With Ivanas jump for joy on the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, I want to wish everybody who reads this blog a wonderful 2011.
Regular readers and subscriber will have noticed that the blog ‘stopped’ in Belize and the photos in Panama. The updated South America Map shows what/where we have cycled and travelled past year, even though we have written no updates about them yet.
In this post, which will also be published on my photoblog ExposedPlanet, I will give a small update about what we have been doing past year and the plans for the next.
Though 2009 seemed destined to be the most powerful year in my personal history (even beating 2008!), the past year 2010 has yet again been even more crazy, interesting, tough, happy, sad, wonderful, strange and beautful. (“Will this never stop!”)
Looking back I realized that I have been quite active in many ways trying to avoid being a Zombie. It might be a good idea for you and me to reflect on what you have achieved past year in order to inspire for the upcoming year! Let’s stick to the easy to recall statistics on travel & photography, as that is what I do most
- I have not been posting much on the ExposedPlanet photoblog, but as you might have noticed lately, I am getting back up to speed… Only a few dozen pictures and all in the past months only, but I think the quality has improved a lot, which is more important than quantity
- We spent all the year in South America. It has been many years ago that I did not visit more than one continent in a year, but South America has proved itself much more diverse than I ever imagined.
- I shot over 7000 pictures on my Canon Eos 5D mark II and several on a new Lumix compact camera as well. Actually I probably shot much more, but these are the ones surviving the first round of critical ‘check-delete’ actions I also shot video but still need to learn more about that.
- We cycled almost more than 9700km (6000 miles) through 10 different countries including more than 55km vertical. That is more than 6 times the height of Mt Everest! We cycled from sea-level up to more than 4600m (15,000ft) and even spent 5 weeks non-stop above 3600m (12,000ft).
- One old dream came true: I travelled up the length of the Amazon and Napo rivers across the continent by way of 9 different boats, all the way from Macapa (near the Atlantic coast in Brazil) to Coca, only a few hours away by bus from Quito, Ecuador.
- The inhabitants of these countries I visited spoke in 5 different languages to me (Spanish, Portuguese, English, Dutch & French) as well as many older tongues like Quecha & Aymara and offered many different and wonderful foods
- I climbed and summited 5 mountains of over 5000m (16,400ft) and 3 mountains of over 6000m (19,700ft) including the highest Andean mountains in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador & Bolivia and a wonderful 6300+m peak in Peru.
Due to the easy access most of these climbs were only 2-4 (very long) days affairs, but wonderful nevertheless. The views from the thin air never fail to fill me with happiness.
- I minimized consuming, have become even more minimalist than I already was and am very happy about that. The great thing about travelling by bicycle is that you simply cannot take more than you need! I also did not eat any meat (just fish) and am healthier, lighter, fitter and younger than ever, even if I turned 40 past summer.
- I went on one (1) airplane flight (to the Galapagos Islands, another dream come true) as unfortunately there is no other way to get there anymore. That is one more flight than I took last year…
- We saw countless animals in the wildincluding vicunas, guanacos, llamas, capybara, alpaca, alligators, monkeys, armadillo, tuco tuco, snakes, vizcacha, marine Iguanas and turtles and their land-based cousins and hundreds of different types of sea- and land-based birds including nandu, flamingo, condor, red ibis, penguin, macaw, blue footed boobies and many, many more.
We witnessed giant leatherback turtles laying their eggs and even swam face to face with sea-turtles, dolphins, sea lions and strange and colourful fish, as close to nature as you can get.
- I started a new and very exciting company with a good friend (and built a website for it as well: http://Flexiwaysolar.com. The project is about to take off really soon now and should change the lives of thousands of people in a very positive way, while saving the planet a bit.
- I redesigned the ExposedPlanet photoblog, and switched it over to the WordPress platform for more flexibility Also I added a new blog, with photography tips, see http://blog.exposedplanet.com, the first 5 or so posts are already up.
- I started licensing some photos through Getty and already made several sales. I have sold some more through my ImageKind shop and directly to diverse clients for usage all around the world in magazines & books (Contact me if you are interested in my images).
- I still run my business 7summits.com full-time and had one of the best years ever, with an unbeatable 100% summit rate for all my Kilimanjaro clients, climbing on many dozens of different personalized expeditions. We employ local guides only which makes the trips not only 50-70% less expensive, but also ensures that even the prices are very low, most of the paid fees end up in Tanzania, Argentina, Tibet/Nepal etc. One thing that makes me proud as well are the wonderful stories the clients sometimes send back after the climb: check some of these out on the 7summits.com clients feedback page.
- BikeTravellers.com, the community for adventure cyclists has been re-built and redesigned as well, with some added functionality.
- I started preparing for a major personal event upcoming in 2011, something to do with tying knots, but not on mountains
So I am quite satisfied with the things I have done considering I also have to sleep sometimes even though I would like to change that as it is often a waste of time !
But what was much more important is that I met great people from many different countries, seeing culture and nature up close in away that can only be done while travelling (and really only by travelling by bicyle).
What did not happen?
What I regret a lot is not having time to update the WorldOnaBike.com blog. If you look there, it seems we are still in Belize (though the Map is updated to our current position). I would have liked to share more adventures, great places and nice people.
Unlike what many people feared and told/warned us that would definitely happen, we have not been robbed, assaulted, murdered or hit by cars, even when travelling ‘unprotected’ through ‘scary places’ like Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, The Guyanas, the Amazon & Brasil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia & Argentina.
We did not ‘Zombie out’. Unlike many others we have not stayed at home in front of a TV because of fear of the unknown, in need of consuming and passive feeding of fear and commerce by the TV. Instead we have actively approached the unknown and have been enriched by our experiences beyond description.
We made great new friends. Some we travelled with like the illustrous ‘La Familia‘, ‘ The A-team‘, ‘Tim sem Fronteiras‘ and the ‘Abnormal Austrians‘ as well as many other wonderful people that changed from strangers to friends slowly or instantly and that offered us hospitality along the way, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for weeks on end, muchas gracias!
And maybe even better is that all of this together could be done on a monthly budget less than what most people spend on car insurance or fuel alone… It’s about making choices in your life, nothing more, nothing less.
So what is there left to do in 2011?
Some of the things I had wanted to do past year had to be moved to 2011 and new ideas and projects will hopefully happen in 2011, including:
Switching 7summits.com to WordPress, climbing the highest mountain in Peru (the only one I wanted to but did not climb past year) starting my new blog on Minimalist Living, moving to Patagonia, getting married, writing new books, updating all the blogs, shooting at least 10,000 more photos, editing at least 5000 of them, choosing and buying parts and ordering and building my first self-built PC in order to be able to do so in time.
We also still have about 8000-10000km (5-600 miles) to go on our Pan-American mainland bicycle expedition, visiting the missing parts of Paraguay, North-East Argentina, Uruguay and Patagonia (Southern Chile/Argentina), which I am all really, really looking forward to. I will keep on promoting cycling and travelling by bicycle by offering free weblogs and info/help on BikeTravellers.com.
And of course I will run my climbing and photography businesses with full force in order to pay for all of this but also to let more people enjoy the joy of climbing mountains and experiencing the cultures surrounding the mountains
I will update ExposedPlanet with new images and stories, in order to share the beauty of nature and culture and to counter the fear and xenophobia that is still going strong in the world…
More than enough about me, let’s focus on the world around us again!
I started this post as I just wanted to share one of 2010′s great moments with you: Ivana jumping for joy on the beautiful Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia and will close with one of myself taken there as well, with a simple message for all of you:
May you jump for joy many times in the year to come.
Nancy Vogel Sathre is not only cycling from Alaska – Ushuaia as well, she is doing it with her husband and two kids, homeschooling them all the way! They can be followed on http://familyonbikes.org
She also writes for Examiner.com and recently asked us for an interview. I might as well post it here, not just to help out other biketravellers, but also so you know some things we are doing when we are not writing updates or cycling
(The original interview was published here)
———– start of interview ———
Ø Would you please explain a tad bit about where you’ve been and where you’re going.
We are Ivana (33, Argentina) and Harry (39, Netherlands) and we are currently cycling the Americas from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina, visiting all the countries on the mainland on our way.
Ø How long have you been on the road?
We started in July 2008, so now about 15 months. We think we are almost halfway. But both of us have been travelling the previous years as well, on other cycling and climbing trips.
Ø Why the bike? What is it about the bike that made you choose it over buses and trains and planes?
Cycling is the only way to go. Not just for obvious ecological reasons, but it the only way of transportation that:
- Keeps you fit and healthy, physically as well as mentally
- Is fast enough to travel to a new place every day
- Is slow enough that you can enjoy the journey and scenery while travelling
- Is flexible and small enough that you can stop and park everywhere to take a picture, talk with a local or eat a berry on the roadside (and can be taken up to the safety of a 4th floor of a house if needed).
- Can carry more luggage than us! We can take extra stuff that would never fit in a backpack alone.
- Is fun
- Ivana: Buses make me sick and most of cars afraid and I basically I only like to travell by bike
Ø What prompted such an extended journey? Had you done a lot of touring before?
Ivana had done a long previous trip: Around New Zealand, then from Malaysia to India, hopping over to Turkey for a tour there. I (Harry) had mostly been climbing the past decade and had only done a few small trips (around the English channel, around the Irish Sea, from Amsterdam – Zermatt on a Tandem), all about 2-3 weeks. Of course in the Netherlands you basically bike before you walk, so I am used to cycling, it’s my way of life. I never owned a car in my life as it is not needed with the great cycling and public transport infrastructure we have.
We met in Tibet when I was climbing Everest and she was on her long cycing- trip. We met again after my climb, in India and I basically made her cut her bike trip short as she had planned to cycle through Europe as well.
We did do a short tour from Rome to Germany, but I promised Ivana that I would make it up with a long trip together. She wanted to see more of her home continent (South America), I wanted to show her the wonderful nature and good people of Alaska, Canada, The USA and my friends in Guatemala. So we decided to just go all the way
Ø I know there are plenty of wonderful days when the sun is shining and you’ve got the wind at your back. But there are also days when it’s raining or you face a headwind or you’re climbing a hill that just won’t end. How do you get through those days? What keeps you going?
Frankly, mostly there is not much choice. There have been few days of tailwind so far, but also few days of really horrible weather, though we had some decent hills. You just have to face the facts and be pragmatic: stopping will not do much good on the middle of the hill and as long as the luggage inside the Ortlieb bags is dry, it does not matter so much if you get wet as long as you are warm enough.
People who are just complaining about life or are afraid or getting out of their comfort zone or are afraid of other cultures will have trouble adapting to this. But once they do, they are lost forever, as once bitten by the BikeTravelling bug there is no turning back from a more open and receptive lifestyle!
Ø As hard as it is to pick out one or two highlights – would you, could you? Tell us about a couple of those incredibly wow-ing, drop-your-jaw experiences you’ve had.
The overall experience is much stronger than separate positive incidences, even if we had many. It is interesting to see that many times an experience only turned out very special in hindsight. Often we struggled up a hill or through a forest or desert while cursing the environment and life we were in while the sections turned out to be very special looking back.
The Dalton Highway in Northern Alaska is very tough, but also wonderful for its nature and remoteness. We really enjoyed the Redwoods in Northern California, getting invited on an Indian Potlatch and playing with a fox on the Cassiar Highway in Canada, seeing the coastline in the USA, enjoying the Baja California desert and the Mexican Highlands. Personally I also enjoyed off-bike activities such camping in Yosemite in winter, climbing Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, snorkelling with stingrays in Belize and seeing the independence parades in Guatemala.
But most of all, it is the people we met, all the way. Our many CouchSurfing and WarmShowers hosts and the dozens of strangers that have become good friends, from all types and backgrounds. The tens of thousands that have waived, smiles or even applauded from the side of the road. There is a good in the heart of all people that you can only discover by going out and finding them. See the ‘1000 Americans’ section on our blog for some photographic impressions (http://worldonabike.com/1000-americans/) .
Ø What about those days you wish you could forget (but you know you never will)? Those days when everything goes wrong and then even more goes wrong? Tell us about a couple of those.
We spent my B-day in the rain on a muddy and steep section of the Dalton dirt road (Alaska) called “The Rollercoaster”. ‘Nuff said. We had to buy a big bag of ice and stuff them in our waterbags and put them on our body to cool down enough to sleep in a hot Mexican night. We got blown off the road in Baja California with no water in sight and Ivana had some scary close encounters with wheels of a truck. And most of all, I hate Mosquitoes. I do not discriminate, I hate mosquitoes in Alaska, in Canada, In the USA, in Mexico and in Belize. There are few things more annoying than climbing uphill with 4 miles/hour on a muddy road in Alaska while overheating and being eaten through 2 layers of clothes by Mozzies at the same time.
As a climber I have learnt to focus simultaneously focus on the present for safety, and ahead for relief as you know the suffering will stop at some time.
Fortunately our Santos bikes have not had a single problem, other biketravellers have had frustrating experiences with their bikes which can really ruin your trip.
Ø You’ve toured through many countries and I know they each are unique and have their advantages and disadvantages. But, if you were to talk with someone relatively new to cycle touring, where would you recommend they go? Why?
It depends if you are an experienced cyclist and traveller to start with. For beginning cyclists it is best to start in ‘easy’ countries like The Netherlands and Denmark, where cycling is part of the culture (meaning that drivers respect you) and separate bike lines (and right of way!) make cycling easy, fun, flat (!) and safe, while there is a lot of culture and history and helpful people. And there is a bikeshop in every town and a pump in every house.
If you are already physically active you can head to some more hilly parts, basically the rest of the world J. Ivana loved Eastern Asia for the safety and people, I loved the remoteness of Alaska and Canada. You can also tour a few weeks in Europe and see a new country and culture every few days!
There are a lot of great routes in the US, see the Adventure Cyclists organization.
But cycling is only a small part of the travelling, so also try to get abroad and immerse yourself in new cultures, even if going just over the border into Mexico, which is a hidden gem.
Ø Any special tips or advice to wannabe tourers?
- Even though Ivana cycled over 8000 miles on a $400 bike without much problems, I would say: get good gear. Get good waterproof bags, get a good bike and good tires. You will enjoy it so much more if you do not need to stop every two days to fix a rack or a flat tire, leaving more time for nature and culture.
- Then again, do not get fooled by the expenses: biketravelling is usually cheaper than sitting at home doing nothing. And yes, that includes the accommodation, food, gear and all. You can travel anywhere in the world (maybe not Japan) for $10/day. We travelled in Italy, US, Canada for less than that.
- All trips and people are different. Don’t follow other people’s trips: nobody is forcing you to go 100 miles per day, every day because another cyclist did so; you can also do 25 miles, 2 days a week and still be in a different place every week. If you want to carry extra clothes or luxury items: just do it, not everybody enjoys travelling with only two, half-filled panniers, especially when on a longer trip. If you have the funds, do not want to ‘rough’ it and want to sleep in hotels and eat in restaurants? Go for it, you will help out the local economy.
- Take your time anyway, bike-travelling is not rushing. That is bike-racing which is a fun sport, but a different experience. Get off the bike and meet the people, eat the food and see the sights.
- Do not have the time for a long trip? Take short trip in your area or head out to a train station take a train and cycle back. There are no ‘laws’ for minimum distance (nor for maximum!).
- There is also no age limit as many young kids as well as BikeTravellers in their sixties and seventies have proven. Biketravelling and cycling is for all ages and backgrounds.
- Don’t plan everything ahead as the best things happen unexpectedly anyway.
Don’t get scared inside your house by false financial promises and xenophobic threats of the media: there is a whole world out there, waiting to be discovered and shared. You might as well get fit and healthy while doing it!
Finally, as Amelia Earhart said: “the only way to do it, is to do it.”
Harry & Ivana
- Photos from this and past travels on and up 7 continents can be found on http://ExposedPlanet.com
- Expeditions to the ‘7 summits’, the highest peaks on every continent: http://7summits.com
While we were watching the locals dance on Isla Cozumel I realized that exactly a year ago we had started out in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, more than 10,000km/6250mi North-West of here. One of the main paradoxes of time showed itself, as it seemed light-years away, while it also felt like we only started yesterday.
We saw glaciers, deserts, giant trees, volcanoes, canyons, ancient cities & pacific waves, cycled past bears, foxes, wolves, eagles, deer, elephant seals, snakes and lizards, while being eaten by mosquitoes and ants.
We met old friends again and made countless new ones. We have been inspired and inspired others in return. We have seen poverty and wealth and experienced the kindness of people, irrespective of nationality, income, colour, religious or sexual preference.
We switched from laughing to crying and back hundreds of times, screaming of happiness and cursing each other and our circumstances, often on the same day. We roughly planned our route before leaving, but all the best experiences were encountered without warning or preparation.
We have been part of a Native potlatch, played with a fox, camped in the desert, hugged trees, won our dinner in las Vegas, climbed mountains and sailed between dolphins. Meanwhile, thanks to the wonder called Internet I worked in a hundred different rooms in this giant office called Earth.
Our trusty Santos bikes have taken us all the way without problems. Even though we have been rained and hailed upon, blown off the road by side winds, camped in the snow and the freezing cold and cycled in 45+ degrees Celsius/113F, overheating at night. We cycled 160km on one day while I could not walk from pain a few months before, ready to quit. We have climbed the equivalent height of Mount Everest 10 times, many times pushing the bikes while doing it.
We have been alive, a full year, which is more than many people have been in their life. Oh, and we probably burned less than 3 gallons of fuel and likely spent less than USD $5000 in the process.
This is a huge amount of money for most of the world’s less fortunate population, but often blown away in mere weeks, days or even minutes by others on short-term rewards.
Our experiences have been more luxurious than any car-upgrade, more rewarding than any grand bottle of wine, and definitely longer lasting than any ounce of substance sniffed up the nose that might have cost the same.
The only problem is that life is even more addictive than all of these…
Thanks for joining us on our journey. Thank you for supporting us, helping us out where needed in person and in mind, urging us to write more, asking where and how we are, commenting on the site and writing us your emails, letting us know how you are. Thank you for dusting off your bicycle and making a difference. Thank you for hosting us and other travellers, it means so much more than a place to sleep or eat.
You are special and we feel thankful for having had the opportunity to share a tiny part of your life and for the way you are now forever part of ours.
As said, it feels we only have just begun…
Ivana prepared a nice post for new years, looking back and ahead:
2008 was incredible…
We have been travelling all around the world the past year: from Amsterdam to Argentina, Peru, Australia, (Harry was invited by Jim, Thanks Jim), Istanbul, Tanzania and we started our trip by bicycle from Alaska to Ushuaia …
…It wasn’t just travel; the landscapes we had seen, the wonderful people we had met, the new friends… We enjoyed time with our family and friends that are far … Rediscovering the world, enjoying it, and learning how to take care of it …
Thanks for being with us in 2008. Thanks to the ones that supported us from their homes, to the people that helped us on the way, and to all the wonderful people that we keep meeting every day. Thanks, we can’t and we dont want to continue without you. We feel happy and most of all very Thankfull ! Happy 2009 !
…and special thanks to our families and friends that we miss so much, We keep you in our hearts. Thanks for the patience and for suporting our adventures with so much love, as only you can do that..
I am about to post several wonderful images of Oregon State, USA. A truly beautiful place. But first I have to get something else off my chest:
<rant> Imagine cycling along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal nature in the US, maybe even in America. Dunes, forests, cliffs and rough waves. So nice they declared it a ‘National Recreation Area’!
I enjoyed the scenery, but got more and more annoyed with the trash that was on the side of the road. It got so bad that I could not focus on the nature or even on the traffic, but just on the next piece of plastic that had been thrown out of a car window, or maybe I should say truck window?
Besides the ugliness of the trash, the chemicals that are slowly released into nature (by decomposing and by getting eaten by animals), it also creates dangerous situations for cyclists, as many times we have to go around heaps of glass or large pieces of trash, forcing me onto the car lane (assuming there is a shoulder to begin with).
At one point, at the bottom of a steep hill, I decided to take some photographs.
About one mile later, I had about 75 pictures of discarded trash, all taken within 45 minutes of uphill cycling (some more were shot after lunch, one hour later). Please take the following facts in account:
- I only started shooting after I got really annoyed by all the trash, so there were hundreds pieces more, just before this series.
- All first 75 shots were taken within 45 minutes; this includes cycling uphill, getting off the bike, releasing the flap of my handlebar-bag, getting the camera ready, taking a picture and getting moving again. Mostly I could do only a few pedal strokes before stopping again.
- Many pieces are missing. Only halfway up I started to shoot ‘doubles’, before, I passed items if I already had shot them. Missed Doubles (or triples) include red Bull, Coca Cola, Camel cigarettes, all Beers Of Idiots (see below) and more
- I did not shoot most unrecognizable and/or unbranded pieces of trash, such as random car parts, plastic wrappers of all kinds and sizes, unrecognizable glass items and much, much, much more…
- The road was steep on my side, the side of this trash, so likely a multitude of trash was to be found lower down the slope
- It was busy and there was no good shoulder, so I could not stop for every piece.
- Image #27 is the one in the middle: Scenic Byway… Besides this sign, there had also been a ‘Adopt-A-Highway sign before I started shooting.
- I only shot one side of the road.
Here is it: all the glory of Mile 207, Oregon (click image for larger version)
Not all of the below are scientifically proven or valid, but it after cycling several thousand kilometers along the US highways, it is reasonable safe to assume that:
- There are hundreds pieces of trash per mile of US Highway, even though it is in a ‘National Recreation Area’
- Coors & Bud (especially light) are the choice of beer for trash-throwing idiots
- There is just as much ‘healthy’ trash (waters such as Dasani, Aquafina, ArrowHead (with ‘Eco-Shape bottle’!), V8, VitaminWater etc) as there is stuff that was already trash to begin with (KFC, McDonalds, Taco Bell, BurgerKing etc etc)
- Drive-thru coffee creates throw-away empty coffee trash.
- Adopt-a-Highway seems nothing more than a scam where local businesses get some advertising and never look at ‘their’ road again. There were some exceptions in the US (especially notably when the Adopter was a Bikeshop or Eco-market etc), but generally those signs only seemed to attract trash as the idiots throwing things out of their car, seem to need something to aim for..
I assume that the crazy fools that throw these things out of their car window (trust me, they are NOT cyclists…) have zero respect for nature also have no respect for others or even themselves, as they are messing up their own planet. Is is just education? lack of proper values taught by their parents? Or just plain stupidity? I really wonder what goes on in their minds if anything at all.
Some places have a sign that says: ‘$1000 fine for littering’. This means that if one person was stationed here, he could have raised at least $80,000 in fines (likely a multitude) on this one mile alone. I think that will cover his salary? How’s that for job creation?
< / rant>
This post is a thank you to all the wonderful people that have hosted us on the way and offers advice for travelers as well as hosts.
For those new to Couchsurfing, WarmShowers.org and the Hospitality Club, these are networks of people opening their house and/or local knowledge up to other travellers, supplying them with free lodging (a ‘couch’, though it can be a spare room, a sofa or just a spot on the floor or in the garden).
Couchsurfing is the largest , currently there are almost a million members inviting strangers into their homes, following the mission of Couchsurfing:
“CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.”
WarmShowers.org is an older, but much smaller organisation (less than 10,000 members), but it is especially focused on BikeTravellers.
“The Warm Showers List is a list of Internet cyclists who have offered their hospitality towards touring cyclists. The extent of the hospitality depends on the host and may range from simply a spot to pitch a tent to meals, a warm (hot!) shower, and a bed.”
This has some advantages:
- the hosts generally have cycled themselves, so you do not have to explain why or how you do it
- They usually have storage space for your bike
- They might have spare parts, but at least useful tools
- They know all the local cycle routes and the best way to get out of cities etc
- They are very friendly and almost always will answer positively to any requests
The disadvantage is of course that there are fewer members, but usually the ‘quality’ is more important here than the ‘quantity’.
The Hospitality Club is the second largest organisation, with currently about 330.000 members. Their mission is similar:
Our aim is to bring people together – hosts and guests, travelers and locals. Thousands of Hospitality Club members around the world help each other when they are traveling – be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town.
The club is supported by volunteers who believe in one idea: by bringing travelers in touch with people in the place they visit, and by giving “locals” a chance to meet people from other cultures we can increase intercultural understanding and strengthen the peace on our planet.
Joining any of these 3 organisations is free, takes just a minute and everyone is welcome. Members can look at each other’s profiles, send messages and post comments about their experience on the website. Of course you can become a member of all of them, it will increase your chance of finding a host and to meeting new travellers. You can be very clear about what you can offer and what you request: if you only want to meet up for a drink, that is ok. If you have a backyard where people can pitch a tent, that is perfect as well. if you want to offer a spare room and serve dinner that is wonderful, but not required. if you need a week’s notice, that’s no problem (though many travelers, especially BikeTravellers, cannot tell exactly when they arrive as it is dependent on wind..)
We had only ‘Couchsurfed’ a few times so far, but Samir was a professional. Even though they had surfed only a few times themselves, he gave us all kind of tips about how to find hosts and how to use Couchsurfing more effectively, though these are mostly true for the others as well:
Samir’s CS tips:
- Sign up for local CS groups (the ‘Amsterdam’ or ‘California’ group etc, any group of the place you are travelling in), so you can easily get in contact with members and post message in the group.
- Check for people who are online in your area (CS shows where you recently logged in from). This is actually how Samir found us, he just checked which CS-ers where near him and checked our profile!
- Of course, if you want to be hosted, you will need a complete profile, so add much information about yourself.
- Try to meet other CS-ers locally if you are new. This way they can see you face to face, and vouch for you.
Why would you sign up with any of these organisations?
- You can help travellers finding a safe place to stay, or even just help them out with useful information or just a cup of tea or a warm shower & a washing machine. Travellers do not need fancy places, just a roof can be great.
- You can save travellers a lot of money, they otherwise had to spend on expensive hotel rooms. This money is much better spent on travelling more, food, a museum etc!
- You meet many different people: travellers with great stories about their hometown/-country, travelling tips and much more. It is a free way to get a good bite of ‘strange’ culture!
- You can show the world, that not all strangers are bad people and that it is easy to help a fellow human being; even though the media will try to convince you to believe the ‘fear culture’ (don’t trust anybody, axis of evil, discrimination etc). Fear is big business, with the weapons industry leading the way…
- To show that the Internet is a great thing. Our generation is empowered by it and can use it to make the world a better place.
- To find hospitality in unexpected places by unexpected people and restore faith in humanity.
- To get first-hand knowledge about the place and area you are staying in.
- To save a lot of money which is much better spent otherwise
- To see how people are really living in the place/country you are staying in. No Hotel can teach you about local breakfasts, the way people talk to their kids etc in foreign countries!
- If you are a cyclist, it is a great way to have a day ‘off’: when you know your gear is in a safe place, you can go for a ride, without luggage, or walk into town, without a bike for a change. If you do not have to watch your bike, you can visit museums, shops, a swimming pool, library, or simply have a siesta in the park. You would see cities, you would otherwise have to pass.
- You might be able to freshen up (a Warm Shower) or even do some laundry and generally load up your energy levels.
- If you like pets, you will love the chance to play with the dog or cat (hosts generally have pets, unless they travel a lot themselves )
We already met so many wonderful people, many of them are mentioned in the ‘1000 Americans’ Category. Most of them we would never have met, if it was not for the 3 initiatives mentioned here, and without them we would have camped more, but also learned and seen a lot less…
Of course you must always use your own mind when deciding to stay with somebody as in culture, both online as well as offline, there are a few less good people trying to spoil it for the rest. Whatever you do, in the end it is always your own responsibility/choice, but do not let this stop you from travelling and meeting new people.
We have stayed at several people, who either had no internet connection, and/or no idea about the organisations above. Still they invited us into their homes, becase they wanted to help us out, dry us, feed us, listen to our stories or share theirs.
They found us on the street, in front of a library, looking for a place to camp, or stumbled upon our website and invited us: spontaneous Warm Showers!
They are great hosts, who offer help from their hearts without even thinking about the huge internet resources. As one host said: ‘You know, they should make a website to connect travelers!’. When we told them about the 3 mentioned above he was pleasantly surprised