Before I came away, I was pretty hesitant about couchsurfing, doubtful even about my first experience, hosted by a friendly, sensible German girl in Berlin.
I guess being on the road has numbed the fear in me, or given me more faith in humanity, or just made me more stupid, as I’m now hopping into cars with completely strange random men (okay, carpooling, but still…) and when looking for a couch to save money in pricey Zürich, I didn’t hesitate but accept an offer from Andi, a 32 year old guy living just out of the centre.
Okay, what would my mum say, what would my friends say, me sleeping on the sofa of some guy I’ve ‘met online’? Sounds dodgy, but my night in Zürich was a million times better than it would have been were I in a lonely hostel.
I met Andi at his workplace – Seebad Utoquai, a bathing area in Lake Zürich, where he’s a lifeguard. He introduces me to his friends and gives me a towel. I go for a swim, it’s pretty warm and super relaxing, washing off the stresses of the day (lots of stresses!) and watching the sky turn pink.
Later, his friend Marko takes me for a tour of the city in his car. He’s thankful for the opportunity to work on his English, I’m thankful for the local insight. A little awkward driving through the red light district with a stranger though…
The Seebad now closed to the public, the five of us have a BBQ on the decking, looking out over the lights of the city. Andi takes me out on a local gondola-style boat and teaches me how to ‘row’. Apparently I’m a quick learner.
We ride back to his through the streets of Zürich on his Vespa! His apartment is lovely and the couch super comfortable. He gives me fresh sheets and the wi-fi password. Breakfast is muesli and fresh fruit on the balcony. Andi leaves me a plan for my day in Zürich and I head off into the city.
Couchsurfing is so much more than just free accommodation – it’s a network of friendly travel-y types looking to learn from others and show off their home cities. I’ve used it a handful of times now and, I must say, I don’t know if I’ll ever go travelling without it again.