Sunday, September 14, 2008

hard to live in the city

I'm trying to make this connection about human nature, so read this one out. I intern at Student Traveler magazine and I've been assigned to write four country profiles: Argentina, Ireland, India, Holland. Part of the assignment is to ask actual locals from the assigned countries about what are the best places to go and things to see, the point being a local knows way more about their country than someone who has never been there. To do this I created a profile on (BTW, awesome site, check it out, sign up, and can I sleep on yo' couch??) and found and messaged about 40 natives from the respective countries this query: 

Subject: Question
Message: Hi, I'm with Student Traveler and we are doing a write up on your country based on where locals go to see and do in their own country. I know there are probably a ton of things to do in your city and country, but if you have a short list, we will publish them as highlights in our next print issue (out in a few weeks) and mention you. Also if you have any photos of you and/or guests that have stayed with you in your country, can you forward them to me for possible publication. I look forward to your reply. Thanks.

I got about THREE completely useless responses in two days' time. I messaged people who have 100% response rates and seemed perfectly friendly. I even joined groups of the respective countries and posted the same thing with the same dismal responses. Who wouldn't want to be published and their pictures put in a magazine??

Deadline approaching and desperate for some replies, I changed my game plan entirely. So just this morning I sent about 60 other people this message:

Subject: Can you help me?
Message: Hi there! I'm about to go to your country soon, and since you're a local, I was wondering if you could send me a short list of places you like to go, places you like to see in your own country. It can be clubs, places to eat, hidden treasures, anything! Thanks, Lorraine.

I've received 20 thorough and helpful responses in the space of 4 hours. And counting! What's going on here?? I'm the same person asking the same information, minus the fact that I'm using their responses and pictures for my articles. I guess the CouchSurfers would rather help out a newbie traveler than a silly intern sucking their soul of information they don't want shared with the Student Traveler readership. 


People, from Argentina to India, don't like it when their hidden treasures become public knowledge. Like the time I witnessed folks nodding their heads with musical familiarity to "Kids" at a frat party one night and another frat party the night after. A one too many "I love this song!" & "Me too!" combos later, I stopped liking MGMT. I mean, these people routinely praise "Jumper" and that damn Journey song with the same enthusiasm. And imagine the disdain when I learned that Albert Hammond Jr., my latest fascination, can be found on the Gossip Girl soundtrack. What I was doing at said frat parties and why I was going through the Gossip Girl soundtrack shall not be discussed. 


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