Remember Matt, the musician extraordinaire that let me borrow his music for my podcast intro? Well, this is the story of how we met while I was couchsurfing in Brisbane.
One of the stops on my first solo journey to Australia in 2017 was Brisbane. Since I mostly relied on couchsurfing during that trip, I also tried to find a host in Brisbane in advance and came across Matt’s profile. He seemed like an interesting person and after he accepted my couchsurfing request I was all set to meet him and Freya, his fiancee and now wife, who will forever remain two of my favourite couchsurfing hosts ever.
They lived relatively close to the central part of Brisbane and after I dragged my backpack uphill and located the right house on Google maps, I loved it immediately. Their door was slightly hidden by an overenthusiastic hedge, there were hens in the front yard and I could see a nice view of Brisbane from their porch amidst drying laundry. Matt greeted me with his signature wide smile and showed me to the living room, which was full of instruments and various artsy and travel knick knacks. Their flat was actually on the ground floor of a house and they shared it with some other flatmates. The hens weren’t theirs, but the inside of the flat was as quirky and fun as the people who lived there. It was a flat for young, free spirited people and I remember feeling instantly at home amongst all the stuff I could see, as there was something so warm and welcoming to the whole place that I just knew we’d get along great.
And we did. Within the space of a few hours I felt like I’d always lived on Matt and Freya’s couch as their extra flatmate and they were both so open and friendly that there was practically no initial awkwardness. I remember this moment, not sure whether it was in the morning or after I’d come back from exploring the city, when I figured I’d do some stretches and Matt was home practising his instruments in the living room as if I’d always been there. Also, their shared washing machine was outside on the porch and it run on coins, which I thought was a bit bizarre.
The first night when I arrived, Matt’s former band the Mouldy Lovers had a gig at a local event and obviously I came along. Freya made sure to include me in her crowd of friends while Matt was on stage and I distinctly remember meeting Georgia, who talked even more than I usually do (trust me, that’s quite an achievement!). They were all great fun though. 🙂
On the second night we went to the Urban climbing centre in Brisbane, where Freya regularly goes bouldering, and I got to try my hands and feet at climbing. I wasn’t very good at it, but it felt so great to get a good exercise session in during travelling and it was amazing to watch Freya expertly scale the walls like a skinny human spider (in the best possible sense, I swear). Afterwards we went to what I think was a Vietnamese or Nepalese restaurant – I don’t remember, but I do remember the food was great and my muscles were sore the next morning.
As it turned out, my stay with Matt and Freya was to be a very culinary one. They were surprised I hadn’t tried Vegemite before that point, so there you have a very apprehensive me with morning wet hair, Vegemite on toast and a dubious smile. I actually liked it, in small quantities, but it is definitely an acquired taste. I also got to try their homemade soy pickled egg, which was super good and I’m still planning to make my own soy pickled eggs at home, but keep forgetting about it.
I ended up extending my stay with them for another night due to circumstances and transport schedules, which meant I was unexpectedly crashing their dinner party with Freya’s family. However, nobody seemed to mind and we made Taiwanese dumplings from scratch, which is something I actually did make at home a couple of times since.
On my extra couchsurfing in Brisbane day we took it slow and explored Sunnybank, a part of Brisbane, which apparently has a huge Asian market. We went to a giant Asian store with all sorts of weird foods, stuff and uniquely Asian candy, which was a bit like falling through the looking glass into an anime. Then we had lunch at one of their preferred restaurants where I got to try bubble tea for the first time. Contrary to all expectations, I liked it, although I later learned to choose the less sweet flavours. The restaurant was also running a giveaway thing where you had to post your photo on Facebook for a chance of getting a free meal, which is how we ended up with the group photo on the cover of this post and I’m pretty glad we did. Matt and Freya didn’t win the free meal thing, but at least it’s a good memory.
After coming back to the house, we set to chopping all the ingredients for the dumplings and they were absolutely delicious. Freya’s family was great as well, they weren’t too disturbed by the random stranger me addition to the dinner and we had an interesting evening talking about life, couchsurfing and different cultures. All in all, I’m super glad I stayed an extra day and got to experience a glimpse of their family life, because it’s one of my more treasured travel memories.
From my perspective, it was almost eerie how much of a genuine friendship developed in 3 days, which is probably because Matt is such an open, sunshiney person who inspires happiness all around, and it was almost hard to leave their house. We stayed in sporadic contact over the past 3 years over Facebook, but it’s hard to have a real conversation when there’s an 8 hour time difference and we’re all busy people. Also, I found Slovenian sweets in an Australian supermarket, which is what I bought them on the last day as thank you when I left. They sent me this after coming home and I didn’t even realise I still had it on my computer:
Matt and Freya got married while I was living abroad, they finished their PhDs a bit before I started mine and when Matt released his first album as Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra on a T-shirt, I ordered it all the way to Sweden. Eventually I started my blog, decided to start a podcast and figured that Matt would be the perfect music person to ask for an intro. He agreed and that’s how we ended up having a video chat for the first time in 3 years and also how I ended up with the second Matt shirt in Slovenia. Funny how life has a way of unexpectedly forming and reforming genuine connections, right? From couchsurfing in Brisbane for a few days, to collaborating on online projects halfway around the world, I can’t wait to see what happens next and if we ever get to meet each other in person again.
So, thanks again Matt and Freya for letting me stay with you and I’m really glad to have met you! <3