During my university time, I was studying in NTU and joined the exchange program in Prague, Czech Republic for 1 semester. It was one of the life-changing experience that makes me independent and open-minded. During the semester, I traveled to around 14 European countries including Czech Republic. I tried to stay in dormitory and hostel where can fit up to 12 people in a room during the travel journey. I was trying to save the travel expense, so I started to try couchsurfing that I had never tried before.
My first couchsurfing experience happened in London, United Kingdom during Christmas. A female friend who was studying in Ireland also experienced together with me. We met the host on the first day (24 December), he looked different from his couchsurfing profile so we could not recognize him at first. When we reached his “abandoned house” mentioned during my request, it was really a car repair shop which went to bankrupt few week ago and had being abandoned. Its door was blocked by the wood and supposed to be sealed at all time. I fully understood the meaning of “squating” after visiting his place, just staying at abandoned house that still had utility supply for following three months after the business shutdown. The host was friendly and spoke softly to us, he was okay if we left after knowing the housing condition.
He did not stay alone, there were three to four squatters staying together with him. They formed a team to look for abandoned house in London and survived from part-time job due to their nationality and skill. Sometimes they earned money by organising night party with music and alcoholic drink at their place. It was incredible, as it would not happen in either Singapore or Malaysia.
On Christmas Eve, they prepared our dinner and celebrated the Christmas Eve together. On the next day, we cooked Curry Chicken for their dinner as Christmas dinner. However, they were not used to eat spicy so they could not finish the meal. During daytime, my friend and I visited the attraction points in London and at night time, we chat and shared our stories with the squatters.
On 27 Dec, we left the place and started my solo trip after saying bye with my 4-days travel buddy. It was unforgettable for us because she and I had to take shower without heater and the toilet door was damaged so I had to be security guard outside the door. According to the host, the abandoned place we stayed had the poorest housing condition compared to his previous experience. Was it “lucky” or “unlucky” for us? For me, it was memorable and once-in-a -lifetime experience, and we did it.