Tuesday, April 17

Promoting Globe Trotting

Late last spring, a friend of mine contacted me by email to tell me that she was determined to travel Europe for the summer. She inquired about the possibility of she and her partner and her partner's daughter staying with us for a few days, or longer.
My answer to her question was a resounding yes! yes! yes!

The three of them arrived in early June and camped with us for the first part of their spontaneous European tour. They had packed lightly and arrived with a spirit of high adventure. Probably the most important items they brought along (other than the peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, ranch dressing mix, and chopped green chilies they carted across the ocean for us) was a EURAIL train pass and several travel guides on what to see and do while on the continent.

The one thing they wisely did not pack along was a tidy itinerary with a regimented schedule. No, these two bohemian souls were determined to live out this dream flying by the seat of their pants all summer. If I could have dropped everything and traveled with them I would have. Most definitely.

At each stop along their route last summer (The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Italy) they generally managed to find accommodations like they had with us. They stayed with friends, or friends of friends and even once in the apartment of a friend of a friend who was out on holiday of their own. Without going into arduous detail about the free and easy summer they spent, I just want to give a plug for traveling the way that they did. Taking off and taking it in is how I like to phrase it. Resolute to make a trek worthy of memory these three covered the continent with a one-day-as-it-unfolds attitude, thoroughly enjoying the eight week trek through Europe. And oh, do they ever have stories to tell. Happily for me, they ended their trip by staying with us once again and so I got to hear those stories. And see the pictures. It was a marvelous experience to host them and our families blended beautifully. Before the trip I had never met this partner of my friend, nor her daughter and as a result of having them spend that time among us I not only had a chance to cement a relationship with Friend #1, but I connected strongly with my New-Best-Friend and her firecracker kid. You've heard me say it before, friendship is a priceless treasure.

Now something which my friends didn't end up using but had signed on with and researched was a web-based group who call themselves Couch Surfers. The service at the website, in a nutshell is a housing exchange. You can sign in with either intention; to offer a place for a traveler to stay or to look for a place to crash during your own travels. You can do both if that suits you. The idea is that whether you are hosting travelers or striking out on adventures of your own, the network of support is available to create new friendships and to see places in a new light. Hosts can be as involved with or as absent from their surfers' itineraries as they please. Travelers can pay back the hospitality by helping around the house or offering to make dinner one night. But the benefit from it all, which was precisely what my friends gleaned from their summer of wandering, is the connections you make and the friendships that are formed with people whom you otherwise may never have crossed paths with in this big wide world. And that is seriously something humanity could use more of. The inspirational mission statement of couchsurfing.com is
"CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding"

Now honestly, isn't that about the freshest most pleasant sentiment in the world?
This next one just may well top it.

Today I emailed my friends to get a reminder from them about the places they visited last summer, I also asked if they had any best memories of the trip. New-Best-Friend replied with this:

"the best memory would be falling in love with an entire family in holland..."

If that's not a stellar reference for Hotel Huis van Taylor, I just don't know what is.

Sleeping space now available for visitors.



    My backpacking for a month in 1990 through Europe was amazing (crazed Paris stories aside). I even got to the middle of Norway. I just love the Eurail pass and as a 21 year old I loved hostels.

    Now that I'm an ancient 38 year old, 8 week of European couch surfing sounds, just, divine.

  2. What better place to start than at the beginning of your list. ;)

    couch surfing? I've got to remember that one. Jim and I are planning a trip back to Europe next summer. I haven't been back since I moved from Ireland in 2000... way too long.

  3. The company I work for has an office in Leiden. Is that close? can I come for a visit?

  4. This was such a cool post, Jenn. And I didn't know about couchsurfing - and I will DEFINITELY use it! We love to have people here and I think that would be so much fun!

    And we are planning Europe for next summer! ;-)

  5. What a cool idea! This sounds fabulous! Thanks for pointing this out to us.

  6. What a wonderful way to travel! We had an exchange student from Germany, Ilka, who now lives in Hamburg. My family and I have often talked about taking a trip to visit her. If we could ever make it happen, I don't think I could resist coming your way!

    Having grown up in a pastoral home, we often welcomed travelers although they were rarely international (with the exception of a missionary here or there). It's a very special gift to open up your home, but you get so much in return.

    Jenn, I just think you're fabulous.

  7. Oh. Mygosh. THAT is what I want to do, THAT is who i want to be. Sigh. I'm staring at my suitcase in the corner again...