Edit 30/04/2020 I wrote this blog post a few years ago on Medium, and migrated it here unchanged.
As part of my sabbatical journey in Europe, I knocked on hundreds of doors, to find hospitality.
For a whole year, after a long day cycling alone, I would look for a place to sleep, a nice meal and most importantly a moment to share.
“Hi, I’m Matthieu. 19 years old French who’s doing a Europe tour by bike. Would you let sleep at your house?”
Believe it or not, those simple sentences brought me to places I would never imagine seeing. Every person who opened their door to me gave me an insight of their life.
In poor rural areas.
In villages where I couldn’t speak the local language.
In elegant mansions.
In large cities where interaction with strangers is limited.
In countries that I was advised to avoid.
No matter where I was.
There was always someone to host me.
What I learned from these unusual experiences is that the world is a far better and safer place than what we believe.
Before the beginning of this journey, a friend of mine convinced me to ask hospitality. But I found it inconceivable that someone would allow a complete stranger to sleep at their home.
But I was willing to give it a try.
I will always remember my first attempt.
Iwas scared as hell, and I couldn’t find the courage to ask anyone on the street and let alone knock their door.
Besides the fact that I had a particular smell after a long day cycling in the heat, the night was coming soon. I had to find a place to sleep.
After a long time gathering my courage, I finally knocked on my first door.
No one opened.
I felt a mix a frustration and relief. Not having to talk to anybody was easy.
My second attempt was more successful.
A woman opens her door. First hesitating, after a brief conversation about my travel, she agrees to host me! I remind her, her son.
That night, I was welcomed, fed and hosted for the first time by a complete stranger.
Then many have followed.
In every country that I went by, I would find a family to be part of.
For a moment, an evening or more.
Progressively, I gained more confidence in myself, but most importantly, more confidence in others.
The world is more secure and welcoming than I thought.
From strangers, many became friends that I still keep in touch today. And I wouldn’t have known any of them if I hadn’t knocked on their door on that particular night.
“Traveling is saying hi to strangers and goodbye to friends.” Paul Pichot