Some years ago I heard about and joined a Hospitality Club, which is a sort of social-networking site aimed pretty much at the twenty-something backpack traveller crowd looking for sofas or spare bedrooms to stay in. Although I’m way past my back-pack traveling days, I still like the idea of having a host family waiting for me should I decide that the time has finally come to visit, say, Gabarone. And should a Gabarone-er ever succomb to the urge to try skiing the mountains of Central Montana, I’ll be more than happy to make his or her acquaintance. As I said, a cursory search of the site’s members reveals a murky sea of twenty-ish guys, some of whom are certainly trolling for babes, but there is also a steady, if sparse supply of others who are clearly in it for the cultural exchange.
I’ve only hosted one traveller so far, but that’s not too surprising considering where I live. Its not exactly a hubub of activity around here, and its not even on the way to any hubub worth naming. As a matter of fact, the one fellow I hosted went out of his way to visit me, or he would have, had he really had a way or an itinerary. He was just out of high school, and out to see the world. He cruised around Canada for a few months, stopped in to see me, then took off for Australia. There he worked on a variety of organic farms as a way to see the country, learn some techniques and rub elbows with like-minded hippie-freak, tree-hugging, career-neutral types. He was the kind of young man this world could use a lot more of.
He was planning to also go to Nepal for a few months and work on organic farms there, so the fact that my profile listed Nepal on it along with organic farming meant he had to visit. When I learned of his plan, I immediately began preparing him a Nepli meal, which I served to him on the floor, and we ate with our hands. He was impressed. And bright red and sweaty from the chillies. I had to make it as authentic as possible, didn’t I? While he was here, he read Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburnt Country” pretty much in one sitting, since it is all about the sundry, multifarious and suprising ways in which one can be killed or injured by Australia’s flora and fauna. He maintains a blog, and I encourage you to visit it at : http://amorytarr.blogrunn.com/
Now, from the other end of the spectrum, I’ve gotten this letter, and I’m looking forward to another visit.
>the member balajiraobk from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India sent you this message from the Hospitality Club website:
>Warm Greetings from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
>Myself and my wife Tamara Gour (59/56) will be in USA with my son’s family in Naperville, Illinois. During our prolonged stay for about 6 months (May 08 till November 08) we are planning to explore USA. We love to spend time with people of the place, to have a glimpse of the way they live, their culture, their food and of course many beautiful places around them.
>We are friendly, young at heart, fun loving couple. Not fussy and can get adjusted to any kind of environment, food or place, when there are people with real human feelings around us. We love the cultural and historical aspects of places, natural beauty, local cuisine.
>Generally many parents of Indian origin, move around USA with their children, and have a very little exposure to real people of USA. And from their side, children too are scared to let loose their parents in an unknown land. But, may be we are a little adventurous in this aspect and would like to move around, with backpacks, using some economical transport, trains and buses etc., (I doubt about my children allowing me to drive around, even though I will be having International Driving License) to see the real beauty of USA and its people, may be for periods of around 3 weeks each time.
>Frankly speaking we know very little about USA. So big a country, so many places of interest. But unfortunately, it is such a vast country, it is impossible to see everything in a life time, hence should be choosy. We will plan depending upon the recommendations and hosting of HC members, places we can cover, weather, time at our disposal, and our interests.
>If, We chance upon being in your place, We shall be thankful if you could kindly provide us two to three nights place to
>sleep, and spend some valuable time of yours to advise us to see the best of your place.
>We will finalize our itinerary based on your suggestions, convenience in travel with in USA, budget transport, response from HC members. I think we can finalize our plans some where between February/May 08.
>We will appreciate your response.
>Balaji Rao BK/ Tamara Gour