‘When Strangers Meet’ tells the stories of two strangers who met through chance encounters on Airbnb. Over the years, we’ve collected stories of love, friendship, and incredible coincidences that prove the world is much smaller (and friendlier) than we often think. This is one of those stories.
Megan and Tocco
It was 2010, and Megan decided to spend summer break from her graduate studies on a five week trip to Berlin. She stayed with host Carmen, who had an apartment that shared a courtyard with another apartment. It was perfect for Megan—in walking distance to all of the charming cafes and restaurants where she could just sit and observe life in the city.
On one of her first days there, she went to one of these cafes to write a postcard to her family. She noticed a charming stranger with tattoos sit down next to her and, intrigued by his ink, she decided to spark up a conversation. Megan asked him if he knew how many stamps it would take for her to send a postcard back to the states. He shrugged, and looked back down at his phone.
“I was a little bummed that he didn’t want to talk to me more,” Megan laughs. “So I just went back to writing my postcard, wondering what else I could say. Sure enough, in a minute or so, he looked up from his phone to tell me how many stamps it would be. He’d been looking it up on his phone the whole time.”
Megan and Tocco began talking and quickly realized she was staying in the apartment directly across from his—Carmen and Tocco shared that apartment courtyard. He offered up his spare bike for her to use while she was in Berlin. “I was just being practical,” Tocco says with a smile, “There was no sense in her buying a bike for such a short amount of time when I had one to spare.”
Taking it as a simple gesture, Megan went about her day, exploring Berlin and getting to know the area. Heading back to her apartment at the end of the day, she’d all but forgotten Tocco’s offer. She saw a note on her door and assumed it was a letter from her family back home. But it was from Tocco, inviting her to take him up on the bike offer.
“When I knocked on his door, I had this small feeling of, like, ‘What am I doing? This guy is a complete stranger!’ but as soon as he opened his door, I felt comfortable and at home with him. We decided to go to an outdoor cafe around the corner for a drink, and we stayed basically all night. Despite the fact that it started raining and all the employees were leaving at the end of their shift, we sat there under the awning talking for hours and hours.”
Tocco recalls the moment it all clicked: “For me, it was when I invited Megan to come with me, my friends, my sister and her kids to the Baltic Sea. I definitely wasn’t looking for anything, but here she was up for this adventure, and she got along with everyone so well. We had this amazing time. I had been planning to stay for another week with my sister and her family while Megan went back to Berlin. But after she left, my sister looked at me—knowing better than I did—and said, ‘Are you crazy? What are you still doing here?! Go get her.’ So I did.”
And that’s how it began. Riding bikes, exploring Berlin, and exchanging small tokens of affection. When it was time for Megan to head home, they decided to try for a long distance relationship with the expectation that Tocco could take his freelance work to the states. Fast forward three months, Tocco moved to DC to be with Megan. Fast forward another three years, the couple now lives in San Leandro outside of San Francisco where they’ve completely refurbished a house together and are expecting a baby girl. (One who may or may not be the very first baby we know of made courtesy of Airbnb.)
“It’s crazy to think how much we have been through since Berlin,” Megan says. “So much stuff has happened for both of us in just a few short years. I love to think about the adventure we’ve already gone on together. And how this person was once a complete stranger sitting next to me in a cafe. I don’t know how I would have met Tocco any other way—here I was open to exploring a new city just to break from my normal life in DC. I never would’ve guessed it would lead me to this incredible person.”
Lauren Fleishman is an award-winning, New York-born photographer currently living in England. Her photo book, ‘The Lovers’, documents the stories of couples who have been together for over five decades.