A few days prior to my arrival in Surfer’s Paradise, a beach town between Byron Bay and Brisbane, I had received a “Come on down mate” from a couchsurfing host. He had included his address and phone number in the response so I was excited to have a free night’s accommodation. I had sent him a second e-mail, however he hadn’t responded. My gut nudged me out of concern, however I didn’t listen.
I arrived in town by bus around noon, and promptly left a voicemail for my contact. Since I’m not carrying a cell phone, he’d have no way to contact me back, so the onus was on me. I tried a second time, then decided to enjoy the beach. It was sunny and hot, and since I had put my backpack in a locker for the day, I didn’t want to go swimming, and thus sat under the shade of a tree on the beach, taking in the scenery.
When the heat got to me, I walked around the air-conditioned mall nearby. Surfer’s Paradise is akin to Miami in the USA. Tall residential buildings buttress up against beautiful beaches. Several backpackers would later tell me they felt it had no soul. I accepted it for what it was, and enjoyed it. As the day drew on, I checked with two of the hostels in the area regarding available rooms. There were none. Zilch.
The accommodation service at the bus station said something about the least expensive place being $180 AUD/night with a minimum of 3 nights. Clearly I wasn’t going to spend that kind of money. I walked over to the contact’s apartment, knocked on the door, and received no response. I left one more (semi-desperate) voice mail around 6pm, and then went to plan-b.
My options for plan-b were varied. I could sleep on the beach or some bench. I could stay up all night in the clubs and 24/7 nightspots on the main drag. I could continue to stalk my couchsurfing contact. I could hope for a late bus to Brisbane where more dorm beds would be available. I decided to go with the last option, which worked out in the end.
Being ditched in Surfer’s Paradise with no budget accommodation available was a good lesson. I learned to put myself first, and listen to my gut when corresponding with strangers. If my gut tells me they’re not being responsive, I should make other arrangements.