Tag Archives: couch surfing

Chennai Couch Surfing meet

This is the tale of How I Met Some More Interesting Random Strangers by Joining a Meet up out of Impulse.

If you have read the open letter to kind blogger, you must be knowing that I was at Chennai staying with a kind blogger.

The story goes like this. I was staying at this kind blogger friend’s house. I had the privilege to use all the facilities.

Being on the road for almost a month, I wanted to check what was happening in the online world. So I used the high-speed internet after a very long time. I had a lot to catch up, I hadn’t update the blog in a while, I needed to reply to some mails, I had to thank the couch surfers who happily offered their couches, I had to write them the feedback. I had so much things to do and I was all alone in that house. So I decided to use WiFi.

After I finished all the above mentioned tasks, there was still a lot of time left and I had nothing much to do. And unfortunately my camera charger stopped working.  It wouldn’t charge the battery. I was completely unaware of this problem, that I came to know about it  when the battery got completely drained. But the good thing was that the battery had enough charge to survive the entire trip and the problem occurred at the final leg of the journey.

As the camera wasn’t working, I didn’t have pretty much anything to do. So I thought of meeting some people. I checked the couch surfing site. Couldn’t find many travellers to meet in Chennai. But then there it was. A Chennai Couch surfing meet up was happening that very day! How lucky! I checked the venue and left a reply saying that I would be joining as well.

After having lunch and resting for some more time, I headed out. I had never attended a CS meet up at such a short notice. It is a bit risky. Risky in the sense,  I didn’t have any contact numbers, I didn’t know whom to contact or how to recognise them and I wasn’t even sure if the venue mentioned was confirmed or would they change it at that last moment.  Anyway I decided to go.

It was happening at some café near Besant nagar beach, Chennai. So I asked some guy i met on the road, how to reach that place. He helped me with the directions and bus number. After walking quite some time and asking so many others,  at last got into a bus that was heading towards this place. But after I got in the bus, I came to know that it wouldn’t go exactly to that place and I had to take another bus to reach my destination.

Then I switched on my loyal, reliable travel partner : Google Maps. It  rarely misguides me. But when it does, it turns out to be quite funny. Reaching a granite slab of  2 feet width while driving a car can be cited here as a testimony. Reaching road blocks are too common to mention, especially if there is any newly built fly over nearby.

Anyway Google maps showed me the nearest point where I could get down to reach the beach. When I checked the maps, it was almost half an hour by walking. So I decided to walk instead of taking a bus. So far from my experience, Google maps wont misguide you while walking, unless until one has given wrong input. They say in computer terms  GIGO : Good Input, Good Output.

After the half an hour walk, I did reach Besant Nagar beach and found out the café. The real trouble started just then. There were some people already sitting in the street side café, enjoying the breeze that was coming from the sea. Now my task is to find out the couch surfers among these people, whom I have never met, not even in photographs.

I checked the CS site to see if anyone had replied . No response. I walked in front of the café checking people, like a thief who was planning to break in a house! There were gangs of girls sitting there in the café and I looked like someone who is secretly checking them out and ogling at them 😉

I had no idea, how I was going to find this people. It was already the time mentioned on the site. I decided to walk around the beach side looking for some clues. What I found is police men and women roaming around the beach. I know that they have a special affection towards the “oglers” 😉 So I went back to the café for another round of search. My search criteria was to look for a bunch of people from different countries and different age groups having  different skin tones , different accent and so on.

I prayed to Google god and ran the search query. Voilà!! In one corner I found a group of men and women. 3 women, 2 men, Indian and Non Indians, age ranging from 20 to 70, that was the first investigation report I could come up with, for that group.

I was still having doubts. I looked at the group with a question on my face. Someone asked “Couch surfing??” I nodded and said ‘yes’. “Haloo. welcome” and within no time I was part of that group.

People joined one by one  till it became a group of around 20. We ordered coffee and snacks. And it was fun. The meet up was organized by 2 girls from Iran. They were travelling across India. When I talked to them, they told me that they were travelling from Goa. They told me about their CS host at Goa. I knew him, I stayed with him as well. Then she told me where they were going next. I knew that host too, surprisingly. So we came to the conclusion that the world is a small place! They were actually following a similar travel plan, which I did  some time ago.

Another interesting person was 70-year-old Barbara from USA who knew more about Delhi and India in general, than anyone present in  that group. She is an avid traveller, even at this age. She is an ambassador of Couch surfing.

Then there was a movie assistant director , some bankers, consultant, people who quit their jobs. It was an interesting group. We exchanged stories, numbers, contact details, shared the bill for tea and snacks and it was time to leave. Then this man, who had undergone an accident, who was advised to take bed rest and not to ride motorbike, offered me a lift. Now that is the kindness of couch surfers! He dropped me at my host’s house.

I had a great time that day. Thanks to all the wonderful people who believes in humanity. Thanks to all couch surfers out there. Maybe you can also be a couch surfer. Join now.

An open letter to a Kind Blogger

 

 

 Date : 30.10.2014

Place : Chennai, India

Dear Kind blogger,

Thank you for all the kindness you showered upon me. It my pleasure to meet you in real and to be able to enjoy the generous hospitality you have offered me without a second thought. I must admit that I am really overwhelmed by the blind trust you showed to this perfect stranger – whom you have only known from the words and pictures on this blog – by trusting with the house keys.

I am not sure if I will ever leave a big house, with all facilities and a wide varieties of small to medium to big antiques and other expensive stuffs, with a  perfect stranger. Now I can think of all sorts of ways of making some easy bucks when I was all alone at your home, very near to the Chennai market where one can sell almost anything imaginable. But you chose to trust me, and that too blindly. So I couldn’t even think of such a heinous act.

You allowed me to stay at your place, use the electricity, use the water, use the wifi and use all the facilities at your home. In return for what? My travel stories?! Or just like that?

I remember the day I received your message on WordPress and in Facebook page. The previous day,  I had updated my plans of visiting Chennai while I was travelling. When I had internet I found your message and I had already left from Chennai. You wanted a sort of wordpress blogger meet up. Somehow I didn’t find the idea very cool at that point of time. But I replied, we exchanged numbers and we re-planned to meet when I come back to Chennai after the trip.

At that point I wasn’t very sure of my plans. I wasn’t sure that I would return to Chennai at all. But universal intelligence has different plans. So I had to return to Chennai and  we had to meet. So I remembered and called you when I was coming back from Thiruvannamalai. Even though I had one extra friend with me, you accepted our request without any hesitation.

You were heck busy with your work, still you replied to our messages and directed us patiently when we got lost. It was late and you still had to work, even though you took a break and came to welcome us, showed us the home, opened the door of your home for us and again left for work, leaving us, only us at your home, whom you have just met.

You didn’t come back until 12 and we fell asleep somewhere around that time. We woke up in the morning with some plans to go out early in the morning. But you were sleeping at that time and we hadn’t talked to you about our plan because we only saw you for less than 15 minutes altogether! After waiting for very long, at last I mustered the courage to wake you up. I made one ring to your phone, you didn’t wake up; knocked at your door lightly, you didn’t wake up, called out your name aloud, some how at last you woke up at 9 in the morning. Then only we came to know that you reached home at 2 in the morning. I really felt bad for waking you up and disturbing your sleep. But you said it was alright and you were about to wake up by that time anyway. I am sure you were being nice by saying that.

And again you showed us the secret place where you keep your house keys in case you weren’t home when we come back later that day.  That day my other friend left for Kerala and I was all alone in your house most of the time. As per your request I decided to stay at your place for one more day. Thanks to my no-plans.

With the help of your wifi, I updated my blog, I found you in Couch Surfing site and wrote a very positive reference for you on that site and also found some couch surfing activity in Chennai area that day. And later that evening, I headed towards the Chennai couch surfing meet up and met some more kind people. You promised me that you would leave the office a bit earlier that day, so that we could get to know each other a bit more in detail. Even after I finished the meet at 8pm, you were still busy with your work.

But somehow you were able to reach home earlier than expected. And after staying at your home for more than a day, finally we could talk something. I thoroughly enjoyed your European trip adventures. I also wanted to know more about the bucket list that you shared on my bucket list page. And thank you for the movie suggestion, I watched it after I came home and  I immensely enjoyed ‘the way’. Even though you had to work the next day, you stayed up late. We talked a lot about couch surfing. But I was really learning the real couch surfing spirit from you. The interesting fact is that I neither requested a couch through the Couchsurfing website nor I knew that you are a couch surfer as well. Anyway I learned a lot from you. You made me realise that the best things that make a journey interesting and enriching is the people you get to meet on that journey. Also you taught a lot about kindness and trusting people blindly.

This is what I wrote in my travel journal that day.

Kindness is a beautiful thing. All aspects of kindness are beautiful and it transforms everyone involved into a happier persons. It obviously makes the receiver happy and then in turn the giver happy and it even makes the spectator happy. So this whole kindness thing is a bringer of happiness.

I am bad with expressing my true emotions with the same intensity through my words. I have a feeling that I couldn’t thank you enough for all the help and kindness you showed me. So I have written this letter to you.  Thanking you from the bottom of my heart for everything. It was great meeting you and  thanks again for all the life lessons you have taught me.

Jithin.

 

PS : This is a work of fiction based on true events. If any resemblance of places, incidents or people, it is purely intentional, as there are people like this really exists in this world. When I visited Chennai after my Thiruvannamalai days, I was at the receiving end of kindness. Meet  CheefHobo  Of Itchy Feet and Beyond. The kind blogger for whom the letter is addressed to.

PPS : Talking of Kindness and Kind blogger. I would  love to mention Amy of ‘The World Is a Book… ‘  who is another very kind blogger who has helped me in achieving my dreams, who is still encouraging me to dream big. Thank you very much for the support, help and  everything.

Midnight Adventure @ Thiruvannamalai

Continuing from Thiruvannamalai Adventure begins

29.10.2014 ( Day 23)

We had the nice self-made dinner. Everyone thought that we would sleep early, and wake up early the next day morning to do the walking around the mountain before sun hit too hard.

Time : Around 12’o clock

But instead of sleeping early, we were having a great time with our host. I haven’t mentioned with emphasis that I was couch surfing at Thiruvannamalai. So I will do it now. Yes, I was couch surfing at Thiruvannamalai!

This happened to be the bestest couch surfing experience I had till date. As usual our host was very kind-hearted like any other person with a true couch surfing spirit. , Greg, That is the name of our host .

This time I didn’t even have to write a couch request to my CS host. My friend, my travel partner had already got accepted and was staying with Greg a day before I reached Thiruvannamalai.  So when I made plans to visit this place, my fried casually asked Greg that if he could accept two more people. And he agreed immediately.

Greg is an amazing person, he is from France, he lives a few months in Thiruvannamalai, another few months near Himalayas, North India and Nepal. And then France. And repeat.

During this couch surfing experience,

  • I learned and mastered the use of Tibetan healing bowl 😉
  • Sang at the top of my voice first time in my life.
  • Became a drummer that night and joined the midnight singing party.
  • Solved a puzzle.
  • experimented with really low light photography

That night was so much fun. Later Greg demonstrated juggling.

The juggler
The juggler

We had an interesting juggling and jamming session. Juggling and background music by ukulele and drums.  I small part of that session captured by my mobile phone.

Well if you are thinking, is this the great midnight adventure I mentioned on the title , I will tell you the adventure hasn’t even started!

Our plans of going to sleep early and waking up early  were already thrown into the dustbin. It was around 1am when we started losing our voice due to heavy singing 😉 So we had to think of other plans.

The idea came like an impulse. There was a tug of war between adventure and laziness combined with a bit of fear. At last adventure succeeded and decision was taken to go for the walk around the holy mountain; and the time was 1.15 am !!

I am glad that others were supportive and finally we decided to walk the holy path at that time. When the whole world was sleeping, (even the authentic seekers of spirituality must be sleeping during that time) we three started walking.

It is called Circumambulation which means the act of moving around a sacred object or idol. Here the sacred object is Arunachalam, the holy mountain itself. The circumambulation path is 14 kilometres. The devotees circumambulate the 14km barefooted. We did the same.

The Midnight Pilgrims
The Midnight Pilgrims

Thus we were started walking, at around  1.30 am. The road was empty, we didn’t have a torch, except the flash on our mobile phones. We had discussed and agreed on emergency procedures 😉 And we walked. We crossed and passed the narrow streets and finally reached the highway, the outer path that was mentioned in the previous post.

We have to complete almost 14km to come back to this point again. The walk continued.  As we were walking I found a group of men following us. They were around 6 or 7 and they were approaching us. We decided to wait till they pass us.  And they came nearer to us and guess what? They were also doing what we were doing. Walking around the holy hill 😀

When I came back and did some research, I came to know that the circumambulation is mostly done at night. On every full moon night hundreds and thousands of devotees comes here to walk around the holy hill.

During our further journey we met a few more people walking the path. Unfortunately we did it, Not on a full moon day, so there weren’t too many people. But the streets were almost well-lit by street lights, roads were  neat, clean and in very good condition. So barefoot walking didn’t affect us much. Or maybe our barefoot mountain trekking had made us hard-core 😉

Maybe because it was a cold night, we did a lot of watering the plants and adding urea to it while walking. We came across sleep less stray dogs barking at us. We saw people sleeping on the sides of the streets peacefully. We even saw someone asking for alms at that time of the day! We saw temples and Shiva lingas but due to lack of knowledge I didn’t realize their significance. Now I know that there are eight lingams located at the eight directions and provides an octagonal structure to Thiruvannamalai Town. You can read from the experts. CLICK..

We took around 4 hours to complete the walk. We reached around 5.30am at the point were we started. Still the life hadn’t started yet in that small town. In between we stopped for a tea from an early morning tea shop. And when we were about to pay we didn’t have any small notes! So we dug all our purses and found whatever coins we could, and paid. But still were short of money and we got a 2 rupees off!! Yay! 😉

We reached our room by 6. The walk and the effect of tea started working; nature was calling. 😉 Things were sorted out. Soon we went to bed, hoping to wake up and go out by evening. Oh this day was a little long! 😉 But definitely lots of fun.


If you missed the previous parts,

the day started with a morning walk

and then we did a half trekking and visited an ashram and cave where Ramana maharshi stayed for year. Then we  prepared our dinner and rest of the story you just read 😉

A lot of adventures and fun are still awaiting to be told 😉

Well walking through an Indian street past midnight isn’t a big adventure. It is just to get your attention I said that. Now that I know I have your attention if you are reading this, I am giving out the secret 😉


 

Couchsurfing : An idea everyone should try!

When I first came to know about couch surfing,  I was like “its a too good idea to be true”. The concept  was introduced to me as something which would let you stay anywhere in the world for free! Without doubt, I knew it was one of the too good to be true offers.

But as I started knowing more about it, understanding what really couch surfing is, I was blown away. Because like I said it was too good to be true, and In fact it is TRUE!! Continue reading Couchsurfing : An idea everyone should try!