Travel Tales: A bohemian night with strangers in London
It’s a drizzly autumn afternoon in central London and I have checked in to a backpackers hostel for the night. When travelling alone hostels can provide good company at times that eventually can even turn into good friends. On this particular night though, my random ”dorm mates” seem more interested in heading to Campden to stock up on “illegal souvenirs” than being social, so I’m looking for some alternative ways to meet new people in the city.
My girlfriend and I have previously used Couchsurfing.com on the road, and we have met some very nice strangers-turned-friends this way, so I’m logging into my profile to check if anyone is interested in meeting up this night and I soon stumble upon an ”event” that seems intriguing. A foreigner living here is setting up a cinema night for whoever wants to join in, to go and watch Bohemian Rhapsody – the movie about the iconic band Queen. And I’m in tune!
If you find yourself wondering, what is Couchsurfing? Or, is Couchsurfing safe? I can tell you that the website is a way for people to offer travellers to stay with them for free or likewise for people to stay with locals when travelling. A pure exchange of help and company, from way before Airbnb came along and made it profitable to host strangers. Also, it is safe as you can read reviews on people’s profiles and only choose to deal with members of verified profiles if you prefer. At the end of the day it’s always up to common sense and having a plan B lined up in case it turns out not to be a good match.
Weee will, weee will… MEET YOU!
Meeting new people sometimes takes you out of your comfort zone, but it all seems very natural as I meet up with five very different people in front of the Odeon Luxe Haymarket cinema near Leicester Square. There’s a tour guide from Sicily who’s in town to do some research for a couple of days. A French guy who has come to London to work and improve his English skills before setting out on an Australian adventure. A girl from Canada who’s here to study for 10 months. A Polish guy working as an acoustic engineer and who simply wanted to try living in London. And a girl from Madagascar who’s working as an au pair with a family in London, but dreams of becoming a movie director.
Wow, what a cast! Including myself (a travel crazy Dane), we’re people from six very different countries randomly meeting on this night in London to watch a movie together. And after learning about each other, we enjoy an excellent movie (highly recommendable btw!) in luxury reclining seats. Well, now a cinema isn’t the best place to talk, so four of us end up heading to a bar after the credits roll by. And by coincidence, we end up sharing a few beers at a jazz bar named Cafe Boheme. Destiny? At this bar, I also end up chatting with a very nice jazz musician from Brazil, who invites me to come to one of his gigs one day, whenever I’m back in London.
So there you have it. Being open to small ”everyday adventures” can lead to memorable times abroad or even in your hometown.