Salma eats fish for breakfast, Denny drinks whisky and Lorna sits in prayer. I eat cereal, and cake on Mondays. We all like biscuits. They say C2s buy bourbons and live in flats, and C1s earn £30,000+ and eat out twice a week. Averages frustrate me; we’re all exceptions.
People have always intrigued me. I wanted to know everyone at school, out of school, the exchange students, anyone that entered my world. I once had ten pen friends. It started with books, and then I looked up and saw a living library around me: endless characters to meet and stories to share in. I wondered what I was searching for, until I realised I wasn’t searching at all, I was exploring. Some people explore forests, history, the sky. I like to explore people: how they live, how they’re happy, what they see.
Sometimes the way life goes means you have to stay put. Finding quality moments with friends is an elusive enough endeavour, let alone finding space for new people. There are stories all around us, and friends who become favourites, but I still crave the exotic. I want to meet an anarchist from Sweden, a girl who grew up on a mountain and a man who dances in secret every day at 6 pm. In couchsurfing, I found a shortcut to meaningful time with strangers.
The secrets of couchsurfing
In the library of the world, couchsurfing isn’t just the travel section. Every time I read a couchsurfer’s profile, I get excited. It’s a way to bring traveling home. It gives you an alternative map of the city and its people, pointing you directly to those who’ll share. You find secrets that it’s much harder to as a tourist. I remember meeting an inventor of miniature robots, returning to live with a group of animators and spending time in Antoine’s beautiful flat with a swing overlooking Gràcia.
On one trip to Paris, my boyfriend and I stayed in a different place each night. We joined a house party of artists celebrating the final night of their degree and visited a couple of photographers from Brighton setting up home in the city. We spent a final night with Katerina, a jaded but joyous Belarusian designer who dressed just like a droog. She and her undertaker flatmate taught us the anatomy of the horse and befuddled us with their contradictions. At 3 am, I was sure bedtime was nigh, but they ushered us onto the street with the promise of a hidden secret. We were soon in the deserted grounds of the Sacré-Cœur. We climbed, giggling with the beauty of it, onto the carousel and sat entranced by the city beneath.
That night and every time I meet someone new, I learn a little bit more about the world and in turn I learn more about myself. People often say that traveling makes you more open-minded, but I think it’s the people you meet that do that, no matter where you are. If you only spend time with people inside your own everyday life, interests and culture, then averages can start to make sense. The world is full of intricacies, individuals, similarities and difference. The more you meet, the more exceptions you’ll see.
This article originally appeared in Oh Comely Magazine.