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IMPORTANT: People are always confused about where I'm from because of my location. Please scroll down to the "About me" section to know about my western European background.
WARNING!!! (Unfortunately I have had to put this up because of systematic abuse from certain inconsiderate members of the community over the years. Feel free to skip it if you are an experienced and responsible member who makes sure to give at least as much as you take)
(TO ALL USERS)
ANY AND ALL COPY/PASTE REQUESTS (INCLUDING THOSE WITH ONLY MY NAME ADDED) WILL BE REPORTED AS SPAM AND THEIR SENDERS BLOCKED, ESPECIALLY EMERGENCY COUCH REQUESTS FROM PEOPLE WHO APPARENTLY TRAVEL WITHOUT A BACK-UP PLAN. BOTH ACTIONS WILL MAKE THE SENDERS RISK HAVING THEIR ACCOUNTS SUSPENDED!
Policy #1 of the Community is "don't spam":
READ THIS BEFORE SENDING ME A MESSAGE OR REQUEST:
(TO BEGINNING USERS CONSIDERING SURFING)
Make sure you go through at least one of the following two articles as well, before continuing activity on this website, it will give you the necessary introduction to the dynamics of CouchSurfing and responsibilities of hosts and CouchSurfing guests, also known as surfers (special thanks to the CS member "jarminho" for sharing them in his profile):
(TO ADVANCED USERS WHO [NEARLY] DON'T HOST)
CouchSurfing, ever since it became a corporation, went into an ONGOING CRISIS due to the promotion of the community in recent years for saving money on accommodation instead of for cultural exchange, creating an OVERWHELMING surplus of requests (most from people who do not understand the original philosophy and just want to save money on accommodation and give as little as possible in return).
You are therefore only contributing to the BURNOUT of the relatively few hosts who ultimately but surely STOP HOSTING and aggravate the deficit of hosts (especially if you live in a city or place where there is an excess of CouchSurfers looking for accommodation).
If so, your chances of being hosted by me are non-existent, so DON'T WASTE MY TIME AND YOURS BY SENDING ME A REQUEST.
ONLY people who have actively hosted understand the great work and inconvenience it can often be to host and people have been wrongfully and naively trusted to "pay forward" too much and for too long, to the point where MOST PEOPLE in CouchSurfing are NOT GETTING ACCOMMODATION ANYMORE, NOT EVEN ONCE, while others have overused their surfing privileges and remain (often deeply) in debt to the community, generally CONTINUING to spam and abuse others' generosity.
"Not having a place of one's own" is NO EXCUSE!!! People who have surfed with many people have often saved hundreds and even THOUSANDS of dollars largely at the expense of others, part of which they could easily REINVEST by renting a flat in a location where lots of CouchSurfers are looking for a host and HOST INTENSIVELY for a month or two. I did that myself and, boy, was I tired at the end of it, but I felt happy in knowing I had paid my debt.
LESS THAN 5% of the people one promises to "return the favour when they are in the area" ever return the visit and, worst of all, many times when they do, their former surfers MAKE UP EXCUSES NOT TO HOST them.
ASK YOURSELF: "WHY SHOULD I BE THE ONLY ONE WHO BENEFITS FROM TRAVEL?"
One is only a proper CouchSurfing guest if one is willing to REINVEST the total amount (in cash and/or work) one would have otherwise have paid in a hostel in order to provide a valuable gift, meal, service or experience for one's host plus at least 3 hours of QUALITY time per day hosted in order to have a cultural exchange. I LEARNED this ONLY THROUGH EXPERIENCE and THANKS TO THE ADVICE OF EXPERIENCED HOSTS and this is why I pass the information on.
It's not about saving the accommodation money, it's about a more valuable alternative to IDLE CURIOSITY: cultural exchange. A real member of the community will agree that EVEN IF ONE REINVESTS THE MONEY on one's host, the experience that one gets is MUCH MORE VALUABLE than the one one would otherwise have had in a hostel with other travellers that are just as unfamiliar with the local culture and staff who most of the time can only help with immediate needs and can just point to the nearest tourist office and provide basic maps.
If this doesn't sound like something for you or you have genuinely lost all your money and cannot return the favour, then:
-At least STOP SURFING and PAY BACK YOUR DEBT by helping people visiting your area by being their guide or organising CouchSurfing events.
-Buying a tent is cheap and most places offer camping spots for nothing or for a fraction of a hostel price. Having a bed, couch or mattress to sleep in is, for most of you, UNNECESSARY LUXURY unessential for your travels.
-If you choose to travel, DON'T MAKE A BEGGAR OF YOURSELF, instead STAY AT HOME, WORK AND SAVE UP TO FINANCE YOUR TRAVELS LIKE HONEST PEOPLE, preparing BACK-UP PLANS that DON'T involve capitalising on other people's time and generosity (p.e., insurance, a flexible return ticket back home, a flexible reservation at a cheap hostel, some reserve money to be used in case of an emergency, etc.). This community was NOT CREATED FOR THE IRRESPONSIBLE.
-And if you DON'T WANT to help others or camp, you can buy yourself a Lonely Planet guide and save money by using AirBnB and still benefit from a limited amount of cultural assistance given by your AirBnB host.
SO STOP USING OTHERS AND MAKING EXCUSES AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR HELPING TO SAVE THE COMMUNITY AND ITS ORIGINAL MEANING, NOT CONTRIBUTE TO ITS COLLAPSE!
If everybody did this, the community would recover within a very short time.
Bring lesser-known countries in Europe together through communication
I do it by organising special CouchSurfing (non-profit) events:
Dear travellers and hosts,
Even though I currently live in Estonia and love this country, I am not Estonian.
I have Spanish blood and speak Castilian (known as "Spanish" outside of Spain), but I was raised in England and in a small, isolated, tropical multilingual community created by a Danish international regional development project where people from all continents came together, learned Spanish and/or English for daily communication with one another and lived safely and peacefully in a society without violence or social or economical division, based in the first country in the world to have abolished its army and all military forces in 1948 and working on solutions to problems related to food safety, forest depletion, climate change, amongst others.
My worldview broadened further while living in Canada as a teenager, but at age 20 my life took a profound turn throughout a one-year journey during which I was able to live for several months each with 3 monolingual families in 3 different places with a relatively modest profile: Flemish Belgium, Austria and Czech Republic.
It all began as an 18-year-old back in my home country, on the fateful day I met a soldier who was sitting in a park in the centre of the capital city and reading a book with many strange-looking words with double vowels. I became quite curious and approached him. He kindly told me that he was reading in his native tongue, Dutch. Then, upon seeing my surprised look, he explained that he had learned English as a second language because he wanted to be able to communicate with people outside of his country.
This notion deeply impressed me. We shared stories and experiences while strolling about and became good friends.
Most people seem to believe and take it for granted that Dutchmen (and, indeed, other Germanic and Northern Europeans) are practically born speaking English. My good mate found it difficult to use this language, even though he was very talented in other fields. Nevertheless, he humbly kept up his efforts in maintaining communication, and came to be and remained a role model for me. As a dedicated traveller and brave guardian and fighter for international peace he taught me how important and valuable it is to learn about oneself by going out into the world. I one day thus decided to do the best I could to learn his language and meet him halfway, so that he could see that others could and would make an effort in order to communicate with him and the people in his country for the sake of friendship. That solidarity with the Dutch (and, as I later came to understand, other Europeans from smaller countries and/or nations) for the efforts they make in order to learn other people's languages is not only possible, but well-deserved.
Before this trip I collaborated for some time with a Flemish mate in his Costa Rican project of cultural awareness of aborigines and helped an Austrian landscape architect friend who was working with a local Austrian rainforest preservation initiative. While in Europe they put me in contact with their families, who had an enormous desire to share in spite of my not knowing their respective languages (Flemish Dutch and Austrian German). They welcomed me into their homes, cultures and lives and I was highly motivated each day as I worked on slowly, but surely breaking down language barriers until I was finally able to communicate with them fully.
My time in Czech Republic turned out rather differently: my Belgian family put me in touch with them and I did not know and was not able to learn the language well enough to have a conversation during the months I lived there and I didn't know any Czechs before I first arrived. This family's generosity, in particular, knew no bounds. They asked for nothing more in return than my taking time to get to know them and they made it clear that I was always welcome back. It was one of the greatest satisfactions in my lifetime when I was finally able to have a conversation with them many years later, when long-term study of Russian helped Czech finally make sense to me.
Eastern Europeans were prevented from learning English during the Soviet times and their cultures and languages are still largely undervalued and misunderstood by many people in Western Europe. Later on I did 3 years of voluntary work, one each in Germany, Flemish Belgium and Russia and one day I was able to participate in a multiple-day tri-national seminar by mediating and interpreting between German, French and Polish youth from impoverished regions and families who were unable to speak English and see how much they enjoyed and learned from each other and how quickly they became friends in spite of their language barrier. The unforgettably warm satisfaction of helping make this possible became the single most important spurring factor for the current direction of my career.
Besides my major in Estonian, the language closely related to Finnish of a of a country whose culture and landscape closely resemble those of Finland, I wish to further prepare myself by studying Latvian and Icelandic, my ultimate goal being to help further communication between small nations with beautiful, yet little-known languages such as Estonia, Latvia and Iceland. Secondly, I would like to help connect them with small, lesser-known European countries like Belgium, Austria and Czech Republic. Thirdly, I would like to help bring them in contact with my home country.
I believe each of us is a potential diplomat and that what we do abroad carries significant weight. But it must never be forgotten while abroad that being in a new country acts like a magnifying glass: problems are exalted just as much as pleasures. I hope to find like-minded searchers of dialogue. I am able to offer help in some of the major and some of the minor languages of Europe, and am eager to learn about lesser-known European languages and cultures. This is why I joined.
Through interaction with different people and reflection from experience I have developed a personal belief which can be summed up as follows: energy is never destroyed, but only transformed, therefore experience couldn't possibly end with life. This makes a sort of cosmic reincarnation the most plausible scenario for me. Karma exists, and its dynamic can be seen simply by calmly observing and contemplating. All religions I've come across, I've found, have helped certain people find a more profound meaning in life, yet there is no greater wisdom than the one that lies within one's own conscience. Although culturally a Christian, the philosophy that has served as the most important outer source for my set of beliefs is Zen Buddhism.
Thank you for your interest! If you wish to get in contact with me, you may always write me. If I'm in the area, we might arrange to meet!
-"One year abroad is worth two years in your own country... in terms of experience" (Dutch proverb)
-"A new language learned is a new soul born within oneself" (Czech proverb).
-"Live a good, honourable life. If you do, before you die, when your life flashes by before your eyes, you'll be able to enjoy it for a second time." (Dalai Lama)
Why I’m on Couchsurfing
HOW I PARTICIPATE IN COUCHSURFING
At this moment of time I have mostly surfed and shown CouchSurfers around in my city since becoming active with CouchSurfing when I began living in Estonia, but I have now come to an agreement with my flatmates in order to be able to host as well and was therefore able to welcome my first guests and hope that more will soon come. I know Estonia well enough and can get along in the local language, so I'm looking forward to acting as a guide. If I have the time you're very welcome. I have also shown CSers around in Tallinn, where I lived in for a time and which I know quite well, and can show other places in Estonia like Parnu (with an umlaut over the "a"), Haapsalu and Taevaskoja, as well as Helsinki in Finland, where I've been fairly often and where I have good friends.
During the next few years I wish to gather a group of friends from this area who would eventually be interested in visiting Costa Rica, in order for me to give them a proper tour. I'm particularly keen on showing people who have taken me into their homes and selflessly shared the wonders of their lives and countries with me. After this I wish to help whomever's interested visit the Bay Islands of Honduras (a country close to Costa Rica) with me for a 2-week diving course for an international PADI diving license (or simply diving) in its coral reef, the second biggest in the world.
It's a little-known fact that a diving course of this nature there cost only about $200 and that Costa Rica can be visited for as little as 450 euros for a round trip from Europe. 2 weeks are enough to get a good overview of Costa Rica's volcanos, beaches, forests and nightlife, but 3 or 4 are ideal.
I wish to help Estonia and Latvia break down other countries' misconceptions about their countries due to associations with Russian culture stemming from the short, recent Soviet occupation.
The Estonian culture and language are undeniably Nordic due to their close connection with the Finnish culture and language, Finland having been part of the Nordic council since 1955.
However, throughout several years visiting Latvia and living together with Latvians there during weekends and in Estonia during the week, I've learned about their country's history and essence directly, I have become fully convinced of Latvia's dignity as an aspiring Nordic nation. It may be true that corruption in Riga and Latvia as well as Russian influence is considered greater than in Tallinn and Estonia as a whole, but the common cultural print left by the German nobility who dominated the cultural scene throughout around 650 of the 700 years of occupation in both countries must not be overlooked. And one must not forget that both countries were equally directly influenced by the Swedish king and Swedish culture for over a century. Any sort of Russian influence arrived very late in history: in 1721.
The purest of Latvian culture (and Estonian, for that matter) can be best experienced in places where the percentage of Russians is less. I therefore discourage cultural tourists from gaining their impressions about the Latvian people from visits to Riga.
Furthermore, one must not forget that Latvian was directly influenced by the Finnic Livonian culture and language that dominated in Western Latvia until the 13th century. Therefore, until this time period, a great part of Latvia spoke a language to which Estonian is much more closely related to than to Finnish. Its last native speaker tragically died of old age in 2013, one of the most savage acts committed by the Soviets: the murder of this language.
Latvians and Estonians must never forget that they are brothers not only in their destiny, but also in their ancestry and blood lineage. Brothers who share a love for nature and the forest, sauna, peace and elaborate and magnificent song and dance traditions that are certainly not limited to the glory of the song and dance festivals held every 5 years in both countries.
Once having reached adulthood and begun to work at international companies, I began spending very good times hosting European friends at my home in Costa Rica, travelling with them and showing them my country. I was greatly rewarded by the enthusiasm they felt as they strove to understand and experience more of it and shared their discoveries.
Thanks to them, throughout my twenties I was literally shown the true wonder of the nature of Costa Rica and helped to understand the value of its indigenous groups and their philosophy. The more one learns, the more one wishes to share and the more one shares, the more one is taught by others with a different perspective.
Looking back on this time I realise that this was a form of exchange very similar to what CouchSurfing wishes to achieve.
Through this service itself I've had only positive experiences, many of them excellent: while surfing I've discovered wonderful new places, gained essential insights that have helped me to open my mind more and made a few dear friends while surfing in Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia, Iceland and Norway. Thanks to hosting, so far, I have made friends from England, Japan, Canada, Hungary and Switzerland, met inspiring globetrotters and been able to repay the kindness I received in Scandinavia by hosting a Dane, Norwegians and given tours to Swedes and Icelanders in Estonia and elsewhere in the Baltics. I feel very happy and excited about this project, it has had a remarkably positive influence on many people's lives.
There was a time when I hosted indiscriminately, but this led to a few bitter experiences of hospitality abuse. I therefore currently only host if I honestly feel the person is truly motivated to behave like a proper CouchSurfer (not behaving like an opportunist wishing only to be hosted who gives as little as possible in return only for the sake of saving money and makes empty promises of someday returning the favours, but instead striving towards balanced exchange and generosity where everybody involved gets equally much directly from any interaction), but there are enough of those going around to keep me busy.
My main interest nowadays is to organise CS events to help people discover the hidden treasures of Estonia, Latvia and Finland (I've already had one big Estonia/Latvia tour with 3 Norwegians and many Estonian and Latvian friends and CS contacts). In Tartu I often organise special sauna folk tradition events by the dockyard on the bank of the beautiful Emajõgi river where they keep their medieval boats, with special Estonian sauna professionals who know the most effective, ancient methods for the sauna ritual that make a person reach a special state of bliss not otherwise felt during conventional sauna, for I feel that most CSers (or, indeed, locals) here do not experience the true essence of this Nordic institution and therefore miss out. Nor do people know that just like in many countries there are schools where one can learn how to give professional massage, in Estonia and Latvia there are schools where one can become a professional sauna therapist and that said therapy can be just as and often even more relaxing than a professional massage.
So far I have had very gratifying experiences with such events (also outside of Tartu) with sauna masters from both countries and we've had Estonian and Latvian masters alike participate in international events outside of their countries.
I'm constantly searching for high-quality music and cinema from around the globe (I look especially for bands and films that are only well-known within one country) and am a long-standing fan of English comedy and stand-up comedians, although I've been lucky enough to discover Russian, Argentinean, Flemish Belgian, Dutch and Danish counterparts (i.e. Artur Pirozhkov and Andrei Borisovich, Les Luthiers, Alex Agnew, Acda & De Munnik and Anders Matthesen).
I also like Austrian comedians like Alfred Dorfer, the Hessian duo Badesalz and dark Estonian (Tujurikkuja), Finnish (Ihmebantu), Swedish (Poesi for Fiskar, an umlaut over the second "o"), Icelandic (Steindinn Okkar), Danish (Scandinavia and the World) and Argentinean (Quino) humour.
Within visual arts, I especially like photography (partly because of having used to work with a photographer) and impressionistic expression. I spent a considerable time as a youth learning and practising acoustic guitar (according to Latin American tradition) and Japanese manga drawing.
I am currently attending activities at the student union in Estonia I recently joined, Revelia. They have proven to be the most intense way of experiencing Estonian culture, along with runic singing sessions (regilaul, the ancient singing of the Finnic peoples), which I also try to attend as often as my schedule allows. I highly value and enjoy traditional sauna evenings with Estonian and Finnish friends. I gladly attend services of novel spiritual movements from time to time, and make incursions into Zen and other kinds of meditation.
When it comes to sports, I'm passionate about swimming and jogging. During my teenagehood I spent several years practicing martial arts like Jeet Kune Do, aikido, Muay Thai and ninjitsu, so I greatly enjoy attending MMA tournamets once in a while. When it comes to dancing, I like good rave parties, am quite keen on drum and base. And although I only dance them on occasion, I can also recommend highly social, modern movements like Boombal in Belgium and revivalist Estonian styles.
I enjoy language exchanges, and it was an essential tool while learning Russian and later on Estonian. During my voluntary time in Europe I have had the chance to teach Portuguese, French, Dutch, German, English and my native Spanish and work translating from German. Other areas of activity have been international scout events, projects of cultural integration, documentary making and projects with people with mental handicaps.
I like to cook when I have the opportunity to prepare interesting foods (above all Russian, German, Japanese, Belgian and Latin American) for friends and people I visit. I've taken cocktail courses and I find it nice to include them within culinary evenings.
- scuba diving
- martial arts
- military science
- visual arts
- language exchange
Music, Movies, and Books
Favourite movies: Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick, 28 Days Later by Danny Boyle, Waking Life by Richard Linklater and Abre los Ojos ("Open Your Eyes") by Alejandro Amenabar.
Favourite anime: Saint Seiya, Ranma 1/2 and movies like "Ghost in the Shell".
Favourite music: Psychedelic and progressive, particularly from 60s-70s: Pink Floyd (all-time favourite), Rush, Yes, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Widespread Panic, amongst others. Nationally-known (and sometimes internationally-known) bands, of which a few particularly liked ones: classic Bjork (with an umlaut over the "o"), Tyr (with an acute accent over the "y"), Band'Eros (for the original name in Cyrillic, click here: http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%91%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%E2%80%99%D0%AD%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%81), Mari Pokinen, Zetod, Vennaskond, Age of Stones, Gaujarts, Horkyze Slyze (with carons over the "z"s and acute accents over the "y" and the "i"), the Swedish bands Graveyard and Kent, NTM, Soda Stereo, Heroes del Silencio (with an acute accent over the first "e"), Legiao (with a tilde over the "a") Urbana, Articolo 31, Cheb Mami, Bart Peeters, Acda & De Munnik, Die Fantastischen Vier, Attwenger, Bohse (with an umlaut over the "o") Onkelz, Animal Cannibals, Notkea Rotta, Bad Spit, Xploding Plastix, Cloroform (I apologise for the lack of accents and diacritics on these names, CS does not support them)...
Books: P.G. Wodehouse (favourite), Giovannino Guareschi, Herman Hesse (Narziss und Goldmund), Sartre (Le Mur), works about avant-garde theories.
One Amazing Thing I’ve Done
Learned the true essence of Auschwitz by working on documentaries about it in Germany and Poland, spoke to children about the world in an isolated orphanage in Russia, learned from the joy of mentally handicapped people at a Christian institution in Belgium.
Shared the worlds of entirely new and different people, both in my country and abroad.
Teach, Learn, Share
-Languages (particularly pronunciation).
-Cooking from various countries (favourite things to make are cheddar beer soup and sushi) and some cocktail science and South American enology.
-Knowledge about good international films (particularly comedies), jokes and music.
-Some basics of Japanese manga drawing and aikido, Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai, ninjutsu and Vipassana meditation.
-I am not an expert, but as a Latin American I do know the bases for salsa and merengue well, and can also teach a bit of cumbia.
-A very simple and short, but effective and labour-efficient alternative relaxation massage that relieves tension built up in the limbs and back.
What I Can Share with Hosts
(Check the "Teach, Learn, Share" section above)
Countries I’ve Visited
Bahamas, Italy, Poland, Portugal
Countries I’ve Lived In
Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States