Knock Knock! Who's there?…

Two Latvian Strangers“…two complete strangers from Lativa, and we’ve come to eat your food, use your shower and sleep on your couch.”

Recently I decided that it was time to try something different (yet again). This time it involved opening up my apartment to a young Latvian couple whom I’ve never met before, nor really knew if I could trust. Naturally it pays to be careful when partaking in this kind of activity, but I’m reminded about good hospitality when I look back over the past 12 months and some of the random places I’ve called home for less than nine hours at a time.

There was, for example, the couple who allowed me to stay the night in their Sydney home on Boxing Day – having only met them that very day. A feisty Irish girl called Sox and her Roller-derby obsessed girlfriend Rimma, who, knowing I would be getting up early the next day, left out some teabags and coffee for my partner and I, complete with a note saying ‘Take what you want.’ After quickly casing the joint, I noted nothing of particular value that could be taken without the aid of a screwdriver and simply settled for some green tea. Neither of us have ever seen or spoken to them since…

Then there’s the couple from Brisbane who gave us a place to stay for a whole week, completely rent free. And despite the fact that I accidentally left the garage door unlocked (where his prized home-built car lay undisturbed) and switched off the freezer, causing lots of Aussie meat to slowly defrost, we were still allowed to stay for yet another week.

This is the power of trust and it’s something we could all use a little more of. You hear of stories where little old ladies open the door to stricken motorists, only to have their purses ruffled through or their jewellery stolen by an accomplice. But here in Denmark I wonder whether that sort of behaviour is common, knowing that in general it’s a happier, safer country to live in.

With that in mind I created a profile on the Couchsurfing.org website and within hours the requests came flooding in. I had to put a cap on it eventually, as requests were coming in particularly for the Christmas and New Years period. But my first guests were Aiga and Karlis and they became the first non-Danes to visit us here in Copenhagen since our move in September. They were friendly, intelligent, spoke great English, liked to travel, cooked dinner for us, cleaned up after themselves (or pretended to, as they put it) and even bought us a gift to say thank you. Even better still, they both joined one of my Shooting Copenhagen photography workshops and left as better photographers. So everyone’s a winner…

When the snow fell on Sunday, I hope many of you felt like I did: that Christmas had finally arrived. I haven’t felt Christmasy in quite a while, as I feel that the true meaning is now lost in a commercial rape-fest controlled by people who just want our money. Nor for me is Christmas about religion either; instead it should be simply a time of peace and goodwill and spending time with our friends and the people we care about. At this time of year we have no excuse to be rude, unkind or malicious; we should be putting our differences to one side and opening the door to new possibilities and people.

I doubt whether Karlis and Aiga were changed forever by their short visit to Islands Brygge, but I hope they left knowing that there are at least two more people out there that they can trust in this big wide world we all share. And it all starts with just a smile… give it a whirl.

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