Do you think your couchsurfers have something in common? Are they all intelligent, crazy or poor? 

Most of all they are crazy and they do it for fun. You write a message to somebody on a website and ask him for a sleepover. Is that not crazy?

Tallin, Estonia – photo by Rain Uusen

Tallin, Estonia – photo by Rain Uusen

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