Sometimes we find ourselves in a location we hadn’t planned to stop in. Sometimes this means we find ourselves unsure of quite where we’re going to be sleeping that night.
Sure, we have a tent, but in the middle of a city that isn’t always the best of options…Not that our end decision was necessarily a great decision either!
We sat in the Santa Barbara Starbucks, quietly aware of the clock ticking down the minutes until closing time and the homeless man tapping and giggling at us from outside the window. We had arrived in the city a few hours earlier after a less-than-successful day hitching, and quickly sought out free internet so we could hammer out some Couchsurfing requests. We hate when it’s left late and you feel like you’re asking everyone living in the city – not quite the way Couchsurfing is supposed to work – but sometimes you have no other option.
“Do we know anyone in Santa Barbara?” We considered. We’ve been trying to avoid staying with people we already know due to the fact the purpose of the trip is to meet new people, but sometimes desperate times…
We have a tent we use for these exact times, but we’d snuck into a campsite the night before for a cold and brief siesta and the idea of pitching it again, this time on a beach where our pegs wouldn’t grip and we’d have to be out before the tourists, didn’t seem that appealing. The two lovely Swiss guys we had hitched with earlier that day were staying in a dorm room in a hostel, otherwise we could sleep on their floor, they reassured us.
“Right. Think of all the things we have at our fingertips – we have the internet and we’re intelligent people. We can find somewhere free to sleep tonight”. We both started listing off ideas we’d had before and resources we could think of. Couchsurfing, Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, FreeCampsites.org, Sunday Assembly, Tinder… Tinder?! Could we use the Swipe-Left-Or-Right dating app as a quickfire Couchsurfing…?
At the end of the day, Tinder is a way to quickly meet new people in your location. Could it be used to find somewhere to sleep for the night without the dating (or hookup) element? (No, we’re not paying with that either…)
I downloaded the app, set the filters to be within one mile of myself, set it to seek out both men and women and swiped right on every person who popped up.
Our first match! Giggling at the ridiculousness of the situation but intrigued to see if it would work, we sent out our message:
Hi *name*, this is so so strange, but I’m actually just travelling through Santa Barbara with my friend Lilly doing a challenge where we spend absolutely no money – we’re completely stuck for somewhere to stay…can we sleep on your floor?!
A lot of matches and identical messages later, we had – of course – some replies…
Some were as you would expect.
One was an absolute dream.
Was this really happening? Was this actually going to turn into something good? We got Nate’s number and hashed out the details. We would wait in Starbucks – a public place – and he would swing by and pick us up in his Jeep. We looked him up on Facebook and it was true, he existed as a real life person. Were we actually going to do this…?
Nate swung by and picked us up, just as he said he would, and took us back to his apartment he stayed in as a student, just as he said he would. Turns out he’d had some hard times himself, and liked to help people out where he could. I still sent my sister a screenshot of our location on the map but we could feel in our guts that it was going to be okay.
Nate offered his bed, whilst innocently suggesting that he and his brother would be unable to fit in his brother’s bed together so would we want to go one in one, one in the other as we’re much smaller…but we politely declined and took the sofa instead.
In the morning, we made pancakes.
P.S. We hear time and again how ‘our trip is only possible because we’re women’ so before you comment in that vein, here’s an article about a man who did the same thing with Tinder.