London

My last week in Dundee

The last few weeks in Dundee flew by! I feel like I’ve been socialising non-stop for the past two weeks, no complaints but I’m not used to my schedule being so packed.

Nearly three weeks ago, I travelled to London with my friend Ivy of Year of Vegan Eats. We departed from Edinburgh and returned there after our foodie holiday in London. This granted me the opportunity for quick catch-ups with several friends in Edinburgh since that was the last time I’d be there for at least two years. I also had the chance to spend one more day in Glasgow and I couldn’t pass it up for the same reason. Kuba and I aren’t planning on returning to Scotland for quite some time as we have a full year of travelling through Europe ahead of us, and following that we plan to acquire and convert a van into a suitable living space for the next stage of our never-ending honeymoon. 😉

Kuba’s last day at work was last Friday. He’s finally free to start another career after working as a motorcycle mechanic for 10 years. He’s looking forward to focusing exclusively on his photography and videography now that he won’t be working a 9-5 job. This was a long time coming, as he knew years ago he’d ultimately quit this career for a new direction, taking a risk and opting for a more challenging path instead of a secure and comfortable one.

new tattoos!

With ample free time to socialise and clear out our flat, we also decided to get tattooed in Dundee before we start travelling through Europe. We’ve talked about getting tattoos to mark the start of this journey previously, so we figured why not get them done just before we move.

We were tattooed by Jay at Sanctuary Tattoo in Dundee thanks to a recommendation by our friend Rebecca. Rebecca has a beautifully coloured forearm piece (inspired by her own drawings) completed by Jay. Both Kuba and I were impressed by the vibrancy and clarity of Rebecca’s forearm, so we booked an appointment with Jay a few days in advance. We haven’t been tattooed in years so we both were eager to add a new piece to our collection.

My tattoo, designed by Rebecca, commemorates my time spent in Scotland. Kuba’s signifies the start of this new and exciting stage in his life. Thanks to Rebecca for helping us sort it!

one last day out with Ivy & Leo

The next day, our friends Ivy and Leo came through from Edinburgh to spend the day with us. This would be the last time we’d see them until September, as they’ve already booked flights to come visit us in Zagreb, Croatia! Naturally, we grabbed lunch at The Flame Tree Cafe.

Since this would be my last time eating there, I ordered my favourite sandwich, the vegan haggis toastie with sweet onion chutney and melty vegan cheese, with a side of pea and mint soup. The pea and mint soup is one of my favourite soups thanks to them. I decided to be extra fancy that day and order my toastie on a rainbow bagel. It was the right choice! A toasted bagel sando dunked into pea and mint soup is my idea of heaven. 🙂

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We actually had the vegan haggis three different ways: Kuba opted for it in a wrap, Leo ordered the toastie as it comes, and I savoured every single bite of my rainbow bagel toastie. Ivy noshed on a falafel sandwich instead. The falafel at The Flame Tree Cafe also happens to be one of my favourites. Maybe I just like everything there… 😉

After lunch, we relaxed in the City Square, soaked up all the sunshine, sampled some lattes at The Tartan Coffee House, and ended the night with dinner at Rama Thai.

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I’ve walked past Rama Thai before but never considered eating there as I wasn’t certain of their vegan options. We decided to try it thanks to several of our friends and their recommendations. I’m glad we did because the food was delicious!

I ordered their Som Tum salad as green papaya salad is one of my favourites from our trip to Thailand. On their menu, Som Tum wasn’t described as papaya salad because their version lacked the unripe green papaya. This is no surprise to me as green papaya is difficult to come by in Dundee. Instead, they replaced the papaya with shredded turnip. I tried it for dinner with a side of sticky rice as that was my go-to meal while Kuba and I visited Chiang Mai. My salad was absolutely delicious and very spicy. Yum!

Part of me is sad that I didn’t try Rama Thai sooner, but it’s probably for the best considering the prices were significantly higher than the prices we paid in Thailand. At any rate, I’m happy that I had a taste of authentic Thai food before we head off to Spain, and that I got to share the experience with Ivy and Leo. If you have a craving for Thai food, don’t hesitate to try Rama Thai. 🙂

decluttering, donations, & packing

Thursday was our last day in our flat so we were busy packing, organising our belongings, and completing any last minute errands. We’re only taking three bags full of our belongings and a guitar with us to Spain, so we donated a few bags of kitchen supplies to a charity shop and donated extra clothing, bedding, and towels thanks to Recycle Scotland’s website.

We didn’t have much furniture to begin with but still ended up donating our washing machine, desk, chair, hi-fi table, steamer, and vacuum to the British Heart Foundation. The BHF offers free pick-up of donations. You simply need to arrange a pick-up time online or over the phone. We initially tried to donate these items to the Tayside Reuse Centre as they also offer free pick-up, but we didn’t give them enough notice. Make sure you let these charities know a few weeks in advance if you have furniture you’d like to donate.

I’m glad that we managed to re-home most of the stuff we didn’t need. Thanks to our friends for taking little things off our hands! I hope you find your new stuff useful and that it serves you well. 🙂

And if you’re curious about what we packed for our move to Spain, check out our packing videos. This is everything we own and everything we’ll take with us for the next year.  Thanks for watching!

a homemade dinner thanks to Rebecca

For our last night in Dundee, our friend Rebecca graciously offered to cook us dinner. I think it’s safe to say she’s the best cook I know. 😉 She made us oil-free falafels served with a fresh salad, smoky sun-dried tomato cashew sauce, and seedy tortillas. For dessert, she whipped up some mango coconut yoghurt nice cream topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries. Dinner was excellent, as I knew it would be! We appreciated it so much because she took the time to make us a dinner that was oil-free and not too fatty. She catered to our eating habits, and that means a lot to us!

I was sad to end that night in Dundee because I’ve considered Scotland my home since I first moved to Glasgow a year and a half ago. I’ve made so many genuine friends there, met my now-husband, and started a new life. I don’t know what the next year will bring but I know it will be awesome! Let’s do this! ❤

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I wrote this post while we were on the plane from London to Málaga. We’re now in our flat in Torremolinos after walking along the beach. 🙂

Last day in London | Daily Goods Coffee, Tortilla, King’s Cross

I’m back in Dundee now, with all of my London vlogs complete. You can see everything I describe here in my corresponding London vlog, linked at the end of this post. 🙂

What a trip! Ivy and I were only in London for three and a half days, but it seems like much longer since we packed so much into it!

Daily Goods Coffee was our first stop that last morning in London. It’s located in Peckham, just past the Lumberjack café we visited on our second day, so we didn’t have far to walk.

In addition to coffee, Daily Goods offered toasts, sandwiches, and pastries. I scoped out their menu the previous day as I walked back to the hotel from Soho. 😉 They had several vegan-friendly items on their menu, including avocado toast. Yay! Ivy and I decided to split an order just to nibble on since we also planned to visit Persepolis one last time for a proper breakfast.

My only complaint about Daily Goods is the lighting in the rear of the café. The front half of the café was well-lit with natural light coming in from a large window, but the rear half relied on LED lights. LED lights just give off a strange vibe…the colours of our food, the walls, our skin even, looked strange. Maybe it’s just me but I feel weird sitting in LED-lit spaces. It just feels unnatural.

I popped outside to take a photo of our avocado toast because the lights were so weird. 😉

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This toast was nice as the bread was fresh and homemade. The avocado was seasoned with a few chili flakes and Maldon salt, and the toast drizzled with olive oil served with a lemon wedge on the side. I’ve never tried avocado toast with olive oil but it was delicious! The olive oil was slightly sweet and fruity, a far cry from the cheap store brand olive oil I used to use back in the day! Splitting the order was a good choice, as one slice each kept us comfortably full.

We checked out of the hotel and headed down the street to Persepolis. We were under the impression that they opened at 11:00 because that’s what their sign states, but unfortunately their kitchen opened up 30 minutes after that. We didn’t have time to wait since we needed to make our way to King’s Cross railway station so we decided to forgo breakfast and move on. I’ll just need to revisit Persepolis the next time I’m in London.

We took a bus to King’s Cross and figured we’d sort out lunch before boarding our train. Our train wouldn’t depart until 14:00, so we had just under two hours to wander around the station.

Ivy found a burrito place called Tortilla online, located just outside the station. I was craving burritos ever since I found out Chipotle exists in London, so I was very happy! Tortilla is a build-your-own burrito chain, just like Chipotle. I ordered a large burrito with rice, black beans, guacamole, salsa, and lettuce and it hit the spot. It wasn’t authentic Mexican food by any means (obviously) but it was tasty and filling. (I really miss the real Mexican food in California!)

Besides Tortilla, we found lots of other vegan options in and around the station. There were several food stalls outside the station with vegan wraps, fresh juices, and more. There’s also an M&S shop in the station, so you won’t have any trouble finding something tasty and vegan to nosh on.

Inside the station, we found coffee shops like Caffè Nero, Starbucks, and Pret, but all of them only offered paper disposable cups. I decided to indulge in a soya mocha at Giraffe Stop on the second level of the station because they offered real mugs as opposed to paper ones.

I also noticed a vegan hummus and veggie wrap in their grab-and-go case as I waited in line to order my mocha. Vegan options everywhere! And if I hadn’t downed that burrito, I would have picked up some vegan sushi from Wasabi Sushi also located on the second level of the station. Ivy and I tried their vegan sushi during our 2nd day in London. It was so good!

Luckily, our train was on-time. Four and a half hours later, we arrived in Edinburgh. Woo!

Thanks to Ivy for booking our trains and accommodation, and for being an excellent foodie tour guide. Although I’ve been to London previously, this trip was head and shoulders above the rest simply because she’s familiar with London and the vegan foodie scene. I’m glad I got to experience London one last time before I’m off to Spain! ❤

London day 3 | Tibits, Vegan Hippo, Govinda’s, Yorica, Maloko!

You can see everything I describe here in my corresponding London vlog, linked at the end of this post. 🙂

Since we were determined to try as many different vegan-friendly places as possible, we started our third day in London early. We headed to The Travel Café Southbank for coffee since it looked cute, with cacti and succulents decorating the facade. We passed it on the bus several times and were keen to check it out.

The café was indeed cute, spacious, and the barista very friendly. This was the only café we visited that offered vanilla syrup for my latte. As for the other coffee shops, they only offered lattes as they come without added flavours. I was excited to finally have a sweeter vanilla latte but honestly, the vanilla flavour didn’t come through. My latte was still delicious, albeit more robust than I’m used to! You’ll never find me complaining about coffee that’s too strong, though. It gave me an extra boost as we headed further into the city.

We planned to lunch at Govinda’s Pure Vegetarian Restaurant since we passed it in Soho the other day, peeked in the window and discovered it looked similar to the Govinda’s Restaurant in Dublin. (This was one of my favourite vegan spots in Dublin. Be sure to check out the one on Abbey Street, as the other location wasn’t as good.) Ivy and her hubby Leo visited me while I stayed in Dublin, and we all were lucky enough to eat at Govinda’s twice. Ivy and I hoped this restaurant in London would be similar.

Since Govinda’s didn’t open until noon, we had a few hours to kill. We didn’t have a proper breakfast back at the hotel. We had hoped The Travel Café would offer avocado toast or something vegan, but sadly they only had a few non-vegan pastries. We started to feel a bit peckish so we walked around Soho some more and popped into Tibits, an all-vegetarian and mostly vegan restaurant, to scope it out.

Tibits is set up like a buffet and the cost of your meal depends on how much it weighs. The breakfast spread was impressive but not as complete as their lunch or dinner offerings (if I had to guess). Tibits also offer coffee, juices, and pastries including a scrumptious-looking vegan almond croissant, which I regret not trying but fortunately my croissant cravings were satisfied soon after.

It started to rain and continued spitting for most of the day. We wandered around a bit more and stumbled upon Vegan Hippo, an all-vegan café. We hadn’t planned on trying Vegan Hippo but figured why not. It was raining and we noticed vegan croissants on the counter.

Vegan Hippo was very comfortable and a perfect break from the rain. They offered moreish burgers and hotdogs in addition to coffee, tea, and other breakfast foods. I tried their black croissant, made with activated charcoal. I’ve never seen a black croissant before so I had to try it, especially after passing up that almond croissant at Tibits! It was tasty but more sweet than savoury. I don’t think any vegan croissant can top the ones at Picnic in Glasgow. 😉

After poring over their large collection of vegan cookbooks, it was finally time for lunch at Govinda’s. We thought we’d be the first people there since we arrived the second they opened, but were surprised to find a queue in place. That’s always a good sign in my book!

This Govinda’s, like the one in Dublin, was set up like a cafeteria. I ordered a veggie thali, which consisted of several vegan dishes served in wee bowls. It was basically a sampler platter, including curries, rice, a bread roll or papadum, and salad. I also opted for a samosa on the side. (I couldn’t resist!)

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The food was excellent but overall, I still prefer the Govinda’s in Dublin. The portions there were massive as they served everything on plates instead of wee bowls, so it’s a better value in the end. Also, the samosas at the Dublin Govinda’s were huge! Definitely the best samosas of my life right there! That being said, I’d recommend Govinda’s in London because nearly everything was vegan. Besides Indian-style food, they also offered veggie burgers, smoothies, and vegan cakes. Everything I tried was delicious and not too oily.

After lunch, we explored Covent Garden since it’s an indoor market. It was full of wee shops, restaurants, tourists eager to stay dry, and even a street performer or two. We didn’t spend much time here as we had dessert on our minds.

We returned to Soho to try Yorica, an all-vegan allergen-free ice cream shop. All the ice cream, froyo, and toppings are vegan, gluten-free, nut-free. So good, but not as good as Cream Crew, an all-vegan ice cream shop in Palma de Mallorca. I might be a bit biased, but hey! 😛 Yorica’s flavours reminded me of American ice cream, lots of chocolate and stodgy goodness, unlike the fresh fruity flavours of Cream Crew. Either way, I’m happy to enjoy vegan ice cream as a treat. Be sure to bring your own spoon as they only offer plastic ones. I didn’t think to bring my own but I’ll remember to keep a spoon in my bag from now on. 🙂

I was completely stuffed after indulging in scoops of mint chocolate chip and banoffee ice cream, so I decided to walk back to our hotel in Peckham. The walk took me close to two hours, but walking is my favourite way to explore a city. Not only is it good exercise, it allows me to experience the city on a different level. I notice everything as I walk the streets, as opposed to passing landmarks on a bus. It also put me at ease. It’s easy for me to be stressed without realising it, and bustling around London definitely wore me out.

I felt energised once back in Peckham, and relaxed in the hotel for a bit before Ivy and I set off to Maloko for dinner. Ivy scoped out the menu of this quaint café before and their vegan galettes caught her eye. I haven’t had a galette in years so I was stoked to try a vegan version.

I ordered the Vegan Route galette, which came stuffed with sweet potato, mushrooms, asparagus, peppers, coriander, and a chickpea tahini sauce. It was absolutely delicious even though it looked more like a wrap. These galettes turned out to be thin crepes stuffed full of veg, but no complaints here! Ivy ordered the jerk tofu galette and was very pleased with the spice. The galettes were so good that we wanted a second one. We’re always hungry, I guess! 😛

Instead, Ivy suggested I try a Jamaican patty from Patty Island, just a bit further down the street. Patties, similar to empanadas, are baked pastries stuffed with meat or veggies. Traditionally, patties are filled with meat but this shop also offered vegan patties! The vegan patty was filled with jerk veggies. Delicious and a little spicy!

What a fun day!

Thanks for reading and watching! I hope my posts inspire you to eat your way through London someday.

London Day 2 | Bibimbap and sushi!

What a day! Last night I passed out around 19:30 and slept straight through the night. I woke up around 07:30, still a bit groggy since we missed a night of sleep on the train. I felt immensely better after a restful sleep in a proper bed. I’m glad Ivy got a good night’s sleep too! She passed out a bit earlier. 😉

This morning after some grapes and blueberries in bed, we headed to Lumberjack for a quick coffee. This cafe was a short walk from our hotel, so we figured why not have a coffee before boarding the bus into the city.

My soya latte was tasty albeit a bit strong as they didn’t offer any flavoured syrups. It’s espresso in it’s truest form, I suppose! It reminded me of the espresso at Pacamara in Dundee. 🙂 The cafe was cute and quiet as we arrived just as they opened at 08:30.

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They had avocado toast and a salad for vegan options as well as several vegetarian options. They had a tasty-looking vegetarian sausage roll filled with chickpeas, and I hoped it was vegan because it reminded me of Folk Cafe’s vegan sausage rolls (super yum!), but we had to pass since the friendly barista wasn’t sure if it was 100% vegan. At any rate, the latte was a perfect start to my day!

Ivy also noticed that the toilet there is actually “twinned” with a “sister” toilet in Afghanistan! If you check out Lumberjack, pop into their toilet and check it out. 😉

Fully caffeinated, we took the bus into the city and walked over Westminster bridge, past Big Ben, and wandered around the city. Our first stop was an all-vegetarian Pret A Manger. This Veggie Pret was originally supposed to be a temporary pop-up. Last year, Pret converted one of its cafes into an all-vegetarian one, serving only vegetarian and vegan food and coffee drinks. It was supposed to stay all-veggie for a trial period of time, but it was so popular that it stayed open a bit longer. And since it was such a hit with the veg-community here in London, Pret decided to keep it open permanently!

Pret even opened a second Veggie Pret because the first one was wildly successful. More and more people are adopting a cruelty-free diet and lifestyle and demanding fresh, healthy options from their favourite cafes. How cool! I hope Pret opens up more Veggie Prets in the future.

Ivy and I just wanted a snack at Veggie Pret since we had more food plans for a proper lunch, so we split their grilled artichoke, olives, and tapenade baguette. Ivy tried this baguette before and loved it, so I had to try it myself! It was delicious and half of it made a perfect snack. It included grilled artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, roasted red pepper tapenade, and whole leaf basil. Truth be told, I could have eaten two baguettes but I wanted to save my hunger for lunch. I’ll definitely recreate this baguette at home, though!

We had a few options for lunch but we decided to try Bibimbap. Bibimbap is a Korean restaurant (no surprise there) serving all different kinds of bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish. Bibimbap is basically rice and veggies served sizzling in a hot stone bowl. Traditionally, it is served with bulgogi (beef tenderloin strips) and a fried egg, but fortunately for us, they offered several vegetarian bibimbap which could easily be veganised by omitting the fried egg.

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We both chose the kimchi bibimbap because we love kimchi aka spicy pickled napa cabbage. The kimchi at Bibimbap was truly delicious! I like to think I’m a kimchi snob since I grew up with authentic Korean kimchi (thanks to my mom). 😛 It really reminded me of my mother’s kimchi, it was that good! I can’t remember the last time I had real Korean food. Thanks to Ivy for recommending Bibimbap and reminding me I need to seek out Korean food more often!

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For dessert, we popped into Chinatown for some sesame seed balls. These are mochi balls filled with sweet bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds and fried. Mochi is difficult to describe without having it in front of you, but it’s a sweet, chewy, rice cake. You can find them filled with sweet bean paste or plain, but I prefer them filled. These are a favourite treat of mine from my childhood (thanks to my mom again). I didn’t realise these sesame seeds balls were fried until I bit into it, so I’m glad I only ate one because it was quite rich!

Then we hopped on the tube and found ourselves in Camden to tour Camden Market. I’m glad we did so with full stomachs because the market was packed full of food stalls! We only walked around for a little while but I lost count of all the vegan options available. It would take me a month or so to work my way through all the vegan delicacies available, including vegan crepes, Korean burritos, Thai, Peruvian, and Malaysian food to name a few!

We walked from Camden market back into Soho since the weather was nice and sunny. We scoped out a few vegan-friendly shops and cafes including Planet Organic and Rawligion, but ultimately decided to score some vegan sushi at Wasabi for dinner. I loathe paying for sushi since I can easily make it myself, but since I’m on holiday away from Dundee and away from my kitchen, I couldn’t pass up Wasabi’s veggie sushi selection.

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This was only £5.75 which seems like a good value, considering it’s a fresh and healthy vegan meal option. The problem now is that the sushi was so good, I could have easily devoured two boxes full!

And as I expected, today turned out to be an epic food day in London! I can’t express how lucky I am to have a friend like Ivy. She’s an adventurous foodie with a discerning palate and a penchant for Asian cuisine. The perfect partner for a foodie holiday!

Don’t forget to check my YouTube channel for daily London travel vlogs. You can see everything I’ve described in this blog post (and more) in the following video. Thanks for watching and thanks for reading this post!

A wee trip to London

Hey! Today I’m finally in London after a long overnight train ride from Edinburgh. I’m visiting London this week with my friend Ivy. We’ll be here until Thursday afternoon. I’m filming every day here, so check my YouTube channel for daily London travel vlogs. 🙂

Yesterday, I arrived in Edinburgh in the early afternoon and met up with my friends Vanesa and Jen. Since my train to London wasn’t until 23:30ish, I had plenty of time to catch up with friends one last time.

Brew Lab is typically my cafe of choice when I’m visiting Edinburgh but for some reason, I wanted to try something different. Instead, Vanesa and I headed to Filament for the very first time. We tried their oat milk lattes and were pleasantly surprised to find other vegan treats, smoothies, and juices in the cafe. I’d like to say I’ll be back but I doubt that will happen since I’m moving to Spain so soon!

I’m only in Edinburgh once more, the day Ivy and I return to Scotland after our London trip. I already have plans to meet up with two more friends and I doubt coffee will be on our agenda since we arrive in Edinburgh late in the afternoon. Still, I’m glad I got to try a new cafe with Vanesa. We even had a wee picnic in Princes Street Gardens following the cafe since it was so bright and sunny.

Later I met up with my friend Jen for dinner (which ended up being more coffee) in Forest Cafe. Forest Cafe is a volunteer-run vegetarian cafe and art space. It’s a new favourite of mine since it’s volunteer-based, mostly vegan (apart from optional cheese on a few dishes), and they minimise food waste. At any time, you can take a loaf of bread or two from their “free bread” bins, no questions asked. 🙂

The problem with moving around frequently is that you inevitably have to leave your friends behind. (Unless we all move around together, but that’s never possible.) This isn’t enough for me to stop travelling. Instead, I focus on making lasting friendships while I can, taking care to keep in touch even when I’m out of the country. I’m grateful to have friends who take the time to meet up with me. We’ll just need to meet up again (abroad, or once I’m back in Scotland) in the near future! 🙂

At the end of the night, I met up with Ivy at Waverley as our train to London was set to depart around 2321. Her husband Leo was there to send us off since he wouldn’t be joining us on this London adventure. We boarded the train no problem, but it was delayed by about an hour. The seats were comfortable and much more spacious than airplane seating. Even so, I only managed to sleep 1-2 hours.

We arrived in London around seven hours later. Our first destination was Kin Cafe. After a sleep-deprived night on a train, we were ready for real food! Kin Cafe is special to me because this was the first cafe I visited when I moved to the UK in Dec. 2015. I spent my very first morning in London in this cafe, sipping on a coffee, brunching on avocado toast, soaking it all in. I was finally in the UK after completely downsizing my life to fit into one bag and planning this move for over a year. I couldn’t believe that I was actually in London, enjoying this cafe like a local.

The following day, I caught a train to Glasgow because my plan was to live in Scotland for a few months. I decided to live in Glasgow for four months before moving to Dundee (because I met Kuba!). I’m so glad I ended up in Scotland! 🙂

This morning I had the same avocado toast for breakfast, except I didn’t remember it being such a large portion. I swear, it was twice the size! Not that I’m complaining… 😉

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We spent the rest of the day wandering around Soho, popping into a few shops and cafes just to scope them out for later. It’s so nice being in London with Ivy since she’s quite familiar with the vegan foodie scene here. She also knows her way around the city.

Now we are back in our hotel room after a late lunch at Persepolis vegetarian restaurant, which happens to be right down the street from our hotel. Lucky us! We plan to visit Persepolis at least one more time before we return to Scotland, so I’ll need to fill you in another day. 😉

Yesterday and today were very busy for me but fun at the same time. It really seems like one long day; a day filled with coffee, chats, sunshine, and friends! I am looking forward to a full night’s sleep tonight. I need to be well-rested for more foodie adventures tomorrow! 🙂

Check out my day in Edinburgh and our first full day in London here:

 

Couch surfing anxiety.

I recently decided to forgo my plans to couch surf for the next six months while I bounce around Europe. I have received multiple offers in a few of my locations but, unfortunately, these offers are only from male hosts. Instead, I will look for reasonably priced accommodations on Airbnb as I’ve used it before with great success, and research hotel, hostel, or camping situations in every city I’ll visit. (If you want to try Airbnb let me know, as we can both receive a discount if I refer you!)

I’ve couch surfed ‘officially’ using Couchsurfing.com once, just for two nights while I visited London back in March 2015. The experience, while unpleasant, taught me a great deal about why I should reconsider crashing with a person I’ve never met before. I wrote this piece afterward.


I spent two nights as a couch surfer in London instead of renting a flat or room on Airbnb. For those of you not familiar with the concept of couch surfing, here’s an example of how it works: let’s say you need to attend a conference in Barcelona next weekend, and let’s suppose you have a friend who lives there. You ask her if you’d be able to crash at her place for a few days. Not only do you get to spend time with your good friend (if she isn’t too busy with work herself) but you also get a comfy place to sleep at no cost to you. This is called couch surfing, even if you aren’t technically sleeping (aka surfing) on a couch.

If you’re visiting a city for the very first time, however, you might not know anyone living there. This is where Couchsurfing.com comes in. This site connects like-minded people from all over the world–-the type of people who have an interest in couch surfing themselves and those interested in hosting fellow couch surfers.

Couchsurfing.com is sort of like Facebook: everyone has a profile page where you upload photos, describe your personality, your likes and dislikes, what you hope to gain from couch surfing…etc. When looking for a host, you view their profile pages and examine their reviews. Reviews are left by people who’ve couch surfed at the host’s residence and can be positive or negative, with an explanation and perhaps a counter-argument by the host herself.

When searching for a host, reading reviews is only one variable you should consider. Depending on how complete her profile page is, which is also something you should look for in itself, you will know if she lives with flatmates, whether you’ll be sleeping in a guest room or a shared room, if her identity on Couchsurfing.com matches up with a credit card, if her account is linked to her Facebook account…I basically have a checklist that I go through before I decide whether it’s safe to spend the night at a host’s residence or not.

Also, you have the option of requesting to be hosted by certain people you select, or you can post a public trip/couch request and let hosts approach you. I tried the second option as it seemed more logical since hosts could reach out to me if they happened to be free during the dates I requested.

I received a few offers from hosts for my London couch request. One prospective host seemed like a good match: he had 8-9 positive reviews (some from women) and only 1 negative review (because of miscommunication about arrival time/dates). Most importantly, he also lived with flatmates. We had a few brief text conversations, and I decided to accept his hosting invitation and give it a try.

Truth be told I was a little bummed that my first couch surfing experience would be with a man. Sure, he had positive references and lived with flatmates, but I couldn’t get over the awkwardness of spending two nights at a flat with a male host I’ve never met before.

The first night I arrived at his flat and discovered he had prepared an all-vegan dinner for me. I was surprised by how nice this was, but I figured it might just be a cultural difference in hospitality that I’m just not used to an American (he was Turkish). At least one flatmate was home (a woman) and I got to meet her, so I was less nervous. He took my bags and placed them in a room around the corner from the kitchen. I followed him in and saw a bed, a computer desk, small couch and assumed that would be my room for the night since he put my stuff in there.

We continued on with dinner and had a glass of wine. At this point, my friend texted me just to check in, so I happily and truthfully informed her that all was well: my host was friendly and an amazing cook, so far so good! My host and I continued to chat about traveling and couch surfing. I mentioned that this was my first time couch surfing and he was a bit surprised.

Instead of trying to put me at ease, he started to explain how risky couch surfing can be for both parties involved. On my end, as the guest, I’m at risk because I don’t know my hosts, and no amount of online sleuthing can guarantee my host isn’t a creep. Sure, similar risks apply when you meet people in person, but you have more time to get to know them and to determine if they are in fact a creep or not, and you also have other ways to verify his/her identity. He also explained that he’s at risk when offering to host couch surfers. I could very well be a con artist, I might irreparably damage his flat, steal from him, etc.

Are we seriously talking about this right now?! 


While all of this is true, I really did not want to be having this conversation with my very first host! Thanks for reminding me how RISKY it is for me to stay in your house, dude! Also, in terms of who’s more at risk, I know that I’m at much more risk as a woman with an unfamiliar man around, since no matter how trained or prepared I am, a man could easily overpower me if I’m not expecting it (and who ever expects to be attacked?) or if I’m unarmed.

So that bit of conversation was awkward moment #1.

And now for awkward moment #2: in this same conversation I mentioned how I turned down a request from another male host because he had zero references and I couldn’t verify anything about him. This is common sense to me. My host then replies, “what, was he not cute?” … And I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. I nervously tried to laugh it off…no dude, I’m not accepting hosts based on how cute they are. and no, that is not why I accepted you as a host. The purpose of couch surfing is to have a free place to sleep, not for dating or hooking up!  FYI: This is actually a violation of couchsurfing.com’s policies. If someone asks you out or tries to go on a date with you via the site, you can report them!

Let me set the stage for awkward moment #3. After dinner, I showered and got ready for bed. At this point, we were both hanging out in the computer room (where I assumed I would be sleeping). As I busied myself on my phone, I noticed that he was changing into his pajamas…okay, so MAYBE he doesn’t care about changing in front of another person, okay, well he was on the other side of the room….okay, so MAYBE it’s just another cultural difference? Even if all that was true, it was still weird to do that in front of a guest, especially a guest of the opposite sex. I brushed that off hoping the awkwardness would subside.

And now for the most awkward moment of this whole experience. It was around 2am and we both agreed it was time for bed. I waited for him to leave or at least show me where I’d be sleeping, and he asked me, “what side do you want?”

My heart sank. No way is he referring to the bed…I didn’t say anything at first, then managed to utter, “no way…” I can’t remember what he said next, but he didn’t give any sign that he was joking. I remember nervously explaining that I move around in my sleep, so I wouldn’t want to share a bed with anyone. After what seemed like an eternity, he said, “I’m just kidding, I have an air mattress for you.”

Just kidding?!

As a man hosting a woman, that is something you definitely can’t joke about. I swear I felt like I was trapped in a bad dream, no way could this be happening to me with my very first host…and it did not get any better! He set up the air mattress in the same room. Now I learned that this was HIS room. The other bedrooms upstairs were for his flatmates. Under normal circumstances sleeping in that room (on the air mattress next to his bed) wouldn’t have worried me, since because of how the flat was designed (without a living room), I could only have slept in the kitchen. Quite frankly I would have much preferred to sleep in the kitchen, on the floor!

As you might guess I hardly slept that night. I was so anxious and weirded out. I didn’t expect anything to happen but with all the awkward shit I just experienced, there was no way I could get a good night’s sleep in this dude’s bedroom, right next to his bed.

Early the next morning I woke up before he did and got ready as fast as I could. I high-tailed it out of there and made my way to my friend’s flat.  I didn’t explain any of this to her because I didn’t want her to worry.

As the day went on I started to dread returning to my host’s flat. I just wanted to avoid as much awkwardness as possible. He had planned on making dinner again but I also wanted to avoid that. I stayed with my friend as late as I could, then sadly returned to my host.

He was much quieter that night. We barely exchanged a few sentences. I don’t know if I was just imagining the awkwardness between us or not, but the vibes were completely different from the first night. I slept more soundly that night because I knew tomorrow morning my ass would be out of there at the crack of dawn…

I woke up very early, much earlier than I needed to, gathered my things and booked it to the tube station, contemplating the whole experience and wondering if I’d ever try couch surfing again…


One problem I have with couch surfing is the general anxiety I feel when I’m a guest in someone’s home. I get some anxiety even when staying at my sister’s home. It takes me a day or two to figure things out, to relax, before I feel almost completely comfortable as a guest. This anxiety is further exacerbated when I’m spending time in a home with a host I’ve never met before, and more so when the host is a man.

I could see myself maybe couch surfing with a female host for 3-4 days since that’s enough time for me to adjust and to settle…but couch surfing for only a night might be too stressful for me.

If I try couch surfing again, which I’m pretty sure I need to do since I don’t want to completely write it off because of one weird experience (I can learn from it instead), my game plan will be as follows:

  • Only accept female hosts.
  • Try spending a night. If I do this a few times and still am plagued with strong anxiety, try spending 3-4 nights with one host.
  • In addition to my regular online-sleuthing methods, I will meet my prospective host for coffee or a quick meal before deciding to spend time at her place. I will have a back-up plan if I decide to not stay with my prospective host after this meeting.

While I only have this one experience to support my next statement, I do wonder how many men are willing to host women couch surfers with the hopes they would get to sleep with them…and again, this is technically a violation of couchsurfing.com’s policies and you can report them, but if you, as an adult woman, choose to hook up with a guy you meet on couchsurfing.com, you obviously are not going to report him since you are both adults and you both wanted that to happen. I just wonder if that’s what most male hosts want…just the opportunity that a couch surfer might want to hook up on a whim.

I don’t want to assume every man on couchsurfing.com has bad intentions, but the fact is that I’m a woman traveling alone. People offering to host me know this because that’s why I’m looking for a host in the first place. I would feel much better staying in a hostel because other people will be around 24/7.

I’m disappointed that I can’t fully trust strangers, especially men, but that’s how I feel. Some men are creeps and I can’t control that.

Have you couch surfed before?

For solo women couch surfers, were you ever hosted by a man?

How did it go?