You shouldn’t count on it, but something you’re saved before you even know that you’re in trouble.
I had my first Couchsurfing experience during my first Interrail trip in Europe in 2012.
For those of you who don’t know it, Couchsurfing is a website/community where people can host travelers or be hosted by someone anywhere in the world. In recent years, Couchsurfing has become a paid service, and it has gained free alternatives such as BeWelcome, Trustroots and Warm Showers.
Earlier on the journey, I had slept one night at the main train station of Berlin. I thought I would do the same in Zurich, Switzerland. I arrived at the station late in the evening with no other place to stay.
Meeting My Host
As I was walking around the station looking for a place to sleep in, I was approached by a middle-aged woman. She asked if I was alright and if I needed any help. I casually told her that I was fine – I was just going to sleep at the station.
“You can’t sleep at the station! It closes at night!” she exclaimed, looking a bit stunned.
She then told me that she was a Couchsurfer, and if I wanted, I could stay at her place, assuring she had no other intentions. I was already a member of Couchsurfing at this point, though I had not stayed anywhere yet. I trusted her, so I ended up staying in her place on the outskirts of Zurich.
Despite our age-gap and cultural differences, we had an instant connection and shared many great discussions. I saw her again on other trips, including my second Interrail trip (see Travel Memory #3) and my 2-year trip around the world.
The Other Side of the Story
Years later, on one of our reunions, my host told me more of her side of the story. She told me that right as she got out of her train at the Zurich train station, she got a strange feeling that there was someone at the station who needed her help.
When she saw me, she was sure I was the person she was supposed to help.
I remember her noticing me from the other side of the terminal. She looked bewildered, and as I didn’t want any extra attention at that point – I was looking for a quiet corner to sleep in, after all – I left the area and went to check the other floors of the station. When I got back to the main terminal, she found me again.
I don’t know where my host’s feeling came from. But then again, do I need to find a logical explanation for everything? Not really.