Traveling is something I’ve always been very passionate about. One of my favorite things to do is explore new cities.
Nothing quite beats that initial rush of arriving to a place you’ve never been before, taking in all of the new and exciting sights, eating local and delicious food, going into the different shops, and seeing all of the people, hearing new languages sometimes for the first time.
That initial feeling of excitement have still been some of the biggest highs of my life.
In the summer of 2015 I traveled for the first time in my life to Europe. I was doing an arts study abroad program first for a month in Italy, and after that I arranged to stay in Italy for 5 weeks working as an au pair.
One of my weekends off, I traveled to Innsbruck, Austria and had one of the strangest/most beautiful experience of my life.
Traveling alone is something I’ll have to write more about and definitely something I want to keep doing, but for now, here the story of how I survived my first couch surfing experience.
Merm’s first time couchsurfing:
I had been waiting for an opportunity to couchsurf for awhile because I had heard it was a great way to meet new people in the city you’re staying at, and free lodging (yay!) The hostels in Innsbruck were very expensive, so I immediately made an account on the couchsurfing website and started looking for hosts.
I actually had a lot of difficulty finding a host. Since I knew exactly when and where I would be going, I would message different people asking if they were willing to host me. It took about 30 or so different messages before I finally found someone who was going to be available at that time and was willing which was a relief.
My host was a young 24 year old student and we made plans to meet in the city center the next day. I was super nervous because I didn’t have wifi and I was just banking on him to be on time and to actually show up, because otherwise I would have no way of contacting him.
After a leisurely day of exploring Innsbruck on my own, I met up with him at the arranged time. He showed up to my again relief and he took me on a little walking tour around the city. It was a little awkward at first, but it was fascinating to learn about his life in Austria and the differences between American and Austrian colleges. (In Austria, it’s free).
After our tour, we got a couple beers at one of Austrian’s famous biergartens and then set off to his apartment.
Let me just preface this by saying there were absolutely zero sexual vibes the entire time we were hanging out. I didn’t get a weird vibe and he definitely was not hitting on me so I felt totally comfortable with being hosted by him.
However, when we got there, he took me to his bedroom where he had a full sized bed and stated “I hope it’s okay we sleep in the same bed”.
I was in shock. I looked around for this so called “couch” I had been promised – HELLO WHY ELSE WOULD IT BE CALLED COUCHSURFING??!?
I always assumed that couch surfing meant that the host actually had a COUCH you would sleep on, but I guess I was wrong. There was no couch to be found throughout his apartment and I didn’t want to offend him by saying “actually, what the fuck no I’m not comfortable with that, I thought I would be sleeping on a couch not in your bed with you?” but all I could muster was to keep my cool and be like “oh yea sure”.
My mind was racing – was I in a potentially dangerous situation? How did I get to this absolute strangers apartment and now was going to have to sleep in his bed WITH HIM?
I’m pretty good at feeling out vibes, and since there wasn’t anything sexual or creepy going on, I decided not to run away as fast as I could. Maybe this guy really had good intentions, couldn’t afford a couch, and was nice enough to host me for free?
I could not fathom why ANYONE would do this, but hey, maybe it was a cultural difference.
So, I put my stuff down, hung out a little with him and his roommates and then buddy and I cozied up for bed, me purposely turned away from him, letting him know I was not interested in anything else.
Luckily he didn’t try anything. The next morning, we bid goodbye and I got out of there as soon as I could, ready for my next adventure of the day: Parasailing. (which will come in a later post).
I’m grateful I had an uncomfortable but safe experience, nonetheless couchsurfing in a foreign country. It can be scary to trust complete strangers and sleep in their home so please trust your gut if you feel you’re in an unsafe situation and always tell a friend/family member where you will be staying and who you are staying with.