Rural: background, past and future
People in rural areas live a very different lifestyle to their urban neighbours. For a variety of reasons they tend to be less accessible to the passing traveler. Most traveling experiences outside of cities require the traveler to overnight in impersonal accommodations due to the lack of access to locals.
It needs to be understood that a rural hospex experience is unlike an urban one in that the realities of rural life are different to that of urban ones. People in rural areas are more likely to have a stronger connection with the natural world. They generally have more land and often utilize it as a means of sustaining themselves, either by using it to directly sustain themselves through food production, or to generate money in some other way.
With there being a world-wide shift in demographics away from majority rural to majority urban, it is important to acknowledge that previously all of humanity lived in a rural setting.
“Having traveled around the world and been to more cities than I can count, they all seem to blur together to me. What stands out most to me are the landscapes in the countryside’s I have traveled to.” Quote by Taylor Booth.
With the urbanization of the world cultures in cities are becoming blurred so that at first appearance it can be difficult to tell whether you are in New York or London, Hong Kong or Bangkok. Unique features of cultures are being lost in the rush to the cities. Often, they are only being preserved in the rural areas, where people still lead a traditional lifestyle.
Unfortunately many people are completely unaware of this. When they travel they go from city to city to city, flying the whole way in between, missing the most unique features of a culture that they are supposedly going to see.
Rural hospex seeks to fill the gap in between the cities, and to bring people together from different worlds, facilitating cultural exchange.
Rural hospex timeline
Rural Hospex started when Taylor was looking at a map of Australia in May 2007 and planning how to hitch-hike around. He realized that outside of the major urban centers there was very few rural hosts...but that there were still lots of people between. So then he started thinking about a way to network all the people in rural areas together, for people who would rather travel rural areas than urban areas. He first posted about in the following threads: Nomadic Ambassador Forum Ambassador Private Group (private, sorry)and in the Brainstorm Group. More discussion points were created in the Australian CS Organization 1 2 and the Ambassador Public Group before the with the wiki page being first created on December 18th, 2007 .
Eventually he realized that if he wanted the project to go ahead he would have to start it himself. On Feb 29, 2008 he created the Rural Couchsurfing Group. Through discussions in the group Taylor met Baptou and asked him if he was interested in working on the project together. They worked together to develop the wiki, created a poll and tried to get the project off the ground. Taylor was able to make contact with some members of the Leadership Team (then the title for the people who ran Couchsurfing). Discussions about possible including a way to search for rural couches directly in the couchsurf ensued, lasting from April until August. It was fraught with misunderstandings, lack of communication and mis-communication on the part of the 'Leadership Team'. At one point they were told it was a 'high priority' only for that to be a mis-understanding as well. Baptou and Taylor met at Clement's apartment in Grenoble, France to work on the project together. Finally it came through that the LT was on a completely different wavelength and then things started to move slowly again. Rural CS was brought up at the French Ambassador meeting that year so France Rural started to gather momentum then. The google maps were first started in January 2009 and slowly built from there. The Rural CS 'Team' Group was created on Mar 17, 2009 to try to bring people together interested on the project.
And for the future?
Well now things are going slowly, with both Baptou and Taylor unable to devote a lot of time to the project. They continue to try to build an international hospitality network and are trying to move the project to new levels with opening the project to members of all hospitality websites not just couchsurfing.org. Also the maps will hopefully be re-vamped so that google maps will no longer need to be used.