Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Global freeloading

Would you open up your house to a stranger from a-far? I kinda did that when Daniel dropped by. Actually, I had felt that we were friendly acquaintances by the least, if not already friends. The unconventional part was how I met him – online. I had been browsing through travel blogs on bootsnall.com: while most of them were pretty unremarkable (“I went to Thailand and I visited this Buddhist temple and that Buddhist temple and this Buddhist temple here are pictures and then I got roaring drunk with these two hot Swedish chicks here are some more pictures” something to that effect); some were pretty interesting, and had thought and care put into their entries – Daniel’s blog was one of those. So I followed his blog for a couple of months as a silent reader until one day, he wrote in a blog entry that he was planning to visit Malaysia and yada, yada, you know the story.

It worked out really well. He became a close friend. My friends really liked him and co-opted him as the “token male” of the group. He also proved to be very beneficial during an unprecedented drinking debacle and we liked him even more (actually, this happened pretty much on the very first day so we were kinda working backwards from there).

Much to my surprise, tons of people around the world are doing the same thing. No, I’m not talking about drinking debacles although I’m pretty sure that is definitely going around everywhere, sans hot Swedish chicks (we can’t be lucky all the time, eh?).

I’m talking about Global Freeloading. It is also called by other names, and it even preceded the internet, but I do believe the term “global freeloaders” fits it best. Basically, it’s a network (usually free) that hooks up potential guests (travellers) and hosts from around the world. There are many sites that provide this network, including bootsnall.com, but I happened upon globalfreeloaders.com recently that coined the term, and I rather like the site’s simplicity yet apparent efficiency. You sign up as a member, and gain access to a network of people from all over who are willing to host you. In return, you are immediately added to the list of potential hosts as well. Sounds fair, eh?

I did a google search and came across these stories about the experiences of being a global freeloader:
Hello Stranger (Guardian Unlimited)
The kindness of strangers (Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel)
Living with strangers: A freeloader’s tale (Canoe Travel)

The concept of bunking with a local in a foreign country and being able to live and breathe their culture with them seems pretty intriguing. I have to admit that I am interested in trying the site out, especially if I were to visit expensive countries, such as in Europe. The drawback is the expectation that you would host fellow members, at your convenience of course. I wouldn’t mind it so much but then, I live with my family and I have to respect their need for space as well. I should have a fair idea of who these people are, before inviting them to my home. You do have an option of declining requests but it’s harder to make a decision when you only know them through e-mail. Daniel was different because I had felt that I had a pretty good sense of him as an individual through his blog (it helped that he was very prolific on-line as a blogger), and as we started corresponding, through his e-mails as well. Mind you, I didn’t invite him to stay with me until I actually met him in person and felt quite sure that he wasn’t an axe-murdering maniac.

As much as people insist that blogging is a facet of your multi-faceted life, it happens to be a significant facet that you have *chosen* to share on-line. So I think you get a pretty good sense of a person through their blog (goodness knows what you’re thinking of me through *my* blog).

Maybe the concept of global freeloading would work better if members/interested parties had blogs of their own, and you could read their blogs to figure out whether you could bear to host them or not. Just an idea – if you know of any site that works along these lines, let me know.

In the meantime, HERmail.net is a useful resource for women travellers. They connect females with wanderlust around the world. There are also some useful articles like “12 ways to trick thieves” and the “International Travel Tip Bazaar” (I particularly like the fashion tips!).

And here’s a travel journal that I once came across: ...this bridge will only take you halfway there.... She’s stopped travelling, and thus stopped updating her blog but the dated entries are still worth a read. She’s American of Burmese origins and recently returned to Burma to rediscover her roots. She was also in Kuching last year – imagine that! We had our tattoos done by the same tattoo artist; she opted for the traditional Iban flower tattoo, while I had a one-off: a twinning dragon-dog. I wish that I had stumbled upon her blog then. I would have loved to host her; she sounds pretty cool.

I also really like Erik’s The Global Trip 2004 blog. Definitely one of the best travel blogs out there. I like the way he writes (he actually puts a lot of effort and research into his entries; plus his sense of humour and laidback attitude towards life shine through) and there’s a lot of good photos as well. Erik’s an American of Filipino heritage, and travelling the world has been quite an experience, where most of the locals (from South America to China) think that he is one of them (until he starts speaking). I definitely recommend his blog and Daniel's, if you’re looking to live vicariously through a globetrotter’s life.

Hmm…. I should really reconnect with old pals that I’ve met over the years, who are scattered around the globe: Melbourne, British Columbia (doing that right now!), Ottawa, Portugal, Sweden (Siti, are you reading this??), Madagascar, Colombia, Hawaii, New Jersey (my relatives!), San Diego (also my relatives!), New York, Washington D.C., India, Guyana, there might be a few more places but these are the friends/relatives that I can remember at the top of my head. So when I think about it, I already have an exciting list of people I could freeload, I mean, stay with, around the world. And I happen to know for a fact that they aren’t axe-murdering maniacs either.

All I have right now is my passport, and a dream to see more of the world...


At 6:22 PM, Blogger Bertha said...

And don't forget the one in London. ;)

I actually know of someone who did that - the freeloading thing. Don't know him personally, but he's a good friend of a good friend. Met them in Amsterdam.

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Dee M said...

Ahh..we seem to be on the same dream.But I need to renew my passport soon.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Cayce said...

aaahh!!... I can't believe that I forgot London! Of all places... that's because I don't consider you as someone that I need to reconnect with.. You'd always be one of us, here or faraway!

But oh, definitely, I have you on top of my list of friends to freeload on. ;-) It'd be GREAT to meet you in London!!! Feel free to kick me out to the streets, whenever.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Cayce said...

dee: we better brush up on our spanish, eh? :-)

At 4:00 PM, Blogger mac said...

What an intriguing topic ! Actually I would open my house to strangers from far-away places.

After the prerequisite background check of course.

"So I think you get a pretty good sense of a person through their blog"

I agree with this one.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Jordan F. MacVay said...

I checked out Global Freeloaders and I love it! This is just the kind of thing I've been looking for. Leen and I have a spare bedroom in our house. It would be cool to have people from all over the world stay with us a few times a year. And having a free place to stay practically anywhere in the world? Yeehaah!


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