The stories of a couchsurfer

Francisco, Marcelo & Hugo, Aveiro

Francisco & Marcelo. Absent: Hugo

Let me introduce you to something I call the Couchsurfing Fatigue Effect. It essentially goes something like this. When a Couchsurfing host hosts a Couchsurfer, they typically want to take them out for a night on the town, or maybe two, depending how long they’re hosting.

So this will normally happen, and it’s a great thing as it shows the Couchsurfer the nightlife of the area, which is an important cultural gauge. Then the Couchsurfer moves on to the next city and consequently (or at least, hopefully) the next host. And so the following host has the same ambitions, and another night or two of partying ensues before the Couchsurfer again moves on to the next one, which does the same.

The result is that the Couchsurfer ends up partying for five, six, seven or more nights consecutively, and it damn near kills them. The host, on the other hand, depending on how often they host, goes out one or two nights a week, and then rests during the day. The Couchsurfer also has this luxury, but ultimately it’s likely that they’re in the place they are to visit it, and so instead of catching up on sleep during the day they instead go out and explore.

This Couchsurfing Fatigue Effect has a severity level that changes due to a couple of factors that change from place to place. The first is the likelihood that the culture is going to go out and party at all, the party likelihood.

Let’s call that μ.

Next is the amount of times that the culture is going to party. Is it just for one night? Or will they back it up the following night? Or two? This is the party frequency.

Lets call this f.

Third, there is the party duration, the amount of time that the culture stays out until before heading home.

Lets call this δ.

Finally, there is the party termination time, the hour of the day that the party will generally finish in that culture. This is important to combine with the party duration, because two parties that both last five hours are not necessarily the same. The later ending party has a greater effect on the severity level.

This is a tricky one to define because an hour of 7 AM should not take the value of 7 and be lesser weight than that of a value of 10 PM being 10. So for this reason, morning hours are added onto the value 12. 7 AM would thus have a value of 19, for example.

Lets call this γ.

The severity level of the Couchsurfing Fatigue Effect thus becomes

S.L = μ f x δ x γ 

At this point I’m going to estimate (through empirical data) that Portugal has a party likelihood of 0.85 and a party frequency of 2. The party duration will hit at around 4 and finally, the party termination time at 16 thus putting the severity level of Portugal at 108.8.

Backing up from Oleksiy in Esmoriz and the late nights had there (granted, they weren’t all late), I arrive in the mid size town of Aveiro to be hosted by Fransisco and his housemates Marcelo and Hugo. These guys are, would you believe it, Software Engineers. It’s remarkable how engineers quite often get the stigma of being unsociable, nerdy types yet the majority of the Couchsurfers that I have stayed with have been engineers.

They are hosting for the first time and are actually hosting three Polish girls during the course of my stay with them. The first night is a blast. Fransisco cooks for us all a delicious meal and we drink beers into the early hours of the morning. Fransisco also plays guitar and, just as with Cássio and crew, I get to enjoy jamming along with him. Then the time comes to actually go out to a bar. We stay until essentially closing time before heading home to finally get some sleep.

The next day is quite a relaxing one actually, as we all head down to the beach near Aveiro. One of the Polish girls had, the night before, guaranteed that she would go for a swim in the ocean, regardless of the temperature. Unluckily for her, the day did not turn out to be the best in terms of weather, but the sun did show patches.

We were bothered for the most part by a stray dog named Muffin that had become affectionate to our group. Muffin was very friendly, but a little too much as he (or she?) covered us all in sand and wet dog smell and wouldn’t leave us alone. Eventually Hugo improvised and tied her to a post on the beach before calling the owner as the number was on the dog collar.

Later that night we enjoyed again a night very similar to the last, with great food, this time cooked by Hugo, great conversation and plenty of drinks enjoyed. Portugal turns out to be even cheaper than Spain as I purchase a pack of twelve beers for roughly three euro.

The Polish girls have another friend coming to Portugal. He’s scheduled to arrive at the train station in Aveiro at around midnight. So we stay up drinking until walking together down to the train station. We take a guitar with us and sing some merry songs and dance along the way. Eventually he arrives and we do the same on the way back home.

First things first, let’s go out and celebrate. Back to the bars we head and we stay here for a few more hours before again heading home in the early hours of the morning. By now my fatigue as a result of the Couchsurfing Fatigue Effect is really starting to kick in. These two nights, combined with the nights previous in Oporto are taking it’s toll. In fact, it’s on this night that I first start discussing my theory with the Couchsurfers themselves. They all seem to agree, but do point out that if it gets too bad there’s always the option of simply saying no to going out or staying in a hostel.

This is absolutely true. But it’s something that I personally would like to try and avoid. I don’t want to deprive my host the right to go out and share some drinks with me. Even on the second or third consecutive night. And it’s all part of my quest to discover the culture of the place. To immerse myself.

The following day is subdued. Aveiro is a town with not a lot of touristic activities to do, which turns out to be a blessing in disguise. I walk around slowly with Fransisco as he show me the area.

Eventually we go back to his place to watch television and chat. Here, I get to chat a bit with Marcelo, who I had not had the opportunity to talk with much up to this point. As mentioned earlier, he’s a Software Engineer and I was interested to know what the working culture was like in Portugal. This particular day was a Sunday, and Marcelo was actually doing some work from home. He told me that this was normal for him and, in fact, that he would quite often be working until late during the week also. He never got paid for overtime, but felt it was necessary in order to keep his job and to build a good reputation because he had just come out of university and had to treat any job that he had like gold.

This is one of the effects of the economic crisis here in Portugal. The company he worked for was a startup, and actually did most of their work for clients in the Netherlands. Why? Because the labour is cheaper in Portugal. They’re working longer hours for less money because of fear of not having any job at all. The company Marcelo works for gave him the necessary hardware to take home, so that he could do work at any time in the week.

Later that night the Polish troupe arrive home from a day of drinking port wine in Oporto (only an hour or so train ride from Aveiro). Clearly already warmed up, they wish to head out into the town to continue. This is it for me, I simply can’t and refuse, instead going to hit the hay on the couch at the “early” time of 2 AM.

In this particular case, the party frequency could be increased to a value of 3 in order to calculate the severity level. But I’m beginning to feel like anywhere with a value over 100.0 might be too much for me.

I might not survive to tell the tale of the severity level in Poland, however.

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