Well, I had a few criteria to fulfill with choosing the city that I would visit:
* It had to be not too far away (so it doesn't cost too much)
* I had to be able find free accommodation there (via Couchsurfing)
* There had to be an event there where I'd get to meet new people
* It had to somewhere I wanted to find out more about, to see if I'd like living there
I was quite happy that I accomplished all of this. I found a wonderful host through CS. So kind, generous, friendly and helpful. We first stopped by a café where he shouted me to a hot chocolate. Then we spent my first day walking around the town and since he's lived there nearly his whole life, pointed out sights of interest and told me little historical facts or stories about various things...
It's only a small town but he took me to a place that he said he hadn't been to in 3-4 years! It's funny how it works like that. Whenever you live in a place you never really see it all and take it for granted. After our long walk we worked up a big appetite and each had a delicious pizza at an Italian restaurant. It's not often that I go to restaurants so I really savour those rare experiences. And the Italian food in France is really really good!
As luck would have it, the weather has been gorgeous lately. Sure it's still cold in the mornings and evenings but during the day it's sunny as anything and in the low teens. We even saw one of those outdoor digital thermometer things which said 23° but somehow I think it was just a tad optimistic...
Due to my crazy sleep patterns I was feeling extremely tired after our walk around the town so I actually had a big long siesta and then that night we went together to a café not far away to a CS meeting and I met up with 4 other lovely people. It's so nice meeting new people and finding out facts about them. Even though all these people are strangers it's not nerve-wracking at all. I guess being and living alone has given me a lot of skills in networking and the art of making small talk. Not saying I'm the most outgoing or interesting person out there, but I do enjoy talking to random, different, new people.
What's good (for me) about all these meetings that I go to is that everyone there (I assume) is single. I think because of that we already have something in common and... I don't know how to explain it other than to say almost everyone I know is a part of a couple and when I hang out with couples I just feel 'weird' and different. I don't feel like I am 'less' than them but just TOO different, especially since most people I know have also been with their partner for 10+ years and forgotten what it's like to be single and they have no idea how to relate to me either...
Speaking of which... I can't believe I did it! 3 and a bit weeks later I really don't think of 'him' anymore and when I do, I get a bit angry (a good sign) and think that he was a loser anyway. I couldn't believe it. Something just happened during this trip where I stopped thinking about him and those few seconds that I did, I honestly wasn't upset at all.
I am honestly not thinking about having a relationship at all at this moment and definitely NOT looking to start anything. I feel so much happier having a whole bunch of normal friends than one close boyfriend who screws with my head and my emotions. But recently, I have had girl friends confide in me about their relationships and it just saddens me that they don't realise they are dating a jerk and can't get rid of him. I spend my time thinking and talking about relationships a lot. To my single girl friends, to my single male friends, to my coupled-up girl friends, to 'strangers'... although I'm not looking and actually quite happy to be single right now the topic still stays in my head.
Another good thing about this meeting was that everyone there was bilingual or even trilingual. Yay! Everyone spoke French and I could actually understand everything. Trust me, when I first arrived this was extremely hard to do... with multiple people talking simultaneously, noisy background, music playing etc... I always find it hard to understand people when there is background noise which is why I'm still not great with telephone conversations... But anyhoo, it's just great to spend time with like-minded people.
Well back to CS, I honestly didn't think I could top my amazing experience last time. But this time came pretty close. Since this guy travels a lot for work, his apartment is empty a lot of the time and he said I could come and use it during those times when he's not there, if I wanted to, and invited me back again and we could check out more sights during the warmer weather... maybe with the car next time 'round!
A handful of reasons why Couchsurfing is a million times better than a hotel:
- It's free!
- You get to meet a local.
- You get to see how a local really lives, in a real apartment/house on a real street, not necessarily in a street full of hotels. I've been lucky many times though and gotten an apartment right in the heart of the city (like this time). Often, the apartment you get is even BETTER located than a hotel. Since most places aren't accompanied with photos though, it's always a lucky dip and kind of fun to see what kind of place you end up in.
- The place you'll stay in will be a million times bigger than your tiny hotel room, no matter how small it is.
- The place you'll stay in will have a fully equipped kitchen (if you feel like cooking).
- The person who hosts you is interested in you, your culture, your job, your town, your country, etc, and actually wants to talk to you. The staff at hotel reception couldn't give two hoots about you.
- If you're lucky and if they have time, they'll even give you a free guided tour of their town.
- You get a fuzzy feel-good feeling inside knowing that there are truly some nice, generous and wonderful people in this world.
- If you're super lucky, you'll have a friend for life.
Well today I walked around the town some more by myself. I was absolutely sweating like crazy wearing my big down coat in the bright sunshine that I had to carry it the whole time. I'm absolutely exhausted and off to bed for an early night!