The stories of a couchsurfer

Florian, Marseille


There needs to be a fair bit of luck when traveling. Particularly when traveling for a long period of time, even the most organised of traveler requires their fair share of luck for things to go smoothly. But when you’re an unorganised traveler, attempting to plan things on a day-to-day basis it becomes all the more important.

Sometimes things don’t pan out, and I have to be prepared that this will happen from time to time. It happens to most Couchsurfers sooner or later, whether due to a late cancellation, inability to find a host in the first place or other unforseen events.

I thought I was about to have my first hiccup in Marseille. After sending upwards of twenty requests with no luck I wrote a message in the emergency group asking for help. Still nothing. Even the hostels were booked out in the city and it looked like I would either be paying a large sum of money for a hotel or sleeping on a park bench in the shady areas of Marseille.

And then, out of nowhere, the late afternoon of the day before departure I receive a message from a guy in Marseille responding to my emergency couch request. My knight in shining armour, there to help the damsel in distress that I was. His name was Florian and he sympathised with the fact that, given that Marseille was the European Culture Capital of 2013, it would be difficult to find a couch there. He offered me his couch for the time during my stay and thus became my saviour.

Florian greeted me with a glass of Pastis and some wine. Florian is actually an English teacher in France but seemed content to allow me to practice my French language skills by speaking French with me.

The first night we went out to an open air bar for a few drinks where we met a friend of Florian. Together, after a few beers there, we proceeded to another bar where our only option of sitting down was to meet some complete strangers and get chatting with them. Florian pointed out a table of girls next to ours and guaranteed me that if I went there and simply told them that I was Australian, there would be no trouble in striking up a conversation. So the challenge was laid down and I moved to the next table.

Florian obviously knows his countrymen (or women in this case) pretty well because I was fairly well received at the table. Eventually the others joined our table and we finished our night here in the early hours of the morning. Did anything happen with the girls? Well no, but I did receive a bracelet from one of them that will always remind me of that night.

The next night we went to an exhibition in Marseille where I met another one of his friends and we enjoyed this night into the early hours of the morning too. Here, Florian struck up a conversation with one Lucille, a girl that he quickly became enamoured with, but I was enjoying the show so much that I didn’t really notice.

The following night Florian informed me that his parents had invited himself and myself to dinner in Florian’s hometown of Cassis. As I’ve written before, I’m always happy to meet people of all shapes and ages as I travel to discover the differences between the demographics and their lifestyles in the country, so I eagerly accepted the offer.

It was a very relaxed and fun dinner, with friends of theirs also sharing the meal and discussion. It was hard for me to keep up with the French and multiple conversations floating across the table at the same time but I was able to contribute a few things to the conversation as they asked about Australia and the lifestyle there. I very much enjoyed their company and appreciated their hospitality.

The real fun was to come afterwards as Florian and I left the house and walked around the corner to the harbourside where another exhibition was to be shown later that night. Florian gave me a tour of his hometown of Cassis (at least, the developed harbour of it) and it appeared to be suited very much for French tourists with a load of restaurants lining the harbour.

The exhibition, as I mentioned in another article, was fantastic to watch. After we went to leave but you wouldn’t believe who else was there. Lucille, the girl from the night before. She and Florian chatted for a bit before they agreed to meet up for drinks back in Marseille an hour or so later.

By this stage it was nearing midnight already, and we said farewell to Florians family and headed back to Marseille. I was feeling rather tired from a combination of the few late nights that led to this one and the days filled with walking around town and so was pretty keen to just get home and catch up on some sleep.

Compounding this was that Florian’s place did not have separate rooms and this created a dilemma with Lucille potentially wanting to come back. This is not a too uncommon issue that Couchsurfers and their hosts face. When you decide to host Couchsurfers, you give up a small (or sometimes a large) piece of your liberty at home and some things that you can normally do alone are no longer immediately possible because the other persons feelings must be taken into consideration. Just like having a roommate, but they’re always changing so you’re forever testing the waters to see what is appropriate for them and what is not. Particularly when they are living on the couch in the public space of the living room.

I couldn’t help but feel that I was becoming a dilemma for Florian this night, a problem that couldn’t be solved. Florian never said this, and was happy to allow me to stay in at home while he went out, but it was pretty evident that he was wishing that he had no Couchsurfers on this night, and I really can’t blame him for this – I’ve been in similar situations myself in the past.

It was much ado about nothing however, as a woke the morning to find that the house was still empty. Florian had solved the problem by simply going to Lucille’s place instead.

He did come back in time for me to say a goodbye to him. I feel like Florian, and his centrally located apartment, really allowed me to have a positive experience in Marseille, a city that potentially could provide a lot of problems to visitors if they end up in the wrong areas.

Florian remains my knight in shining armour of Marseille.

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