As of lately, I have been following the demise of the two major hospitality networks, CouchSurfing and HC. In search for the "better alternative", I have stumbled upon this community.
Basically, the idea behind this post is to fully understand what the board of directors and volunteers of BeWelcome have envisioned for it.
The reason? I want to know how things stand before I decide wether it is appropiate or not for me to volunteer in this particular project.
Along the way, I've picked up several concerns may be worth sharing with you:
Unity. In my opinion, the earnest cultural exchange travelling community should have a single home.
I want to stop here for a second and make the phrase above very clear. I am only speaking in behalf of those persons who somehow understand the value of the following quote, which needless to say, I found in a BW member's profile:
“Those who visit foreign nations, but associate only with their own country-men, change their climate, but not their customs. They see new meridians, but the same men; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untravelled minds.” - Charles Caleb Colton
For the sake of not getting off topic, persons seeking free accomodation and so forth, are not addressed by this post. Anyhow, back to unity...
The reasons for suggesting it are simple. Take diversity for instance. How can we (earnest cultural exchange travellers) possibly reach all the incredible people scattered all around the world if we have to dig through several networks? Richness comes from diversity, and here many of you will probably say "ha! you are contradicting yourself". I however, believe that is it more appropiate to have a single, unified network which holds within it a greatly diverse and thus rich community, than a diverse string of networks which are ultimately not so diverse, let alone rich, in the interior.
Another benefit worth noting is the optimization of volunteer efforts. Having a single network means that all the efforts and money spent by the great volunteers involved will be maximized. No need to improve the software of each network, pay for the expenses of each, etc. We cannot forget that the sole reason for which a number of people decide to devote their time and/or money to keep any said network running is because they want to continue engaging in meaningful travelling experiences.
And while working and volunteering is very rewarding, I'd like to think that the priority rests in the above, and that working/volunteering is a by-product of it, and not the other way round. Ask yourselves, where do you want the majority of your time be spent?
Also, it has become very clear that many of you are frustrated about having spent all that time, all that dedication, working for HC and/or CS and have it ultimately go wrong. I symphathize with that feeling. Though I personally did not volunteer for HC or CS, I have done so in other types of communities (non-hospitality related) and I know what it's like to have all your efforts just fade.
Security is very important. Some of you have had bad experiences throughout your time hosting or being hosted, some of you may have only heard of it. The thing is, by having a single network, the risk of bumping into not-so-nice people is greatly diminished. If anyone is to ever abuse any member(s) in any way or form, he/she/they can be easily singled out and the community made aware of. Otherwise, these "perpetrators" would just jump from network to network, abusing the trust and generosity of those unlucky enough to host them or be hosted by them.Quality over Quantity. I'm sure most of you are not on the search for numerous experiences, but quality experiences, regardless of how many they turn out to be. I second such feeling. Some of you have clearly expressed your desire to keep a low profile, to avoid falling into the mainstream category. I also agree. I have heard suggestions regarding how this should be achieved. Many of these included "being non-appealing to the mainstream". I think however that it would be unwise to be "what they don't like", trying to avoid them, instead of just focusing on what "we want". There is a great saying that goes:
Let's not bother ourselves with what we do not wish to have and rather worry on what we do. I mean...think about it this way. By speaking of meeting up persons you do not know, you are already leaving out 99% of the planet's inhabitants who are not keen on opening their homes to complete nobodies. And then, by being even more selecetive, that is, focusing on quality over quantity experiences, you really shouldn't worry about being mainstream...
Here is where all of the things mentioned above relate. By having a highly diverse, rich and secure community, we are closer to having quality over quantity experiences than ever before.
Like with most things in life, nothing is fool proof. No one can guarantee that any community will be 100% perfect, but so long as the vast majority shares the same idea, vision, dream, or whatever it is that you want to call it, I'm sure things will work out just fine.
On the risk of sounding selfish...
If BeWelcome is somewhat open to such ideas, I'd love to apply immediately for a volunteering position and get to work right away, otherwise I shall go where my beliefs lead me =)
Having said that... I encourage the leaders and volunteers to answer the initial question, and anyone to see beyond the envelope and give feedback on the essence of the message itself.
Thanks to all for reading
A concerned traveller...Germán Campos