Call it uncanny online acumen or just ingenuous freeloading, but a sassy 24-year-old has set himself up on an around-the-world trip for free by begging on the Internet.
It's a familiar enough story: Young university student, bright, adventuresome, desperate to see the world. The only problem of course, was the money worry.
But here comes the twist. Ramon Stoppelenburg, a journalism student at the Windesheim University in Zwolle, Netherlands, decided to finance his trip by setting up a Web site asking people around the globe to put him up for a day.
Early last week, Stoppelenburg launched www.letmestayforaday.com, offering to write about people's hospitality in exchange for bed and board.
The response has been spectacular. In 12 days, over 11,000 invitations came in from around the world, more than 600 of which have been accepted, and still, the offers come pouring in.
Receiving offers from Argentina, Ghana, Ukraine, Brazil, New Zealand, India, Lebanon and the USA, have left Stoppelenburg overwhelmed. "I'm a little bit shaky right now," he said. "I was expecting maybe like two or three offers a day. But it's been more like two or three hundred invites a day."
Some of them, like a response from India offering him a roof for as long as he likes as well as an offer to show him around the entire subcontinent, have overwhelmed him. "What hospitality," he wondered aloud, "what hospitality."
For his part, Stoppelenburg has offered all his hosts a roof should they visit the Netherlands.
It all started during the Christmas holidays last year when Stoppelenburg was watching the Jenny Jones show. The guest that night was the founder of www.sendmeadollar.com, a site that asks for just a dollar to advertise on its message board.
"I thought getting money from the Web was a great way to travel around the world without having to work for a year," he said. "Then I thought of this idea, which was even better because I didn't have to ask for money."
At noon on March 12, www.letmestayforaday.com was born. Within two hours, Stoppelenburg had received his first invite — from a Dutch lawyer. The rest, as they might say, is a Web itinerary.
His parents didn't find the idea quite as ingenious. "My mother was like, 'What the heck are you doing?'" said Stoppelenburg. "I had to promise her I wouldn't die on the trip. My father, I had to promise I'd come back and complete my studies."
In customary 20-something bravado Stoppelenburg claimed he's not afraid of any perils the road may bring. "I could worry about the people who have invited me into their home, but they are more likely to be worried about me," he said philosophically.
A Mobile Phone, a Digital Camera and Airfares
Since Stoppelenburg intend to hitchhike across the globe, his financial needs are limited, but he is looking for corporate sponsors to take care of his most pressing needs: a mobile phone, a couple of airfares and a digital camera.
The latter he said he needs to upload images onto his Web site during his travels.
Three of his buddies have volunteered to look after advertising and sponsorships while he is away. But Stoppelenburg intends updating the site himself during his travels. Provided of course, his current corner of the world is connected to the Internet.
Although Stoppelenburg hopes to begin journeying May 2, he apologizes for not disclosing his travel plans. "The suspense needs to be there," he explained. "We need people to log on to the site to find out where I'm heading next. And frankly, my schedule these days has really been which media outlet is going to interview me at what time."