If you have ever couch surfed or considered couch surfing, please read this post.
I’ve talked a lot and hinted even more about being homeless in Oslo, but I don’t think I have actually come flat out and gave a full play by play of what happened to cause us to become homeless. I thank God everyday for the kindness of strangers while traveling. This story is both a positive and negative example of strangers on the road.
Mom, Dad, family, and friends: I lived, and I learned my lesson. Please know that as you read this post.
This is the story of how Jacquie and I became homeless in Oslo, Norway and the wonderful people who took us in and gave us a place to stay. I do apologize for the length in advance, but to give y’all the full story of what happened, I must include every unfortunate detail.
Jacquie and I decided to go to Oslo early December 2013. We booked the flights and began searching for places to stay. Normally, she and I stayed in hostels, but because we were traveling together, we chose to give couch surfing a go.
She and I did all of the required things when choosing a person to stay with. We were on the official Couch Surfing website talking to several different people in Oslo and in the surrounding area. This one guy approached us about staying with him, saying that he lived a quick tram ride from city center and that he wouldn’t be a bother to us at all.
Jacquie and I stalked Guy.
We google searched, Facebook stalked, Twitter stalked, google searched some more, checked out his references, everything. He checked out. She and I still decided to have our guard up and not commit to staying with him for a while. We chatted with him on Facebook and got to know him a little in the month prior to the trip. He seemed a little awkward but nothing too worrying. He was a little odd. So what?
About two weeks before the trip, I decided to buy a ticket to Tromsø for one night. I would be leaving early on the third day to return late the following day. I would only be gone for one night and most of two days. Jacquie and I talked about it and agreed that she would find a place to stay in a hostel for that night if she felt she needed one. She also had a friend living there in Oslo (We’ll call him Jacquie’s Friend) that she could contact if things got bad. She would be well taken care of and ok in my short absence.
She and I agreed to couch surf with Guy and told him of my plans to go to Tromsø explaining that during that time, Jacquie may find somewhere else to stay if she felt weird at his house. He understood and said he couldn’t wait to meet us. Guy gave us directions to his apartment which we followed easily and got to his place with little trouble.
Things start to get weird here. Parental discretion is advised.
In the directions to his house, he instructed us not to knock on the door next to his, that the person who lived there was not kind to him and didn’t like to be bothered. On accident, we knocked on his door.
The person inside answered and looked very confused to see two North American (Jacquie is Canadian) girls standing in his doorway. We said, “Hi! We are looking for ______. Know which number is his?” In an obviously annoyed manner, he pointed to the door to our right. He slammed the door in our faces and that was the end of that.
Jacquie and I knocked on the next door to be greeted by a kind faced guy who we could tell was slightly awkward but looked like the person we had been talking to on Facebook. “Hi!!” she and I said with equally awkward enthusiasm. This was our first experience in couch surfing, so we didn’t know how to approach the initial meeting of the host. Jacquie and I are both extremely outgoing people, so it’s not difficult for us to make friends. We were relying on that personality trait to get us through the next five days.
We apologized to Guy saying that we accidentally knocked on his neighbors door. Guy rolled his eyes and said, “Oh, great.” He went on to explain that the neighbor was actually his older brother. Guy told us that his brother was incredibly nosey and overbearing and that he in no way liked living next to him. Not a minute later, Guy’s phone was going off like a firecracker. Guy silenced his phone and saying in a joking manner, “There he goes checking up on me again.”
Now, I have what I like to refer to as “Mom Syndrome.” I am not a mom, but I certainly can act like one. I’m that friend who freaks out when my friends get too close to the edge, or drink too much, or is constantly on alert in potentially dangerous situations. Like this one.
My red alert when off immediately upon entering Guy’s house. Something did not feel right. At first, I tried to write it off as Jacquie and I just being in a house with in awkward person, but the feeling stuck around.
Let me tell you a few things about Guy. Guy worked in IT and ran a server host thing out of his house. He’s incredibly smart with technology. Guy also works as a freelance photographer. Around his apartment was all kinds of photographs that he had taken over the course of his career. His family had a cabin in the mountains where he and his friends went camping, kayaking, skiing, etc. He seemed to be really cool, just a tad awkward.
The first thing I wanted to do when I got in his house was to text my parents and let them know I had made it safely to Oslo. I don’t remember if they knew I was couch surfing or not, but I do remember really wanting to let her know I’d made it. My phone only worked in Ireland, so I needed wifi to iMessage my family back home. I asked Guy for his wifi password, and instead of handing it out like a normal person, he took my phone and put it in for me. #Awkward. I looked at him strangely but wrote it off as some people, I guessed, were weird about their wifi access. I texted my mom and let her know where I was. The nice thing about iMessaging is that you can send your current location when need be. I like to have that feature available to me.
So the three of us sat around talking trying to diffuse the awkward. While doing so, I began to look around his apartment. It was really an adorable little apartment. Jacquie and I were going to be sleeping in the den on the couches. I was checking out his system when I noticed something incredibly alarming. On the top shelf of his TV system thing, were two webcams pointed directly at the couches Jacquie and I would be sleeping on. What. The. Fu–!?
In my naivety, I tried to write them off as strobe lights. Maybe this guy liked to party? No, upon my further inspection of them, (from across the room because by this point I don’t want to cause a scene and get us killed) I figured out they were in fact cameras. Remember how I said he was good with computers and a photographer? A lot of his words begin to come back to mind. At this point, I don’t know if Jacquie has seen them or not, but I didn’t want to call them to her attention in front of him.
The three of us decided to go see Frogner Park, which was hardly a five minute walk from his house. We walked around, talked, and the awkwardness slowly went away, but I was beyond on guard about this guy. The three of us wandered around the park, played in the snow, and went grocery shopping. At the time, she and I had no idea of what was about to happen to us. We did not buy food that would be sufficient enough to live off of for five days on the road.
When we returned to his place, Jacquie had gotten a text from the guy she knew in Oslo. Jacquie’s Friend invited us over to his house that night to hang out with some of his friends. Because we wanted to be nice, we asked if Guy and his friend could come too (Guy had told us that one of his friend’s was going to come hang out with us). Jacquie’s Friend said yes. Before we headed over there, Guy and Jacquie decided to pre-drink.
I like Jameson Whiskey, and she and I chose to take a bottle of Jameson to Guy’s house as the thank you gift for letting us stay with him. It was the drink of choice that night. Because I was beyond on guard, I purposefully made my drink entirely too strong. I sputtered out the first sip and apologized for being a baby, but admitted that I was tired and that it was probably best that I didn’t drink on top of being sleepy already. See what I did there? I got myself out of drinking because I didn’t trust Guy around Jacquie and I with alcohol involved. Jacquie had no idea. She and Guy carried on drinking like it was normal.
It was during this point that I started to pay attention to exactly what Guy was doing and saying. You know how when you like someone, you kind of lean towards them when you sit on a couch, or you flirt more with one person than you do the other? And if you don’t like someone, you start to be mean to them? Well, these things were happening. I could see that with every sip, Guy started to lean closer and closer to Jacquie. He was flirting with her and purposefully trying to alienate me.
Remember how I said I was going to go to Tromsø for two days/one night? He knew that. He began to talk about all the fun things he and Jacquie could do while I was gone. Go to his dad’s cabin, play in the snow. He had a snowmobile that would be fun to take out. Go on adventures. Jacquie with her alcohol brain began to go along with what he was saying. Guy was successfully pissing me off. I figured out his plan. He wanted to get in good with Jacquie, so when I left for Tromsø, she would stay with him. Then something would happen. I don’t know what, but I knew that was his plan.
There’s a word for that, but I don’t think I can come out and say it on my blog. I’m getting pissed off again just thinking about that f____r.
Like I said, Guy had invited one of his friends to come hang out with us that night. Friend was tall, broad, and spoke very little English. Guy and he talked a lot in Norwegian in front of us, which I really did not appreciate. I understand that Friend didn’t speak good English, but I could tell by their body language and eye cutting that they were talking about us. Again, I’m so thankful I didn’t drink. Eventually, the four of us left Guy’s house and made our way to Jacquie’s Friend’s house. She knew Her Friend from when she lived in Paris a few years earlier. We knew he would be a friend and take care of us if anything went wrong. Little did we know.
Inside of the house was Jacquie’s Friend and his two friends. We’ll call them Good Looking Cop and Ok Looking Cop. GLC and OLC were sitting on the two ends of the couch. Because I was feeling incredibly uncomfortable with Guy and Friend, I plopped down on the couch right in the middle of the two new guys. Jacquie sat in a chair next to GLC with Jacquie’s Friend on her left, and Guy and Friend rounded out the semicircle on the far side.
I began chatting up GLC and OLC and found out that they were in cop school. How incredible is that?! Of all of the people that we could end up with that night in the situation we were, we ended up in a house with a couple of soon to be cops. I found out that GLC had a girl friend, so I began to put all of my efforts into flirting with OLC. See, I had zero intentions of going back to the house with Guy and Friend. I wanted to make sure that OLC wanted me to stay with him. I know that sounds terrible, but you have to look at it from my perspective. Either go back to the house where there are cameras aimed at me while I sleep or stay the night with a cop. Pros and cons.
Everyone was drinking except for me. I pulled the same card that I was tired and didn’t want to add drink to that. As I watched everyone, I noticed that Guy and Friend were not mixing well with Jacquie’s Friend and the cops. The cops were definitely standoffish towards them and wouldn’t really talk to them. When they did talk to each other, it was in short Norwegian spurts then quickly returning to English. Guy and Friend whispered to each other all night and pounded back the drinks. They were doing a good job of alienating themselves from the rest of the group.
Around 11.00pm, Guy said that it was time to leave because the last train was soon. I looked at Jacquie and then OLC and said, “I really don’t want to leave,” in the most slutty/flirtatious/insinuative voice I could manage all the while nudging my head in the direction of OLC making 100% sure he saw the motion. He quickly piped up and said, “Yeah, they can stay here for a little bit longer.” Jacquie agreed that she didn’t want to go but wanted to hang out with Jacquie’s Friend some more. It took fifteen minutes, but we eventually convinced Guy and Friend to leave saying that we would get a taxi to his apartment later that night. Jacquie’s Friend and Guy traded numbers promising that he would text Guy when we were on our way to his place.
Guy and Friend did not leave immediately. They stood by the main door speaking in hushed frustrated Norwegian. I could tell they were pissed off that Jacquie and I were not leaving with them. Jacquie’s Friend had been in the kitchen and upon his return to the den, Guy and Friend left. The minute I heard the door shut, I jumped on Jacquie’s Friend.
“What were they saying?”
“Nothing really,” he responded to me calmly.
“No. Don’t you dare lie to me. I know they are pissed off because we didn’t leave with them. We chose to stay here. What the hell were they saying?” I asked forcibly.
“Ok, I don’t want to freak you out, but there are some things I need to tell you,” were the words in the beginning of the scariest conversation I’ve ever had. Jacquie’s Friend proceeded to tell us that when Guy introduced himself, his name rang a bell. He couldn’t figure out where or why, but he knew that he had heard it before. Jacquie’s Friend, I noticed, played on his phone a lot that night, but I didn’t know why. He told us that he sat there and googled Guy. What he found was terrifying. Apparently, he had been arrested and convicted for assault and battery, rape, and used photography as a cover for all of his actions.
This is the person Jacquie and I were supposed to be couch surfing with.
Jacquie’s Friend read some of the things he found on google to us. Article after article after blog forum after warning online telling females to stay far, far away from this person. Jacquie and I had unknowingly fallen into his trap. We were confused because we google searched his name in every way possible. We concluded that because we were searching from Ireland, we didn’t have access to the same articles that were in Norway. Remember he’s good at IT stuff? There’s no way to tell if he had rigged the internet or not, but it would explain why he was on couch surfing. People from other countries couldn’t look up the articles on him. He was preying on travelers knowing that we wouldn’t be able to find out the things he had been convicted of. Unlucky for him, I have the nose of the bloodhound in sticky situations, and Jacquie’s Friend was there to warn us of what we had gotten ourselves into.
I knew this guy was bad news, but I had no idea it was going to be that bad. Our stuff was still at Guy’s house. My laptop, our clothes, chargers, everything. Jacquie and I had our wallets on us, but that’s about it. She and I were not going to return to his house that night and did not want to stay any night there at all. But what were we to do? We had to go back at some point to get all of our stuff. After that, where the hell would she and I go? He was our stay for the next four nights. We were homeless and frightfully alone in Oslo, Norway.
The five of us came up with a plan to get us out of that house. We decided to stay the night at Jacquie’s Friend’s house, and to text Guy saying that Jacquie got so drunk that she passed out on the couch. We assured him that we would be back in the morning. Then Jacquie and I would play it off that I found a friend in the city from college. We would tell him that she and I were going to stay with them that night and that in the morning before I left for Tromsø, we would get back with him so Jacquie could stay with him while I was away. She and I would take all of our stuff and get the hell out of there. Jacquie’s Friend promised to get in touch with all of his friends and find us a place to stay the next night and Jacquie a place to stay while I was in Tromsø. She and I would then book a hostel for the final night in Oslo.
It was a long shot, but it was the only shot we had.
Let me tell you that it went by perfectly. Thank you Lord! We got to his place, got ready, and bailed. I even left a pair of boots there telling him that I would return to get them later. RIP Boots. I guess I should explain why we chose to do the plan as we did. We decided that we did not want to cause a scene. The Cops told us that they were unsure of how Guy would react to us trying to leave his place. If Guy thought we were on to him, he could have acted out violently. That was the last thing we wanted. Jacquie and I had to pretend that nothing was wrong. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Jacquie maybe said a total of ten words to him that morning. It was up to me to keep the feeling light and slightly cheerful. Guy bought it, so I guess I did ok.
Jacquie and I roamed Oslo aimlessly carrying giant book bags on our backs and getting awful blisters on our feet. There was a solid three hours where we sat in Burger King mooching wifi and waiting for Jacquie’s Friend to get in contact with us. While we were waiting, we decided to look some of these articles up on our own. Jacquie and I sat on my laptop looking at all of these horrible articles and accounts of women before us who had been abused by Guy. It’s one of those things that you don’t want to believe until you see it for yourself. We found one article of him getting arrested and in the background was his apartment building. Until that point, we could have written it off as bad luck that his name was the same as someone else’s, but when we saw that, we knew it was all true. We had been in that same red apartment building only hours earlier.
It was after finding that article that Jacquie and I thought it was time to call Guy out. From the safety of Burger King, Jacquie and I messaged Guy on Facebook sending him a link to the article. All I asked was for an explanation. More or less, she and I were just trying to see if he would even respond. Facebook tells you when someone has seen the message you sent them. He saw the message but did not respond. That was confirmation enough for us.
We blocked him on all forms of social media and reported him.
Jacquie’s Friend was able to get in touch with some of his friends who gladly took us in. About 10.00pm that night after miles and miles of walking and tram rides, we finally arrived at the sweetest Couple’s house I have ever met. The Couple welcomed us into their home with hugs and looks of deep concern. They laid out homemade food and cupcakes for us to eat because they knew we hadn’t been able to do so. They blew up an air mattress and gave us blankets and pillows. The next morning they gave me perfect directions to the bus stop for the train station so I could get to the airport.
There is a God because he took care of us that night. We ended up at Jacquie’s Friend’s house with cops and never stayed a single night at Guy’s house. We got out the next morning, and Jacquie’s Friend came through with getting us a place to stay. The Couple literally saved our lives that night. I don’t even remember their names, but I think of their smiling faces often. Jacquie’s Friend came through and found her a place to stay the next night as well while I was gone. I thank Him everyday for the kindness of the complete strangers who took us in, gave us beds to sleep in, food to eat, and a place to feel safe.
Please be careful when you couch surf. I know that mine and Jacquie’s experience was a unique one, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen to you. I have traveled solo to Jerusalem, Holland, and other places, with friends to Switzerland, Belgium, and with family to France and England, on and on. Of all of those times, I’ve never been scared. I have never been afraid.
When I was in Oslo, I was afraid.
Oslo was a beautiful town in an even more beautiful country. I’m saddened that my time in Norway was tainted by that experience. Maybe if I ever get the courage to return to that city, my new experiences will outweigh the old ones.