Friday, March 4, 2011

Hospitable persons' clubs

Berto and Lily - my first guests



Thousands of people who travel around the world don't worry about the accommodation and what's more: meets new friends. How? Thanks to online communities, such as Hospitality Club and CouchSurfing. These initiatives of the people fond of Internet and traveling were established several years ago. They deserve to be called reliable. When a few years ago, a German student Veit Kühne invented a way of contacting people who are ready to offer free accommodation to those who seek it, he probably didn't expect that his idea would gain so much popularity. Today, the HC has nearly 330,000 members in 207 countries. CouchSurfing, working in the same way, was created in 2003. It has more than two and a half million members in 246 countries. This is what I call impressive!
I had many opportunities to use either one or the other. I hosted travelers from the United States, Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, Malaysia, Sweden and Spain and other, but also from Poland.

How does it work?

You need to log in and create a profile (some may be hidden from other users). You can offer free accommodation, guided tour of the city or just a meal. Guests don't have to reciprocate. You may find that your host doesn't even want to travel to your country. The rule: Today I'm hosting you, tomorrow someone will host me.
The project is carried out without money. Site and database management in dozens of languages, including Polish, is due to hundreds of volunteers. It works this way: you send a message to another person via the website. You should include your name and the details of the journey you're planning. HC requires that you also indicated the number of passport, which as I understand, is a way to make the guest more reliable. When you arrive the host should check the document.
Potential host browse a profile of the future guest, reads comments about him posted by those who have had contact with him. Having this knowledge, you can decide whether you can and wants to host that person. Passport number is given later, when discussing the particulars. Sometimes it's not given at all.

Not only accommodation, but meeting people

I found out about the Hospitality Club by accident. I became interested in it because I love to travel. I took a chance. My first guests were Berto from Spain and Lily from France. They both were working as volunteers in the Czech Republic. Being so close to Poland, they decided to visit Cracow. It was a very interesting experience. I admit that at the beginning I approached the HC suspiciously. I wondered how the system works. I've found out that it works well. I've had only positive experiences. However, sometimes it's otherwise, as evidenced by the opinions given some hosts or guests. Well, such a risk always exists when we're confronted with strangers.
In my opinion, which is shared by many people, the biggest benefit of HC and CS is not free accommodation – although it's important because you can save money for other expenses, such as sightseeing. It's important also that you can talk to people from other cultural and traditional backgrounds.
It's really a huge advantage of such clubs over hotels and guesthouses. In addition, the host may advise visiting or watching something that has local flavor and is exciting, and what can't be found in the guide or is treated there perfunctorily.

Travels for peace

Both travelers club's (they deserve such a name) owe their success to the belief that enabling people to meet and foster friendships will help to deepen the understanding between individuals coming from different cultures, and thus to consolidate peace in the world. They have many members in places like Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Chechnya, Rwanda and Timor. Their creators were inspired by the idea that people, while traveling, will meet and build supra-cultural understanding through direct, personal contacts.



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