There’s a school of thought, today as in the past, that sees travelling as noble: The more you travel, the better you are as a person. It broadens the mind. It gives you an understanding of other cultures, enhances your emotional, intellectual, and social skills. It’s good for you, and for others, if you travel. Is this true? I would like to suggest a debate. I have many questions, even more doubts, and almost no answers.
Is travelling the new colonialism? Isn’t “travelling” just a luxury concept, restricted to the small percentage of the world population that own the large percentage of the world wealth?
Is it morally justifiable at all to travel for fun, especially to fly, in the face of global warming?
Do we have a duty to “offset” the emissions caused by our travelling, by making a corresponding donation? Or is it cynical to establish a “right to pollute” for those who can afford an offset payment?
When we encounter poverty and suffering where we go, does that give us responsibilities?
Do we change the places we go to? For better, for worse? Can this mean it would be better not to go? At least not to certain places, or in certain ways?
Isn’t hospitality networking ultimately just a way of extending the privileges of those already better off, by making their money go even further? Is the world really going to be “better” because of millions of white, male, heterosexual, not gainfully employed, under 25s, middle class, with higher education, from North America or Europe, visiting the rest of the globe, without spending much money there? Isn’t it really just an exclusive golf club type thing?
Why are 80% of signed up Couchsurfing users from North America or Europe? Why are so many active Couchsurfing users in the rest of the world expatriates from North America or Europe?
What would be necessary to make hospitality networking equally interesting to people from other continents? What are the cross cultural borders that prevent people from other cultures to become equally involved? Can it be that people from other cultures don’t like to talk about themselves that much in their profiles? Can the positive and negative feedback options be contrary to what they are used to? Can the dominance of traditional colonial nations and races just be scary?
What does travelling to the 1st or 2nd world mean for people from the 3rd world (and what about these numbers)? What does it mean to go to a rich place where the legal minimum hourly wage is what you make in a day or week?
I’ll stop here, and open the field for others, to come up with answers, or more questions. In the middle of all political controversy about how to run a show like Couchsurfing, I would really love to have an open debate about the underlying concept of travelling as such. Just one more question:
Is Opencouchsurfing usership possibly even less diverse than Couchsurfing?