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Adventures Of A Couchsurfer: London Edition
I was traveling with a guy friend through this leg of my Europe trip. I'd stayed with a few couchsurfers before. When I was traveling alone, I'd always been careful to choose hosts who seemed safe. Read: nice, sweet-sounding women in their 20s or 30s.
Traveling as a pair presented new challenges and opportunities. First, a lot of those reliable-sounding hosts only opened their places to a singular guest, so it ruled out a whole demographic of non-axe murderers. But, on the upside, traveling as a pair – especially when one of us was a guy – meant I also felt more comfortable staying in a place of a shadier persuasion.
London, obviously, can be very expensive for travelers. So the first order of business was finding a reliable couch to crash on.
A guy I'll call Wes offered to host us. He was from Italy, but spoke with a perfect British accent (to my American ears, at least). His job was in fashion, and he sported a mohawk with buzzed-out designs all over his head, black leather pants and jacket, and extremely tall platform shoes. That description sounds Marilyn Manson-esque, but there was no makeup. Wes noted that most fashion stylists were gay, but wanted to make it very clear that he wasn't. He just liked his own style.
Wes lived near Kings Cross, and met us at the station before taking us to his favorite Chinese dive. The food was good and cheap, and that was the point.
Next, he took the two of us back to his apartment. We put our stuff down, set up camp in the living room, and, without any bidding I remember, he began to tell us about his sexual escapades. I'm nearly positive he wasn't planning on inviting us or anything, but perhaps he wanted to impress us.
While Wes regaled us, his hairless alien-cats came to join. After story time, he gave us the tour of his apartment. It was spacious considering the neighborhood, but also dirty.
The craziest part was he had a tarantula exoskeleton in his kitchen – on the counter ... near where he prepped food. According to Wes, there was a tarantula in his house, it molted and he kept the exoskeleton around because it was cool. How a tarantula found its way to a kitchen in a highly urban corner of London, I'll never know.
Most of the things that came out of Wes's mouth were hardly credible, and yet I couldn't find any evidence to the contrary.
That night, he took me and my friend to "his guy" for falafel before we went with him to a club. The owner of the restaurant came out to greet Wes and give us our food.
After, at the club, it was clear Wes didn't want to hang out with us anymore. My friend and I walked aimlessly around the multi-story space, but watching Wes prowl was far more fascinating than the music. Tall in his platforms, he scanned the crowd, a man on a highly questionable mission. After an hour or two, we told him we were going to head back to rest up. Wes said he'd be out a few more hours and gave us his keys.
We left the next morning around noon, when our host was still asleep. We wrote him a note thanking him for the free accommodations, and saying that, truly, meeting him was a unique experience.
Wes, sleeping off the night before, didn't hear us slip out.
[Image credit: Flickr user Tomi Tapio]