Lots of my friends see me travelling many times. Many times I hear, "I wish I could travel that much, too. But, I don't have the money." Sure, all inclusive hotel stays cost a lot of money, with a cozy bed, hot meals 24/7, warm whirlpools and a pool, idyllically located near the beach. To be honest, sometimes I wished I could afford that too. Actually, I could, but then I'd do one trip for the price of 10 trips. Another problem I see with this type of travelling: You mostly bump into other tourists, probably even from your home country. Hence, you get caught up hanging out with them instead of meeting locals. Sure, it is one way of travelling, calming down and relaxing. In my opinion, I do not have to fly to another country in order to experience that. I could simply book a stay at a local spa and do the same things, without having to pay for flights, visas, etc.
Instead, I use the platform Couchsurfing, an online portal where travellers offer each other to stay at their place. That way, when travelling you have the chance to spend time with a local, get maybe a personal tour through the city with spots you would not find by yourself. This time, when I decided to go to Vilnius, I browsed Couchsurfing for a host that seemed warm-hearted, open-minded, talkative and kind. Also having similar hobbies and interests are recommended. That way, you can easily break the ice and start a conversation. After sending out a few requests, happily Emilija accepted my request. She replied:
"I'd like to host you if you haven't found a host yet :)
Our interest are similar and I think we'd have a lot to talk about.
I'd just like to confirm that I live with my family and my house is a bit farther from the city and the closest bus stop is a kilometer away.
If that's fine with you please come :)"
After I confirmed her invitation again, she shared her address with me and I looked it up. Realising it is far away from the tourist sites, most people probably get scared or think it is not convenient for them.She told me actually that already quite a few Couchsurfers declined their request again, due to her distance from the city centre. I instead was very happy about that, as there is no better way of travelling than be accommodated in areas, locals live in. It brings your travel experience to the next level, as you have the unique chance to see the real life. That way you get a much more representative picture of a place and their people. Actually, her place was only a 30 min bus ride and 15min walk by foot from the city centre. And come on, having demands even being accommodated for free would be really a shame.
The moment I arrived there, she warmly welcomed me and showed me that her whole family made space for me, giving up their entire living room for me for 3 nights. That was so generous! I will never forget that. over the next mornings, her father even made me coffee, tea and prepared a double breakfast for me. He offered me everything his fridge had to offer. I was really overwhelmed by his generosity.
To show my appreciation, I brought some Polish chocolate as a gift with me and invited her for dinner and drinks. That way, I can spend money on restaurant food instead of accommodation that I anyway only need for sleeping and showering and she has the chance to pick whatever she wants and enjoy a meal as well.
Over the course of the next days, she was mostly busy which is totally fine. That way, I could explore the city by myself. But of course, when it is freezing cold outside you want to warm up from time to time. Travelling solo also makes you want to talk to people once in a while. Hence, I was tired and a bit bored after a few hours of walking, so when I was stumbling upon a small cafe, the Storytellers Cafe, I decided to enter it, as it was looking very cozy and only one guy was inside. So I was hoping to maybe start a dialogue with him. In fact, the cafe's owner started the dialogue with me which I was very happy about. We talked for more than two hours and he also introduced me to his friend. After a while, we really had a gregarious round of people talking about life, society and travelling. It really cheered me up! In addition, I would like to outline that I probably drunk the best cup of black coffee for several years at his cafe, which made me return the next day again.
That way, you can always find company by travelling alone, save money, meet locals and experience life on a different level. Of course, it is also nice to not always travel alone and to have your companion, but if that person is not available, you know now a way of social solo travelling.
Overall a four-days stay costed me estimated around 80€:
Gdansk -> Vilnius 10€
Vilnius -> Gdansk 10€
Restaurant dinner for 2 people 20€
Restraurant dinner alone
Small snacks + Entrance fees 20€
Isn't that the amount people pay to refuel their car? ;)
Below, you are going to find a gallery of images I took in many different places I just found by walking to my host, randomly through the city and through the countryside of Trakai, a city next to Vilnius.