In my early 20's, my first experience in a foreign country was a 2 week trip to Rhodes in Greece with a couple of good friends from school, sun, sea, sand and Ouzo was the order of the day, and so it was for many years after.
Next came a sudden change, I was made redundant but received a nice payoff, so went on a 3 week trip to Kenya, something I had been longing to do for ages, which sparked up the adventurer in me!
The next stage went back to the sun, sea, and sand, as I had a partner in tow, but I have never been one for lying on a beach all day, and you could always find me in the rock pools, snorkeling or combing the beach for things of interest!
Years flew by, and then I found myself all alone once more, but this time we had the wonders of the modern world to help us along, the Internet had opened up another universe for the intrepid traveller. Wiser and ready for a proper adventure, I searched for more trips and came across a 9 week trek round America and Canada.
This trip more than any other, left it's profound mark, not least because of the places I visited, but also because of the people I met along the way!
I met an English girl on this tour, and it was she who put me onto WAYN, Where Are You Now, an online travelling community, which has grown to host over 15 million members now, twice that of when I first joined over 4 years ago!
Thanks Gem, for introduced me to WAYN.
I never even contemplate a trip these days without consulting the huge WAYN database, donated mostly by it's members, it is the most up to date information you will find about flights, travel guides, travel tools, travel videos, the country, main cities, towns, where to go, what to do, what not to do, and where to stay, etc. etc.
All these extras are great for the budding traveller, but it is the friendships you make here that are priceless! I currently have nearly 200 friends on WAYN, and have never been disappointed when meeting any of them in person, in fact, this is the best thing about all my trips now, as I try to meet as many as I can, wherever I go!
My last big trip, was an 8 month round the world to 10 countries, and soon after adding the trip details on my WAYN profile, I started to receive messages from other members in those countries, especially from South America, giving advice on things to do and see, so I was quite busy for a while, writing back saying a big thank you and asking questions, before long, I had made many new friends and had several offers of personal tour guides when I arrive!
Well, I don't know about you, but it a wonderful feeling to have a friendly face waiting for you at the airport when you arrive, and that’s exactly what happened in 4 of the 10 countries I visited, plus I met with other members too, they were only too willing to share their cultures with me, showing me all the sites, taking me to find the nicest food, which trails and trips are the best, how much I should be paying for a room or taxi (some even let me crash at their place), basically, everything a good guide book should tell you, but more up to date and with a bigger smile.... lol.
As an active member, and keen Photographer, I remember writing to the founder members (Jerome Touze, Mike Lines and Peter Ward) about ratings and comments of members photos (before they had them), and lo and behold, they soon added this feature! This is so unlike many organisations, these guys actually listen to their members, and have recently asked what they could do to make the site a better place for everyone, this resulted in a new, leaner and cleaner looking experience, with many newly added features.
It is free to join, but if you wish, for an annual fee, you can become a VIP member which really does have it’s advantages, not least being the free multi-trip insurance!
They have even very kindly added a link to this site on their founders blog, so a big thank you guys, and keep up the good work!
Once in a while, you come across an idea where you think “why didn’t I think of that?”, well Couchsurfing is just one of those!
A simple idea, where members can search for a couch to sleep on when travelling to a foreign country. The Internet makes this easier to do today, as you have instant access to every member around the globe, and can search for a couch in the area your looking for, that’s not to say that every couch is available, it is completely down to the couch owner whether they accept you or not, you just have to ask nicely, and start a correspondence to win them over, that and have a great profile!
A lot of thought must have gone into the concept, as it could be a dangerous pass time for single travellers, but it is pretty much self regulating, members can get verified, and the more positive references one receives, the better chance you have of the couch owner accepting you to stay!
I have met many Couchsurfers, and all have had very positive experiences, making many new friends along the way, I guess if you’re the sort of person who offers a couch in the first place, then your probably a traveller too, and in my experience, they are already pretty nice people anyway!
As with WAYN, Couchsurfing is all about meeting people, and this is a wonderful way to give back as well as receive from fellow like minded people from all over the world, and the friendships you will make…………..will be priceless!