Monday, October 31, 2005

Gal Across America: calling all Bike Friday empty nesters

During my 10-day silent and gruelling Vipassana course my brain was doing so much unfettered plotting and scheming that I hatched a game plan for 2006 (2007, 2008 ...). See below.
Are you an empty nester?

Do you have a spare room or sofa where the Galfromdownunder, Bike Friday scribe and Customer Evangelist could lodge, experience your town, get to know you, do her travel slideshows and book readings - and *PAY* you something for the privilege?

I have been trying to come up with ways to experience more of the USA and meet more of the wonderful Bike Friday community without bankrupting myself or Bike Friday, and I suddenly hit on this idea: telecommute my way around America!

Most of my work is now done online - in fact, I am probably writing this from my bedroom or holed up in a cyber cafe in Botswana.

Many BF customers and friends have invited me to stay with them over the past 4 years - I've enjoyed every moment of these stays. I've even been able to reciprocate on some occasions.

I can offer:
  • $300 a month room rent or pro-rata of $10 a day
  • Low/no maintenance guestdom, covering all my own food and travel expenses, and contribute to the dinner table
  • to be as gregarious or as unobtrusive as you choose
I would need:
  • access to a fast internet connection to writing my daily (sometimes hourly) content and responding to 50-60 emails a day. This could be at a nearby wireless internet cafe
  • at least a 2-week to a month's stay to make it economically viable, given the expense of traveling to and from, and my desire to really get to know your town. Happy to spread this out over several hosts in the same town
  • a spot to roll out a sleeping bag
  • If you have are lucky enough to have a fab femme in your life, I will need to get the all clear from her via email or phone my cell 541-513-7711
I would ideally like:
  • To be somewhere warmish in winter and coolish in summer (don't we all want that...). It just means I probably wouldn't go for Alaska in January or Texas in high summer
  • to be near a place where you can buy a least a little bit of healthy/organic food, like tofu or tempeh. (Did you know that a soy protein diet has shown promising effects on baldness in the 30% of the population who have a certain bacteria in their stomachs ... just an aside, google it)
  • my immediate environment to be smoke-free
So as you can see, I won't be loitering about looking idle or waiting for you to entertain me - I'll be earning my daily bread just like you.

I would arrive with my laptop, my backpack and my transport - my Bike Friday.

I realize this will appeal to only a handful of households, and I look forward to meeting that handful.

Would you like to host me? I'm ready to buy a ticket!

Q&A

Q: $300 seems a bit light on - rents for rooms in my town are double that or more ...
A: I wish I could offer more, but I will be funding this plan entirely on my modest, unexpensed, Eugene salary - the Bike Friday principals have a perfectly good desk and chair for me at the fixed coordinate of 3364 W11th, Eugene, so this not their big idea. However, I should point out that for every night I stay, you can afford to buy a pair of BF socks; after 10 days, a GD folding rack, and after 1 month, a complete overhaul of your Bike Friday!

Q: We don't need your money. Just get your little wheels down here and stay with us.
A: Thank you very much - I'll still pay my expenses so as not to leave a hole behind me.

Q: '2 weeks to a month' sounds like a long time - you've heard the one about houseguests and fish?
A: I hope to attract hosts who will welcome me as a member of the family ... like an international exchange student. I mean, I look like one, don't I? For a two-week stay I will try to find a second host family in the same town.

Q: I don't have a guest suite but I'd like to host you.
A: All I need is a dry place to roll out a sleeping bag. My aim is to be low/no maintenance, and clean up after myself. Gold faucets and handclap-activated coffee maker not required.

Q: Do you have any allergies, food or otherwise?
A: I have to admit I eat very little meat, but am flexible. Pets ... if you have a hyperactive, licky dog that completely loses interest in me after 5 or 10 minutes, that's great. Kids are fine - I made the 'empty nest' statement only because I imagine those folks are more willing and able to accommodate me. If you have a VITAMIX --- you go right to the top of the list! Carrot, celery, apple, ginger, stevia - whizzed up with water every morning... keeps negative ruminations away.

Q: I am not sure my wife/spouse/girlfriend would appreciate you poking around our kitchen. In fact, I am not sure my wife/spouse/girlfriend would appreciate you being there at all.
A: Thank you for reading this far ...

Q: Great! I/my partner and I are seasoned travelers/cyclists and we'd enjoy hosting you and swapping tales. Ms says it's all fine by her. We could have a potluck at our place and invite local cyclists over, show them your travel slides, ride with our local bike club etc. We have hi-speed internet or there's a place really close by. We live in a part of town that you'll love. Where do we sign up?
A: Super! Tell me where you live, how to get there, approximately when you want me, and for how long. I am ready to add your dot to my map.

So there you have it - if you want me to come and spread some Aussie cheer in your immediate environs for a while, here I come!

FOOTNOTE: How did I come up with this idea? On day 3 of a ten-day, completly silent, non-religious, non-commercial Vipassana meditation course, my second in 10 years. I am heading to Kauai to serve students on the December course. There's probably a Vipassana center near you.


MAP OF HOMESTAYS



Click on map to see it bigger. Note: For business reasons I am not able to include Washington or California at this time. Thank you to those who offered - there will be another time. Because I am on the move I might not be able to respond to email immediately, but I will.

Update April 4-14: Now in Texas staying with folks in Austin and San Antonio.

Update Mar Update Mar 25-Apr 4: Arizona Desert Camp 2006 Report Lon Haldeman's training camp.

Update Dec-Feb 20: Galfromdownunder in Hawaii Chronicles Where I am a guest of Bike Friday owners on Maui, The Big Island and Oahu - read about them all.

Update Nov 5, 2005: Offers in Luis Obispo CA, Boulder CO, San Francisco, CA, Denver CO ... time to draw a map!

Update Nov 3, 2005: I am learning more about America without even setting foot outside the door! I now have 3 offers in Austin, TX alone! This confirms what I have heard about Texans being very friendly. They're from the fledgling Bike Friday Club of Austin and haven't even started riding together yet. And with 2 offers in Vancouver BC, I will at last see what people say is one of the world's nicest cities to live in... now if an Aussie could just stand living at that latitude in winter...

Update Nov 1, 2005: The response to my GAAM (apologies to Lon et al) has been wonderful. I have had 17 homestay offers in 2 days in the following places: Juneau AK, San Diego and Palo Alto CA, Atlanta GA, Honolulu HI, Ithaca NY, Lancaster PA, Austin and San Antonio TX, and Seattle WA. That's a good chunk of America I haven't seen yet! I might even make it a multi-year plan and just keep going round and round! The Juneau folks even enticed me with a link to a wonderful Juneau photo album which makes you want to go there in an instant. I am curious to see if I can get a dot in Boulder, CO, to find out if it's all it's cracked up to be ... more soon! Stop Press: I have an offer in Frisco, CO!

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