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Some questions and answers

> Hope you are doing fine... At the outset, I am V Kumara Swamy, a journalist > with The Telegraph, Calcutta, India... I am doing a story on the concept of > couch surfing and your friend Thomas Goorden recommended your name while > responding to my queries on the same. He said that since you are a fairly > frequent couchsurfer with some experience of India, you would be of great > help to me. > I thought an interaction with you would add immense value to my article. > I would be extremely grateful if you could take some time out and answer my > queries.. Hi Kumara, Ok. Great!
> Here's what i would like to know: > > 1) Please tell me a little bit about the journey of your couch surfing.org.. > How did you start..and which are the countries you have visited so far? How > many times have you come to India?

I have started using another website for hospitality exchange in April 2004.  Since then I've traveled extensively, mostly by means of hitchhiking and staying with local people - in Europe, South America, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South East Asia, China and currently the Middle East. I have traveled in India once, but that was in 2001, before online hospitality exchange was widely spread.  I had a completely different traveling experience, it was my first time out of Europe, so I was very unexperienced.  I spent 9 weeks in India though and I had contact with the local population, but I exclusively stayed in guest houses. However, I spent 2 weeks in Udaipur to learn sitar and the teaching space was inside the teacher's home - so I had food there and was even invited for a Hindu marriage ceremony.

> 2) Today, how many people are enrolled as couchsurfers. In which part of the > world is it more popular?
There are over 500.000 people involved in couchsurfing and other organizations.  From my experience it's definitely more spread in Western countries.  Even though there were no members in rural China when I hitchhiked there last year,  I have found it possible to find hospitality in most countries I've visited since 2004.
> 3) Has the concept of couchsurfing helped you getting in touch with more > people from around the world and how many times have you couchsurfed > yourself??
Definitely, I have stayed in people's homes on 6 continents, and I haven't exactly counted the number of times I've stayed with people, but it must have been hundreds. As a hitchhiker you often can't plan ahead where you end up and many people that I merely met at gas stations while asking for a ride have offered me a place to sleep. Even though it's not the major reason for couchsurfing the aspect of free accommodation has also allowed me to keep on traveling for extended periods of time - especially in combination with the free transport of hitchhiking and my IT skills, that have allowed me to easily find volunteer work in countries such as Mali and Peru.
> 4) At the time when the world is facing economic meltdown..do think > couchsurfing is like a boon? Are more and more people taking advantage of > this concept?
In affluent countries there is still so much waste and under-allocation of resources (empty rooms, empty seats, food in dumpsters, and so on), I consider couchsurfing as a way to turn unused space into an occasion for people to share experiences and culture. The economy going down might lead people to more efficient ways of using resources (and my contributions to that are hitchwiki.org and trashwiki.org).
For the short periods of time that I have had a more sedentary lifestyle - renting an apartment and working a day job - my guests were free to use anything they could find in my fridge (which is usually chockfull).
> 5) Please tell me about a good experience you had via couch surfing..that > made you really feel good?
Recently I have hitchhiked from Amsterdam to Jerusalem, through Turkey, Syria and Jordan.  For this trip I decided not to use couchsurfing, but I still experienced amazing hospitality.  In Romania a woman I randomly met in a local bus invited me to stay at her home - after I had spent 36 hours on the road.
The trucker who took me to Istanbul from the Turkish border helped me find my way in the city, when he left other random strangers continued helping me find my way and (since I hadn't acquired any Turkish money yet) pay my bus tickets right up to the front door of a friend with whom I was going to stay.  He was not home and his Kurdish neighbors who barely spoke English invited me to wait in their home, offered me food,  and I fell asleep on their couch and I woke up there the next morning. Muslim hospitality can be overwhelming.
> 6) Please tell me about your experiences as a couchsurfer in India? Where > all have been in India, and tell me a bit about your hosts and the > experiences. It would be really great if you could recount one interesting > couchsurfing experience in India.
Unfortunately I don't have any experiences as a couchsurfer in India. I am looking forward to go back to India some day though.  And though I've successfully hitchhiked almost anywhere I am a bit worried about the possibilities of hitchhiking in India.
> 7) What do you do otherwise..please send me a few details..
I hold an MSc in mathematics and work as an internet consultant (here and there, now and then), but most of my online time goes into non-profit wikis and other forms of social use of the internet (though I recently started two wikis with which I want to make some money: visawiki.org and cashwiki.org).  The internet offers new modes of sharing, both online and in real life. CouchSurfing is one way.  (I've volunteered for the couchsurfing organization for 9 months, but I'm not very happy with the direction chosen by the couchsurfing leadership.)  I think we will see much more of this in the coming years, online systems for coordination that allow people to live their lives in more pleasant ways (check e.g. groundcrew.us).  Besides that I love learning languages and the restriction of only 10 languages on couchsurfing profiles is a bit annoying ;)
> I would be extremely grateful if you could reply as early as possible as I > have a very short deadline....
Ok.  Good luck! namaste, Kasper