Before airBnB and with a broader ethos of culture and community, CouchSurfing was a network of open-minded people using the internet to create friendship and travel around the globe. I was hooked, I yearned to travel as long as I can remember but there were always other priorities. CouchSurfing was a way to experience people and cultures from other countries in my home; I gave people free reign in my kitchen and was rewarded with many fine meals, musical entertainment and stories of adventure. My first guests were a family of five, the parents taught Spanish and History, the children participated in an online school during the day and played instruments in the evening. When I had guests I placed an open invite in the Waterford community for potluck evenings and get-togethers.
I wondered why everyone wasn’t part of this wonderful Global organisation. I signed up as a volunteer; I managed the Waterford group, co-admined the New Members Welcome group and the Family Welcome group and took over populating the Family Google Map showing different colours for family numbers catered for. I learned KML through email from a CouchSurfer in Boston! (Keyhole Markup Language is an XML notation for expressing geographic annotation and visualization within two-dimensional maps and three-dimensional Earth browsers ~Wikipedia). I signed up to be the Waterford Ambassador and got on my soapbox with newspaper interviews, radio interviews, and helping online and locally in person with advice.
Through CouchSurfing I became interested in local tourism, often information was not readily available. I acted as tour guide to many visitors. I was hugely interested in connecting people and organisations and social media was a powerful way to do that. Tramore businesses were delighted with my visitors and many agreed to a 10% discount for the CouchSurfing community and free Stout tasters! I organised events day and weekend events incorporating many of the holiday activities on offer in Tramore. The traditional Irish music sessions in Tramore were a major hit with everyone, especially with the ‘City Invasion’ events and Hitchhiking around Ireland challenge. I worked with a diverse group of people both locally and from abroad in arranging these amazing experiences. I personally met a multitude of people, including hosting 350+ guests active in a vibrant cultural online network. I was becoming an aficionado on all things Tramore and Waterford tourism related and often wanted to share resources, that along with my interest in social media, led me to volunteer with Tramore Tourism.