After Ayla’s dad flew back to Norway, Ayla was left alone for the third time on her three-month world excursion. And it didn’t take long on this last solo leg for Ayla to walk into an interesting situation…
My dad left me at my cousin Kenneth’s house in St. Petersburg, Florida. He and his family recently moved to Florida. I loved being there, went dress shopping, and on a mama-baby workout with his wife Kirsten. (I borrowed my cousin’s daughter for that!) I had the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my entire life and just enjoyed getting to know them better.
Since I’m not used to your am/pm time system, though, I managed to mess up my flight to Fort Lauderdale. I thought I was leaving the next night. But suddenly I realized my flight it was in the morning! I took my very first Uber ride to the airport the next morning. (Uber is genius! Why are they not in Norway?)
I needed to get a host in Fort Lauderdale. I wanted to try out Couchsurfing and sent requests to a bunch of people. I was kind of worried about staying with a host alone, so I ended up going this guy who already had people staying at his place. Safety in numbers, I thought. Kenneth had laughed at this guy when he saw him on the computer, saying, “He looks like some weed-smoking Hippie!”
Well, he was right!
The first thing I heard when I got into the house was, “You have to excuse us today. It’s International Weed Day.”
It was ridiculously early in the morning and none of the other guests were up. The room was just filled with smoke. I was debating whether or not I should stay. I decided to wait until the other guests woke up to make my decision. Couchsurfing culture is always that you can leave at any point without any hard feelings.
After an hour or so, a guy named Alexander came down the stairs. We started talking, and I felt kind of more safe. Here is someone who isn’t smoking weed and acting normal! We stepped outside of the smoke (because I started getting a headache) into the garden and started talking. When he heard my plans for Bahamas (I tell you more about why next week), he made me send a mail to the ferry company and change my tickets because of safety. But that meant I was staying in this house longer. Mostly staying outside, because of the smoke. But I’m so glad I stayed. I learned a lot.
I met people in so many situations, situations and lives I’m never going to experience. I met hardcore people, and got to know a small part of their life–their thoughts, their hopes, their reality. I met people who had been homeless, in prison, and living in the ghetto. As a Norwegian, being homeless simply isn’t a thing (except for a very few cases), and prisons in Norway look like hotels. So for me their reality was very different.
Mine was different for them, too. They were like really amazed by the fact that I don’t drink, do drugs, or smoke. It was at this rave party. All the people were so amazed, and starting to tell their friends about this girl who didn’t do anything and still had a great time. That is in fact the story of my life. Never drinking, but still having loads of fun. I had a lot of fun with that, haha.
One day this guy came into the house with his friend. My host seemed kind of nervous for some reason. I ended up talking with this guy for quite a while. He was like from one of the American movies: tattoos, gold necklace, pants down his knees. A real gangster. And he was the sweetest person ever. Instead of letting my fears and prejudice get through, I opened my eyes for his life and listened. Listened to a life story that was so different from mine.
Even tho this was a very different reality to what I’m used to, I’m glad I ended up at this house. It was challenging in many ways. But I never felt unsafe. I never felt threatened. It was more of a stepping into the unknown type of challenge.
Want to see more? Here’s Ayla’s video about these times in Florida:
Next week she shows us the Bahamas!
Ayla is a 20-year-old Norwegian who loves to learn new things and study new cultures. She’s Christian, and in her more normal life (when not eating donkey sandwiches in China and taking trains across Italy), she does dancing and karate. For any questions for Ayla or about travels, please comment below.
And if you’d like to share your story on The Periphery, please email me at Brandon@ThePeriphery.com. We’d love to hear all about your adventure.