I met John through the couchsurfing community. I joined back in 2012 but having not travelled solo until 2018 I hadn’t really used it. If I’m honest, back then I was a bit more cynical. I thought it a nice idea, but couldn’t get my head around a stranger offering a place to stay without some alterior motive. I’ve since stayed with 9 strangers who proved past Lauren so very wrong… and I’m not mad about it. It was all about the love of connecting with new people, the kindness of strangers and paying that forwards. It showed me that going out of my comfort zone could not only be safe, but life changing.

Obviously, one exercises a little caution and taking responsibility for your personal safety when traveling is so important.I definitely instinctively declined some invitations but intuition told me that John was a good man.

When I arrived, there were four others already there, who offered me dinner and a seat at the table. It was like a mini commune and blew my mind how easy it was to slip into this way of life. After dinner we decided to go for a drive. John explained he wasn’t allowed to drive any more due to his heart condition, so it was a treat for him to get out.I hadn’t known he was ill and it blew my mind that even then, he was always thinking about how he could help others. I planned to keep in touch with John but sadly, a few weeks after leaving I heard the news that he had passed away.

John, you were one of a kind and I’m thankful I got to meet you. To see some of Christchurch through your eyes. To stand on Port Hills with you for what was likely the very last time you looked down over your beloved city. It makes me smile to know that you lived your life with an open heart right til the very end. How much happiness it brought you and the many travellers impacted by your kindness. I’m glad we took that detour to stop at the roadside and look up at the full moon. I think of homemade pavlova, laughing, playing cards and sharing funny stories with new friends at your dining room table. And I will remember that more often than not, strangers are just friends that we haven’t met yet.