I met R in Queenstown when I was travelling in New Zealand in 2014. He was staying at the same hostel and I was about to head to bed but a friend persuaded me to stay up for a few minutes longer and after ten minutes of chat, I found myself crashing on his sofa two months later on the other side of the world, saving me a shed load of cash and introducing me to the fabulous world of the local’s San Francisco.
You see, that’s the travelling life. You can meet people for literally seconds, and who knows where it will lead to.
He’d sent me instructions by email on how to get to his flat, because I’d be arriving while he was at work.
Take the train from the airport and get out at <whichever> station, then get the number <whatever> bus to <such and such> road. Go to the deli shop on the corner and ask for <the owner> who will have a key for you.
It was like an episode of Treasure Hunt with Anneka Rice, following [some-not-so-cryptic] clues to the treasure (in this case, a door key). Trying hard not to stand out too much as a tourist in the [pretty rough] <whichever> area when I got off the train is pretty difficult when you’re looking like a turtle with the classic backpacker two rucksacks. I had to ask a few people where I’d get the <whatever> bus because for some reason I COULD NOT work out the map. I think I was just so shattered from travelling from New Zealand that my brain stopped working.
Eventually though I found the bus, I found the deli and had a pleasant chat with <the owner>, who handed me a little white envelope with my name on it and I walked the short distance to R’s flat (up a GIANT hill).
Once I managed to get in the door, after marvelling at how American it was (there was an ACTUAL GARBAGE CHUTE THING), I was greeted by the biggest (yet softest) husky-type dog and a note:
“The wifi code is <xxxx>, make yourself at home, help yourself to any food/drink. The bathroom is down the corridor if you want a shower. <Name> cafe down the road do great lunches if you wanted to get out and the Golden Gate Park is just a few blocks away. See you later :)”
You can always spot the travellers, they’re the ones that know to leave the the wifi code out for visitors – knowing it’s the most important thing – which it was, especially back in 2014 as visiting sim cards were too faffy/expensive. This guy, who had met me for literally a few minutes, had entrusted me with his whole life including his dog (who was just delightful and soft and lovely but covered me in hair), offered me his food (I think I ate some of his strawberries that afternoon) and opened his home to me like I was a long lost friend.
He took me to places a tourist would never see, like the roof of his office to drink mint juleps and the How Weird Street Faire. He enlightened me about orgasmic meditation (not actually literally) and took me across the Golden Gate Bridge (not a euphemism). He took me out for dinner and bought me flowers because it was my birthday while I was there. He took me out with his friends and I had meatloaf for the first (and only) time. He let me eat his granola – again, not a euphemism. Far from it; there was no romantic agenda, no expectations, nothing like that. He was just a wonderfully kind and welcoming human being, a fellow traveller who enjoyed showing someone around their home city.