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I had couchsurfed happily about a half-dozen times when I encountered my first negative experience with a host. Though, to be fair, it turned out to be another set of hosts who would help me out of my situation and give me one of the best weeks of my whole trip.
After Octoberfest in Munich, I aimed myself at Norway and traveled north by train through Denmark and Sweden to get there. I prepared in advance to meet a man in Oslo who was offering me a place to stay in Oslofjord for three days. I was scheduled to meet him at 8:30 pm, at a bar about a half-hour walk from the train station.
After enjoying a full day in Oslo, wandering about and discovering that index cards are about as rare and valuable as gold, I arrived at the bar at 8:34. I had seen pictures of the gentleman so I would know who to look for, though I, the quintessential backpacker, would not be hard to spot. I scanned the dimly lit hipster hang-out and saw no one familiar.
I went to the barman and asked if he’d seen the gentleman. No dice. I waited fifteen minutes before borrowing someone’s phone to call the number he’d given me. No answer. I waited another 15 minutes. Nothing.
I got on my computer quick, which died just as fast. I found myself asking a friendly-looking Norwegian if I could borrow their laptop for a moment and searched quickly for available hostels or cheap hotels. Everything was booked. The only rooms available in all of Oslo were exorbitantly expensive. I gave the laptop back and thanked them as I pulled out my train schedule. The last train would be leaving in just over an hour and I needed a place to sleep–this being late October in Scandinavia–even if it was on a train.
I bolted from the bar, fuming, sprinting for the train station. A thirty minute walk turned into a ten minute mad-dash. I flew up to the ticket agent, but realized I had no idea where to get a train to.
Noticing an outlet nearby I slumped against the wall and jacked in as fast as I could, pulling up a range of hostels in cities the last two trains would be visiting. Nothing available! If I’d come during some holiday, I hadn’t known it (and still don’t quite understand the predicament to this day).
I pulled up Couchsurfing.org and sent out a few “emergency” requests. No takers in Oslo. Bergen was a bust. But I received a positive reply from a small town called Volda. I booked an overnight train to Bergen, and in the morning transfered to a bus for Volda.
My experience on the bus can be found elsewhere on the blog, and when I finally arrived in the sleepy college town almost fourteen hours later I became a top-notch sleuth.
In my haste to find a host before the last trains left, many details were left unsettled. I asked around town for the location of the college, where I knew my host was a student. I found my way there, and sat down in the cafeteria, which was mostly empty, but had a few people passing through from whom I inquired about my host. After over an hour, I found someone who knew her. They called for me and soon we were united. I offered a meal, a hot shower, and introduced to some of the nicest people I’ve met.
I ended up spending a full week there–I enjoyed parties and was invited on camping expeditions and hiking trips. When I left, I felt rejuvenated, and blessed to have found such an incredible little place.
I never had a bad experience after that, and hearing about such things is rare. The worst you ever experience is a person you don’t really “click” with, which can make for an awkward experience, but rarely a bad one.
Thanks for reading my little series on Couchsurfing! I’ll be back Tuesday with more blogging!