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The Way Is The Goal

Tag: couchsurfing (page 1 of 3)

Bewelcome, new kid on the block!

For two years now I have been using hospitality exchange networks while traveling and also to host travelers in Barcelona and now Amsterdam. This added a new and really nice dimension to my life. Thanks to the people I met through hospitality exchange, I extended my vision, scope and aspiration.

I never felt like volunteering for these networks though (couchsurfing.com and hospitalityclub.org). How they are organised simply does not inspire me: they are top-down structured and volunteers hardly have impact on how it is run.

But since a year there is a network that does want to be member-driven: BeWelcome.org. I joined its volunteers last weekend in their yearly assembly when they select the yearly board, do some brainstorming and make plans for the coming year.

I hitchhiked to Essen (Germany) with four cars and had an excellent and very inspiring time. Obviously, since it is a new network there is lots of work that still needs to be accomplished but I am looking forward doing my share for this first hospitality network that wants to be truely democratic (ie. member-driven or grassroots), transparant and opensource – one that is not only able to facilitate hospitality exchange but also able to share the access to the buttons and empower volunteers.


Update 2016: Trustroots is now the way to go for a good couchsurfing alternative!

Fainting in Romania

From a bike in Romania, back by plane to Holland. Happy I was, cycling from village to town, over mountains and rivers, coming to places where no sane traveler would ever come, finding myself on that same very day, just after sunset, bleeding and scratched, fainting and screaming for help.

Three weeks ago, I was in this small town close to Sibiu in the Transylvanian region of Romania. It was a marvelous day, with great blue sky, big white clouds and a warm sun. I was cycling just by myself, enjoying one of the nicest tours of my life, while my travel-partner was out on a museum-day.

As I was cycling through a beautiful countryside with hills and greens, I realized yet again how priviliged I was. Passing through the numerous small villages where hardly a stranger ever comes, I was greeted by many. I waved back and asked how to avoid the high hills, as I explained I am from Holland and that I like flat land.

But these events soon turned differently and my laughing turned into crying. A man send me up a different road and an hour later I had to walk up a hill with bike in hand to find my way home. Seeing the sun going down, my pace increased as I went down the hill on the other side.

I lost track when a big hole in the ground appeared in front of me. Breaking turned impossible to avoid falling so I jumped high and landed well. But I couldn’t avoid falling as I landed in yet the next hole and I had to dive, away from the bike, towards the ground.

That hurts.

I deny the pain and get back up the bike again, only to faint 3 seconds later. I look for help when I wake up and spot a horse with some people slowly driving away from the scene. I call out for them, without result.

Thanks to a stranger that appeared, a taxi driver who was his friend, some villagers and an older lady, I got to a hospital an hour later with my travel-partner and our hosts who were able to locate me after a phone call and a long search. The doctors took away the pain and told me to get straight back to Holland.

Three days later we were on a plane, a particularly funny event when you know your travels are over. At the hospital here they explained me my collar-bone was dislocated. No operation was needed. All I need to do is rest and relax…

Bonestructure

Hey Stranger

Have you ever been on your own wondering in a town, a city or countryside? Imagine being lost and somebody comes up to help you out, explaining your route or maybe offering some water, tea or a ride.

Imagine this feeling. You’re lost, insecure, uncertain, maybe stressed out, not knowing if you will find your way again. Unsure maybe if you will have a place to sleep tonight, and just when it gets dark, suddenly a stranger appears and helps you out.

While traveling I depend on the help of these strangers. I hitched over five thousand kilometers, and waited for strangers to pull over and to give me a ride at least eighty times during this trip.

Equally I was also dependent on strangers for a place to sleep. I never stayed at a place where I was a customer, using money to get a bed.

But I still did the accommodation thing the ‘easy way’, through Couchsurfing and other hospitality exchange networks I was able to stay with people who offer their place and hospitality for some days and nights, sometimes for more than a week.

Knowing there are always strangers who can help gives me the feeling of never actually being lost. Knowing how to trust these strangers gives me a lot of confidence: there is always someone out there who will bring you further. In fact, the more ‘independent’ I make myself, with money  and taking up the consumer-role for example, the more fragile I actually may become as I may forget how to trust strangers.

Before this trip I used to think I was more independent if I would be able to take care of myself completely. It would give me confidence not to have to go and ask anyone for anything, but to have all the resources at hand myself: my map, my food, my fuel, my car, my money.

Now I know the world works better the other way. If you know how to make yourself dependent on strangers, while traveling, you have more confidence and your needs are less.

no-strangers

Plus, the feeling when helped by a stranger is something you may remember for a lifetime. I still remember clearly – though ten years ago – how an Irish farmer helped me out as well as two of my buddies while hiking in the South of Ireland and a storm was about to fall over us. He helped us down the hill where later in a hostel we learned a rescue-team was looking for some other people who were lost in those same hills.

Strangers can leave a deep impact on your life. Independent of how small it may be for the one offering help or giving something, for the one in need it leaves a deep positive mark.

And all this reminds me of one good song of a band formerly know as Moondog jr. “Shall I let this good man in?”

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