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CouchSurfing Perils, Schiller Edition: The Inevitable Downside of International Friendships


Couchsurfing is amazing; you can meet people of different cultures and backgrounds all the time, but it really sucks when they leave.

Couchsurfing Perils: 2012-11-14 Cloud Atlas Joseph Bob Helena
The day we met Helena, at 34th St Cinema, Manhattan, for Cloud Atlas.

I am fairly active in my local CouchSurfing community. Over the past year, I’ve made countless friends, many of them whom I now see several times a week. We’ve become a motley group, a microcosm of the success and principles of CouchSurfing.

This group we’ve formed has become a second family to us who are in it. At any given time, half of us are “locals” (permanently residing in New York City or neighboring areas), while the other half of us are here briefly. That latter half are like people going through a revolving door; every so often one leaves and soon another enters. However, the relationships that are built between me and those who are just passing through are much more lasting than when this “revolving door” metaphor is used to speak of, say, courtship.

Being born and raised here in New York City, I have always felt at home here, but our familial arrangement has surely made some of those who stay with us weeks or months more comfortable. The summer of 2012 was a blast, and many of the people who I now consider my closest friends were met during those hot, eventful months. As the summer drew to a close, half of the family that we became had to move on to their next destinations. It was fucking bitter, yet this is our commonality and what allowed us to share and reciprocate such strong sentiments; we are travelers.

These are the perils of CouchSurfing; it’s a gift and a curse.

I met one of my recent “family members,” Helena, on a rather uneventful Wednesday evening. I was out with two of my close friends, Joseph and Bob, and Joseph said he had a German CouchSurfing girl who he invited to join us. She came late, which I would soon realize is her usual modus operandi. The movie was Cloud Atlas, and I immediately liked her for her witty comments about the movie afterward.

Helena quickly became part of our group, and then family. As a native German, she found comfort (I assume) in the fact that another of us, Katia, hails from Munich. When she spent Thanksgiving with us, it was out of her hands; she was then our sister, whether she liked it or not (she loves it!). Hellipoo (our pet name for her) had initially told us that she’ll be here for 6 months. As a CouchSurfer and New Yorker, that was an eternity. However, I write this now as months have dwindled into mere weeks, and soon days…

Helena is a quiet girl, very introspective and intellectual, but she was always up to spend long nights out with us. Her sarcasm, wit, and dry humor perfectly complemented our international group. We threw her a birthday party, she lectured us on all manner of psychological processes, and we danced many nights away together.

While many may hold these “friendships” suspect, I know that most of these people who’ve become close to me during their short stays in New York will remain close friends. There’s Allie Feru, who I’ve talked to every single day since she’s left (we missed literally 2 days without texting, Skyping, or messaging each other in the last 7 months since she’s returned home to Italy. There is Paolo, Rocio, and Julia who my friend, Joseph, and I went to visit for the Christmas/New Year 2013 week in Italy.

There are my friends in Poland from over a year ago who still write to me every week, and we work on projects together, transAtlantically. There’s my sweet, loud Anna from Latvia, whose boisterous voice still reverberates in my mind. Anne and Jenny, two of the nicest girls who have ever graced any spare bedroom as Couchsurfers, will soon meet me again on my next trip to Germany. My Australian partner-in-crime who currently resides in Brazil, we still talk, albeit less often, but each time just as comfortably as if nothing happened. There are Colombians. There are Mexicans and Austrians. There are Nepalese, Indians, and even a girl from Djibouti. And there’s more, so many more.

Couchsurfing Perils: Dinner Brighton Beach

This post is dedicated to Helena Schiller. Who knew that such a tiny, quiet girl could leave a large, indelible hole in her place, even before she physically left? Hellipoo may leave us here in New York, but – and I have to resort to cliché here – she will never leave our hearts. And she knows this. Though this imminent departure is heartbreaking for me, and for the entire group, we are better off than before we met her. And I am certain I will see her sometime in the near future, maybe not at our original home in NYC, but somewhere around the world.

It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

Couchsurfing Perils: Helena at Home
Christian Eilers
Written by
Christian Eilers
Join the discussion

  • Dear Babybear,
    I’m sad, sad, sad. Although I was prepared that the time will come for you to leave, I tried to forget and to repress it – to pretend that I won’t have to say ‘goodbye’. How you Physician guys call it? Psychic repression? However, it was a pleasure to meet you and count you as one of my first friends I had here in NY. I was a great time: We were drinking, dancing and partying. Talking and sharing a lot of experiences for life.
    Referring to Christians article it wasn’t only a fact that a German girl joined our little family that made me as well feeling comfortable – it was also the fact that another GIRL besides myself became one of the family members On Thanksgiving, where I met you as well, you got the name ‘Babybear’ which marked you officially as part of the family. It made us proud to see how Babybear developed to a grown up and independent Helipoo during her stay in New York City – using bad words (well done), making plans, getting a mobile phone AND using it. Here in New York you got your preparation to get out into the world so that we can sleep at night knowing that Helipoo won’t get lost
    We love you and will miss you badly and hope to meet you again sometime, someday, somewhere. I wish you all the best for your future. You’ll rock it girl!
    Katia – aka 2K – aka Mamabear

  • I was lucky enough to meet Helena at the beginning of the christmas season. The fuckin’ Rockefeller tree 2012 who Christian will always love was the excuse. I was supposed to meet him for the lighting, We never did. We met instead in the a great bar. And She was there. I didn´t expect her, but soon I realized she was another of the greatest discovers of Christian’s great taste for good people.
    With Helena you can go deep in your conversations and ‘overthink’ things, I had great conversations with her.
    I’ll miss not enjoying more moments with her and stealing more hats of her but I’m happy knowing she will be fine.

  • Helena!

    I’m really happy I had the chance to meet you. I hope that NYC gave you everything you expected from it (yes, even a boyfrench), and that your time spent here gave you the opportunity to enrich yourself in many ways.

    I’m sure we’ll keep in touch 🙂


  • Dear Hellipoo,
    We know us just since two and a half month. But we spent a few nice moments together, went out for party, for dinner & dancing Which place could be better for this than NY! What a bummer, that you have to leave so early, but thanks for every minute with you. I wish you the best, have fun in San Francisco and where ever you plan to go! As Chris mentioned, it´s never a goodbye.
    PS: I try to keep the German honour It was a pleasure!

  • Helena!!! I’m sad you are leaving, we met.. but did not really get a chance to get to know each other, I’m sure you hear stories about me, i hear loads of stories about you!! you are very loved by everyone from the group, which is why I’m sad i missed out on getting to know you, the group only loves extraordinary people! i hope we meet again someday somewhere in the world! i wish you only the best of the best for now and always!


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