Has anyone heard of CouchSurfing? Its an online network, kind of like Facebook I guess, except the main point is about hosting or requesting to be hosted by a complete stranger when you find yourself travelling through their part of the World. Its cheap (free) and a good way to see and do things the way the locals would.
This time I was in Antibes, France, and trying to find a job in the yachting industry. The process is long, tiring and expensive. So I turned to CouchSurfing to help keep my costs down. I put a request on the network for everybody in the general Antibes area to see. “My friend and I will be in Antibes between such and such a date. Anybody willing to host us?”
Then this guy replied. Saheed- from Nigeria. What would you do if a kind stranger – who happened to be from Nigeria- who you didn’t know from a bar of soap invited you into his home? As a South African I was especially apprehensive because Nigerians don’t exactly have the best reputation back home, what with their big influence on the Johannesburg drug scene and all. Against my better judgement my friend and I accepted and a few days later we were knocking on his door.
His apartment was tiny. A loft with not much room for one let alone three. He handed us a set of keys each, showed us our bed (his bed) and told us to make ourselves at home. We stayed for a week. At one point we sat him down and told him that we felt we were putting him out by taking over his apartment. He assured us that this wasn’t the case and that he knew we could potentially be job hunting for a while so were welcome to stay for as long as we wanted. At work he printed out our CVs which was a huge money saver, he gave us pep talks about life, taught us a little French and helped us with bus and train timetables.
Saheed is one intelligent young man who knows his stuff about economics and World maps. His heart is even bigger than his brain, which I realised when he told me he lets people stay at his apartment even when he’s not in town. Very kind indeed, but is it very clever my friend?