Interview with Ramon Stoppelenburg: The Godfather of CouchSurfing

Travel Interviews: Michael Yessis talks to the internet's first travel celebrity

What kind of traveling have you been doing since LetMeStayForADay ended?

Since LetMeStayForADay I have traveled the more normal way, by actually paying for flights and places I stayed at. I have traveled to Cuba and Egypt, and last year I went to Indonesia and Tanzania. Up next are parts of South America and I am very curious to see Iran.

But still I don’t want to be that guest in an international hotel chain with my room number as my main way of identification. I prefer small homestays or hostels to get as much contact with the locals as possible.

In the headline, I refer to you as the Godfather of CouchSurfing. What do you think of CouchSurfing and other similar sites on the internet that share DNA with your project?

Well, it was all in the beginning of this century that more and more people got to understand the possibilities of the internet. It wasn’t one-way communication as most companies thought at first. We could actually share things, exchange things. And then it’s quite imaginable that a few people came up with the online hospitality exchange.

The purpose of my internet project was to stay with locals who could share with me a meal and a place to sleep. I basically lacked the wallet full of money and I did not mind that at all. In return I wrote extensive reports about these days.

Currently, I am one of the local Ambassadors of CouchSurfing in my hometown, Amsterdam. And with that comes the fun to get the same requests by fresh young travelers who just discovered the whole exchange idea: they honestly say they prefer to stay on couches with the locals and share experiences than to stay in a hotel.

And they save lots of money with it, especially if you compare one night at the hotel would be priceless with staying a week with a local that welcomes you, invites you along and shows you around when possible.

What are you doing now?

I once was stuck at an office with a contract for one year and all the benefits that come along with working 40 hours a week. I almost mentally died. That’s not how my life should be filled, I figured out.

I decided to do only fun things in life. Since my life as a “global freeloader” I have had all kinds of jobs: I have been a DJ, manager of a bar, radio host of a travel show on Dutch Radio 1, relaxation masseur, internet editor, tour guide, photo model, portal manager, teambuilding coach and online marketing specialist.

I am currently active as a freelance media producer, internet consultant, blogger and photographer. I prefer to have various clients to keep me occupied in the many fields concerning the internet.

Next to that I run my private tour company ExpeditionKilimanjaro. I organize climbs up Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I climbed that highest mountain of Africa myself earlier this year.

My spare time I fill up as a writer, anthologist of travel stories, webmaster and commercial model.

My motto is to work smarter, not harder. I tell my clients that I don’t work more than 20 hours a week for them, but they don’t have to regret that because I can produce 40 hours of work if everything goes efficiently enough. And with these demands I am able to travel about for a few weeks every two months. And that inspires me again in so many other things. I don’t know clearly what the near future might bring but I love it.

2 Comments for Interview with Ramon Stoppelenburg: The Godfather of CouchSurfing

Sophie 02.03.09 | 4:12 PM ET

Cool interview, cool guy.

I wish I were the kind of person who could imagine doing this kind of thing, it was clearly a rich experience. But I need a door to close at the end of the day. Even hostels are too much interaction for me.

AndreyM 02.04.09 | 3:40 AM ET

You have done a great things with the Internet and with your life. As to me I want with these two things - the Internet and my life - to become a millionaire

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