It wasn’t hard to find the street, Google Maps has this “offline” feature where you can download full cities over wifi to later be able to direct around without data (somewhat genius and lifesaving? Maybe not so much lifesaving as millennial comfort aka lifesaving). The timing was right, as I stepped out of the Jeep a group of 20 somethings walked out of the house number I was to stay.
“That’s my next couchsurfer!” She pointed at me while addressing the group. I guess the military grade head and face shave I gave myself wasn’t as far from my comb-over-bearded profile picture after all. Handshakes and head-bobs were given all around and as a bonus my friend Thomas got to flex his French to a Belgium in their circle. She was taking him to the airport for his flight back to the homeland. She would later tell me his time in Toronto wasn’t the best and, although his visa was expiring, he had no wish to stay anyway.
She handed me two keys. This was after less than a handful of sentences were exchanged between her and I. I’d like to say I come off as trustworthy and kind. That might be the case but the actual truth of the matter of it all is exactly why I am writing this.
She spoke of trust. This was hours later during the obligatory couchsurfing conversation (you know like that Uber driver one?) presented itself as she sat across from me on a stiff, tan couch I hopefully wouldn’t be sleeping on.
She got about 8 requests a day for people to stay with her. I didn’t hear this until it was 10:30pm and we were in Loblaws looking for ice cream (by my request). Her couchsurfing profile had something very important in the description. It said:
“Current Mission: Trying ice cream in every country I visit lol.”
I knew right away she was my kind of person, and I let her know this in my initial message. The rest seemed to work out like we had known each other for years.
I think it’s easy to lose sight of what this service really is. Most might see it as a way to get free places to stay while they travel, and I mean it is that. Others might think it’s a way to meet people romantically-sadly I’ve already heard stories to confirm this. What I found it to be was a place full of excess noise and bullshit (which will happen on these type of things) with truly amazing, caring, and kind travel-hungry individuals hiding in between ready to lend their couch to you.
An acquaintance of mine would say, while we were in Toronto oddly enough, quite often: “The cream always rises to the top.”
And couchsurfing is no different. Yes, it’s a lot of crap but at the heart of it all is a person that will invite you into their home, show you around their city, share stories for hours and at the end of the night say, “you should sleep on the grey couch, it’s way more comfortable.”
I’d like to thank Kasia, my Toronto host, for inspiring me, housing me, and reminding me trust is an actual thing still-believe it or not.
Hell of a way to start my world journey.