Would you ever seek or share free accomodations?

In my opening blog, titled “No Vacancy,” I discuss hospitality exchange services such as couchsurfing.com that involve accommodation sharing through home stay networks, also referred to at times as hospex. After more in-depth thought and review of a very comprehensive blog: http://allthatiswrong.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/a-criticism-of-couchsurfing-and-review-of-alternatives/, I am a bit torn with this concept.

While hospitality exchange services provide a social network for world travelers to save money on lodging and the perfect opportunity to interface with different cultures worldwide, it appears, as happens to many things in life, to have become a target of scams, misrepresentation, and corruption. This is in addition to the obvious concern for personal safety and the potential predator – prey threat that accompanies this activity. The blog by allthatiswrong.com criticizes the content, fee-based services, staff members and management of couchsurfing.com, but not the activity itself. While this may sound like a personal vendetta from a dissatisfied customer, it ultimately proves to be a very thorough examination of the entire concept.

As I attempt to construct a comprehensive traveler’s connection site, I want to hear what others feel and think. Many of us would be willing to brave the obvious concerns with this activity for the opportunity to experience the world and its wonders on a meager budget or welcome someone in, just to share their adventure. Some sites, like homeexchange50plus.com advocate exactly what their title infers, no personal social interaction, only a temporary living site exchange.  Whatever the case may be, give me your thoughts. Should I stay focused on connecting RV’ers to homeowners willing to share a space on their property or include both, regardless of the potential dangers and controversy?

Partial list of Hospitality Exchange Service Sites mentioned in the allthatiswrong.com blog:


No Vacancy!

Tired of full campgrounds, expensive resorts, long range reservation planning? Most summers are lucky if they last 12 weekends (weather permitting).  With 312 million potential travelers in the U.S. alone, competing for prime camping sites is getting more and more aggravating every year.

During these stressful times, getting away for the weekend is important. Finding out you thought about the idea late and no vacancies are available is disappointing. My husband and I like to be spontaneous. We dread having to plan ahead for months to reserve a camping spot at our favorite get-aways. Invariably, some last minute issue causes a change of plans and we have to cancel our reservation, knowing that another spot is unlikely to come available for weeks, if at all, for the season. With more and more baby-boomers retiring, along with the general increase in our population, the current amount of camping sites at State Parks, National Parks and even public and private resorts are very limited.

Often times we have family and friends that want to come over and visit. Our house is rather small, but fortunately, we have room in our yard to accommodate a visiting RV (or two). We just run an electrical extension and hose out and we even have a long coax so they can watch television. It was after one such visit that we began thinking about how to extend this arrangement to others.  In these difficult economic times, reasonable compensation for such amenities could be advantageous to the travelers as well as a homeowner, but how do you start such a process? Get people talking. Provide a forum and let them be creative. I am sure there are plenty of homeowners along the way to Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Disneyworld and the Smithsonian, to name a few, willing to share a comfortable spot for a reasonable fee.

From interstate travel, we expanded our thoughts internationally. I am from the Philippines. When my husband came to visit me before we were married, he made traditional reservations ahead of time. At that time, the exchange rate was 52 Filipino Pesos to 1 American dollar. Using the Internet my husband reserved a room at an advertised hotel in the area and paid the tourist rate (much higher than the local rate). I quite easily found him suitable accommodations in the spare bedroom of a very nice home at a fraction of the cost. This made us think about all the students out there that would love to travel, but have limited funds for food and lodging. It would be quite simple to arrange bed-and-breakfast type accommodations through a social connection site. After all, life is all about socializing, all we need to do is provide the appropriate venue.

Please share your thoughts. We would like this site to evolve into a useful tool to world travelers. There is already a site called CouchSurfing.com and probably others that promote the theme of hospitality hosting. However, we would like to combine interstate RV/camping alternatives with the more personal international hospitality service, onto one connective site.