After an exhausting trip halfway across the world, which included a twelve-hour layover in Sydney, I tried (and failed) to stay awake on the taxi ride to my destination, sadly, not even the excitement of beginning my study abroad experience could keep me awake. To this day I don't remember a thing about that drive.
I was roused from my nap by the GPS announcing, "You have reached your destination.". With renewed strength I looked for my AirBnB Hosts instructions on my phone; it was midnight so they left the back gate and door unlocked, house rules and instructions on where to find my room were in a booklet on the coffee table. I was getting ahead of myself though; as I was reading, the taxi driver was searching for the correct apartment/condo with little luck. Perhaps the GPS meant "You have kinda(?) reached your destination.". I was dehydrated, hungry, and extremely tired, I couldn't deal with the thought of not being able to find my bed. In my desperation, I decided to try the gate into the complex, it was unlocked and my grumpy self walked through, sure enough, I found myself in a square surrounded by modest, identical apartments which could be reached via dark, branching alleyways. The listing didn't say anything about this hurdle but that's okay - maybe it is just different to the terraced houses of the UK.
After discovering the alleyway labelled with the right apartment number, I reported back to the (thankfully, extremely patient) taxi driver and collected my things, my schoolbag and a duffel bag weighing 10 kilograms. I stumbled my way through the dark alleyway, zombified by the 36 hour day, and wandered through the back gate that had been left slightly ajar for me. Finally, I can rest.
I opened the back door and dumped my stuff on the sofa and took a few moments to decompress; I promptly glugged down a glass of water and used the restroom and collapsed on the couch - scanning the room for the aforementioned instruction manual, there was nothing to be found. This would probably be the moment a more awake guest would let out a few swear words, but I was too tired to panic, I clumsily looked around the kitchen counters and on the various shelves. Nothing stood out to me, "I guess the host just forgot.".
Nothing was going to stop me finding my bed, I deserve more than a sofa after flying over 11,800 miles. I crept upstairs, towards the reverberating sound of someone snoring, "I should probably avoid that room...", not that that helped me, there were still plenty of other rooms. I suddenly grew apprehensive, what if I'm not the only guest here? I slowly turned the door handle and cracked up the door by a hair, "I don't remember reading anything about other guests... Anyway, this might not even be a bedroom!" I justified to myself. I peered in and, to my surprise, was temporarily blinded by the lights inside. My eyes adjusted from the dark corridor and through blurred vision I realised I was looking at someone sitting at their computer with their headphones on. Adrenaline shot through me as I quickly (and quietly) closed the door and retreated downstairs, "Screw that, maybe the sofa is good enough for me after all...".
It was still dark when I awoke to the sound of someone coming downstairs, respectfully trying to stay quiet whilst using the kitchen.
I pretended to yawn and wake up naturally, and awkwardly greeted the guest - I figured the host would have woke me up or something. They apologised for waking me. I asked if they know what room I was supposed to be in, but the reply was simply a puzzled expression, perhaps in my tiredness I had failed to make sense so I took the time to explain my situation with more detail, again, all I got in return was an awkward silence.
As I looked back at the guest expectantly - my saviour who could send me to comfort and warmth - a small seed of dread grew in my mind, "I have the wrong place... don't I?" I blurted, more to myself than the now complete stranger on the other side of the living room. "Yeaaaaaaah", she cringed out. The seed of dread took root as the context of all of my actions re-adjusted and reality was pulled from underneath me. I walked into a stranger's house with a duffle bag, made myself at home, snuck around the house, and took a nap while they prepared breakfast.
"Oh. My. God. I'm so sorry, I don't know what to say-", I stammered and grabbed my things and prepared to leave as promptly as possible.
The response this person had to the fact that they were looking at a complete stranger who 'broke' in and made themselves at home at their place? A chuckle, "You know? I thought you were with my flatmate and she kicked you out to the sofa!". I laughed awkwardly, grateful for the relaxed and calm response, is the stereotype about New Zealanders being so chill true? Somehow through the stress, I joked back about how the Airbnb host told me they would leave their place unlocked, little did a foreigner like me know that that was common practice! With one last uncomfortable and very English apology, I confirmed that the place I was actually looking for was next door and left.