Hitching a World-Wide Ride on Web
by Leander Kahney
Ramon Stoppelenburg puts his travel
bug on the Web.
A penniless student plans to travel the world and has
created a website to persuade people around the globe
to put him up for free.
Ramon Stoppelenburg, a journalism student
from Holland, launched Letmestayforaday.com
this week and already has dozens of offers from accommodating
"Some people work for years and save
the money to go everywhere," said Stoppelenburg
from his home in Zwoller. "I want to do the same
thing but without the budget."
Thanks to coverage in the local media,
Stoppelenburg already has dozens of offers of places
to stay in the Benelux countries surrounding Holland.
And links from the weblogging community have attracted
offers in North Africa, the Middle East, Australia,
India and the United States.
One guy from Chicago said he could stay
as long as his wife didn't object. And if she did, hell,
he'd pay for a hotel.
Another American, a yacht owner, has offered
to sail Ramon wherever he wants to go.
"People have been great," Stoppelenburg
said. "I'm really optimistic. The people who invited
me are Web freaks."
In an exercise of frugality and self-sufficiency,
Stoppelenburg plans to hitchhike between stops.
"I won't take boats or planes,"
he said. "It will just be me and my thumb on the
He leaves May 1.
"I can vouch for his sanity,"
said a friend, Caroline Van Oosten de Boer, a weblog
publisher. "He's a really nice guy, quite shy,
very enthusiastic, a happy-go-lucky kind of bloke."
Naturally, his parents are worried sick.
"I am not very enthusiastic,"
said his father Jan, speaking from his home in a small
village outside Rotterdam. "He mostly has very
wild ideas, but I must say they mostly work out also."
Jan Stoppelenburg said his wife "feels
terrible. She thinks he will die or be murdered or kidnapped.
She is very anxious about him."
He will offer him some fatherly advice
before he leaves, but is assured by Ramon's confidence
in the connections he has made over the Net.
"He is really typical of young people,"
his father said. "He really believes in the Internet.
He believes it's the future."
Stoppelenburg's itinerary depends on where
he's offered accommodations.
"I really don't know where or how
long I will go. Maybe after three weeks I will be exhausted.
Maybe I will be gone for three years," he said.
The 24-year-old will make good use of
his experience by writing about it on his website. He
hopes to kick start a journalism career.
He's certainly media savvy. He sparked
interest in the European media by sending out press
"It's like creating hype for myself,"
he said. "I'm very interested in the media."
"If people want to sponsor me with
clothing or communication equipment, that would be great,"
he added. "If I get media exposure on TV, that
would be pretty good for a sponsor also."
He got the idea from watching talk show
host Jenny Jones. A recent show featured successful
Internet entrepreneurs. One guest had created a website
encouraging people to send him a buck and had raised
a few thousand dollars.
"I wanted to travel, but I have no
money for travelling -- so instead of begging for a
buck, I can beg for a place to stay," Stoppelenburg
He's not particularly concerned about
safety. If anything, he's more worried about hitchhiking
than staying with strangers.
"On the road, you never know who is going to give
you a ride," he said. "But I really don't
have big concerns about it. I can tell at first sight
whether or not I'm going to stay somewhere."
His only precaution is staying in regular contact with
friends at home who will be updating his website.
"If anything happens on the road and they don't
have any contact with me, they could publish the name
and address of the place I'm staying and tell the police
to get me out of there," he said.