Monday, March 24, 2008

Travelling Free, Sort Of

The March 31st TIME magazine listed several ways to travel free around the world. Well, not absolutely free; a person would first have to get to the desired location. But, at least the stay would be free. This caught my eye because travel is very expensive these days with the dollar so low and oil prices so high.

The article caught my eye for another reason as well. If we are actually going to promote brotherhood and peace, wouldn't living in other countries with local families be a great way to do that? I know, I know. This concept is nothing new to those intrepid travelers who were never tourists. But now that TIME magazine has highlighted the benefits, millions of new people have been introduced to this potentially enlightening opportunity.

As a matter of fact, Daniel Hoffer, co-founder of Couch Surfing, said: "What used to be a fringe hobby for a few travelers is becoming a mainstream phenomenon."
In a nutshell, his Website couples local hosts with tourists, who sleep on the couch. This must attract a following because the company's usership has grown by 56% in one year to 470,000. That's a lot of people on a lot of couches! Couch surfing might be perfect for the modern-day vagabond checking out the world on a dime. Look at for details on how to get started on this adventuresome pursuit.

Another take on this free exchange is reciprocal hosting. For example, a birdwatcher from England might wants to visit northern Wisconsin to view the loons. So, the birder comes for a visit and then opens her house in England to the Wisconsinite. Sounds a little like a foreign exchange student, but with adults and the added benefit of reciprocity. This is an old service that has spawned many friendships over the years and can be found at The Website pointedly explains that peace and brotherhood are the foundation of this non-profit:
"Servas means 'serve' in the international language of Esperanto. Servas is a peace movement that serves thousands of people around the world by opening doors to peace and understanding. Our hosts welcome, share and shelter travellers from around the world. Our travellers seek, learn and experience new cultures by spending meaningful time with Servas hosts. All Servas members foster new insight, knowledge and tolerance of others."
Interestingly, TIME magazine did not go into this aspect of the organization. Maybe the author of the piece thought that a travel service fostering peace might be too heavy for the normal TIME subscriber. She might have been surprised, however, to find that a full disclosure might have sent even more followers to the Website. Or maybe not.

Want to work in an exotic local in exchange for a place to sleep? is the place to go. Under this novel arrangement, a tourist works four or five hours a day and in return gets a room, or room and board depending on the arrangement. For one elated participant it gave an opportunity to take in the local color in a way she could not otherwise afford: "I wanted to remind myself that there are other ways of living and earning. It was hard work, but I wouldn't have been able to go otherwise. I didn't spend any money that month." And, what was she doing? Picking figs in Greece, a fact that is affirmed by a picture of the happy tourist holding a large pallet of the fruit in front of her.

Thomas Berry said that "The world is the larger sacred community to which we belong." Organizations like these three help those who want to discover this connection first-hand by traveling the globe. And what better way than free, sort of.

Of Note: This picture taken by Jim of me several years ago illustrates an exotic, northern Wisconsin location called Buffalo Roam
(otherwise known as our home.) Several years ago, I took a dilapidated 100 year old totem pole and refinished it over a summer. We fittingly planted it near the entrance of the lengthy driveway which runs along-side a couple of old Indian burial mounds. One day, upon driving in, I found a Native American, who had been taking in the burial mounds, peering up at the totem pole. He wanted to know if it was real. I laughed and said, "No, but I must have done a decent job of painting the pole, huh?" The man expressed his admiration for the piece and a lively conversation ensued. This was one of those chance encounters that makes for good memories.

Today's Weather Report: Well, we are back to Spring weather in the upper 30's, low 40's with plenty of sunshine. That March wind, though, is 11 mph!

No comments: