6.2 Contacts

Meeting people makes travel meaningful. The most rewarding experience is to see other people's city and country from their point of view -- it can keep you returning to the worst of places. I make plans now based on where I know people, and the corollary, if I don't know anyone there, I will have contacts by the time I get there. Likewise, if you are coming to Florida, please send me email, and I will try to meet you for lunch or dinner.

Some sources of contacts are friends, college students, and teachers. Another is the Hospitality Exchange Clubs listed at the bottom of this section. Write to your contacts, tell them who you are, when you will be in the area, and let them know that any consideration or hospitality they can extend you would be greatly appreciated. When you get there, call to see if they would like to have lunch together. There should be no expectation of staying with them, but don't be surprised if they offer. Be prepared to reciprocate for their hospitality and expect many penpals.

"This advice should be used very cautiously, as it can unintentionally be very unfair. There are some cultures, especially in the Middle East, where the laws of hospitality are so strong that people will beggar themselves to provide the level of hospitality that they feel tradition requires. I had friends working in Iran who had occasion to be on mountaintops frequently. They had to be very cautious for fear that the lonely shepherd and his family would kill their only milk-giving sheep to provide a sumptuous meal for their guests, etc.. So asking for 'consideration or hospitality' may be just the wrong thing to do. Surely OK in Western cultures, however, particularly amongst students or professionals. Although I am not sure what I would think if I got a note like that: probably that my family's traditions of hospitality obliged me to provide accommodation, meals and tours, etc. even if it were not convenient or easily affordable. So the concept is not necessarily limited to the Middle East." <Larry Cotter>

You will make many friends while travelling, and will probably also visit them when you get to their country. Likewise they will probably want to visit you. When you are given addresses, write them down in your book, then send the original piece of paper home by airmail every month or two. I have seen many people lose their address books, making it impossible to visit or contact any of the people they had met!

"When traveling, have business cards to give to others -- most fellow travelers will be crossing your home country at some point. Besides, it gives them a convenient way to keep your address (rather than on a scrap of paper)." <Alan Nelson>

"I have a personal calling card -- just my name, address, email, and phone number. If I ever meet someone in a non-work related way, it is convenient to give to them. But you might need business cards for another reason; I have been asked for mine by airport security in Rome, and passport control/customs/immigration types who see them as more proof of financial responsibility. <Miriam Nadel>


Hospitality Club Links
Couchsurfing
Global Freeloaders
HOSPEXerver
Hospitality Club
Hospitality Exchange: Home Visits Around the World
SERVAS

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