Couchsurfing Corner #1 – The Russian Instagrammer

Like most people, when introduced to the concept of Couchsurfing I was initially very sceptical. I mean, having a completely random stranger living in your home with access to all your worldly possessions sounds more like some form of corporal punishment than a voluntary act of kindness. The ‘Here’s Johnny” scene from The Shining flashes before your eyes only to be replaced by that of Brad Pitt opening the box in Se7en. You’d have to have a complex to sign-up for it!

But then I saw the documentary One Couch At A Time and things suddenly changed. My cynical visions of axe murdering rapists and petty criminals was replaced with that of a world-wide community containing endless possibilities. The documentary follows a solo female traveller as she circumnavigates the globe by crashing on the sofas of kind-hearted locals whilst posing the question: “What would YOU be willing to share with a stranger?” What she uncovers is a ‘sharing economy’ that is built upon a love for travel, exploration, and interacting with others. I now saw Couchsurfing as a way to meet similarly minded people from all over the world; a way to further my knowledge of different cultures and ideal; a way to get off the beaten tourist path; and a way to become a tourist again in my home-town.

People can leave feedback on their stays and each profile allows for detailed descriptions to be entered about the hosts/guests’ interests, lifestyle, and availability; kind of like a dating site for accommodation. My flatmate Fry and I therefore quickly set about crafting a welcoming and humorous account with the offer of sheltering any backpackers visiting Glasgow, showing them around the city, or introducing them to traditional customs if they so fancied. Surprisingly, and unlike most of my dating profiles, in only a couple of days our inbox started to be populated with requests.

And that’s how on one sunny Sunday afternoon in March, Tim from Moscow found himself ringing the buzzer to our flat and wandering his way into our lives. He’d just returned back to his place of birth having lived for 15 years in Seattle and was on a 12 day excursion of the British Isles to capture some of it’s natural beauty for his Instagram account (of which he boasts an impressive following). Dumping his bag, formal introductions were made and we tried our best to offer some handy tips and pointers about the things to see and do in Glasgow; a task which turned out to be a lot more difficult than it should have been.

Tim’s plan was to spend the afternoon taking in the architecture of Scotland’s largest city, visiting the Necropolis, and exploring the Botanic Gardens; which left us time to prepare a traditional ‘haggis, neeps, and tatties’ dinner for his return. Unusually, he was not phased in the slightest by the description of what it contained and was happy to wolf down the sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs as we traded stories of travel and musings on life. In just a short afternoon Tim had turned from a complete stranger into a brand new friend; a genuinely interesting and gracious dude.

The next morning Fry helped maximise his planned route around the Highlands so as to incorporate as many of our suggested ‘must see’ spots as possible; from the shores of Loch Lomond to the hills of Glen Coe. He then dropped Tim off at the airport to pick up his Fiat 500 hire car and upon my return from work they were back home and in the process of rolling out some home-made pizza bases. We invited over a couple of pals, cracked a few beers, and joked about until, having to get up at 5am in order to make it North in time for sunrise, Tim curled cosily up for a second night on our sofa.

My alarm went off at 7am for work the next morning and groggily making my way into the living room I found a really touching handwritten message lying on the kitchen table thanking us for our hospitality. It had been an absolute pleasure hosting Tim and if I ever find myself in Moscow I know I’ve now got a friend who would be more than happy to introduce me to his city. We will definitely be trying to host more guests over the coming months and trying to get more involved in this ‘sharing economy’, of which I now have no qualms in saying is just a brilliant community to have stumbled into.

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Please check out Tim’s Instagram profile here for some more inspiring and breathtaking photography.

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