If anyone deserves to be called The Godfather of Couchsurfing, it’s Dutch author Ramon Stoppelenburg. He grasped earlier than most the personal networking opportunities made possible by the world wide web.
One of the first Dutch bloggers, in early of 2001 Stoppelenburg started a website called Let Me Stay for a Day with the intention of cadging free places to crash as a means of underwriting his travel ambitions. The plan worked out better than he could have anticipated: in short order, he had 3,577 invitations from 77 countries. Leaving home with no more than “a backpack filled with clothing, a digital camera, a laptop, and a mobile phone,” for nearly two years, as he writes in Dutch-inflected English, he “traveled the world WITHOUT ANY MONEY, visiting people who invited me over through this website. I crossed distance with my thumb or with help of sponsors and supporters. In return for all support I wrote about this all in my daily reports on this website.”
By the time he shut down the project in 2003, Stoppelenburg had visited The Netherlands, Belgium, France, England, Austria, The Isle of Man, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, Spain, Hong Kong, Australia and Canada, with all expenditures — even airline tickets — sponsored or donated by his followers: the former student, then in his mid-twenties, had found a way to become a seasoned world traveler for the cost of a $35 website domain registration.
During his travels, Stoppelenburg published columns weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper Spits, in addition to the 7,000 photos and over 550 reports he posted to his website. You won’t be surprised that Letmestayforaday.com turned into a book that the author is currently translating into English. Since June 2008, he’s been conducting walks up Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. And in September 2010 he relocated to Phnom Penh, where he runs a movie theater showing American and European pictures and is organizing a European Cooking Trip for the summer of 2011. He posts updates on his activities to his current blog.
Some of the American media may think of Ramon Stoppenlenburge as “the notorious Dutch freeloader,” but out here on the road he’s a hero to detourists and armchair adventurers all.
Site: Let Me Stay for a Day