I was asked, before, during and after, “why not just do this using couchsurfing.org? It’s set up for what you’re doing and you’d meet new and interesting people.”
Well, for one, I *did* meet new and interesting people anyway but this wasn’t so much what I was after. i really wanted to experience travelling through my social graph. When I was at university one of the courses I loved was Operations Research, including problems like the Travelling Salesman Problem. I think it was the simplicity of iterating over a set of rules that I find beautiful, but I was also aware that we were dealing with extreme abstractions. An actual travelling salesman would have all sorts of distractions and deviations – he didn’t just get up in the morning and set off like an automaton. So in a way, I was playing with this idea of traversing a network algorithmically as an intelligent agent, while acknowledging the complexity of real life travel.
[And when I write that, I become aware that for part of the audience the story just got way more interesting and for a bunch of others it became duller than ditchwater. Or maybe not. ]
So couchsurfing, yeah. I wanted to see what it was like if I did this with friends, people I already knew, rather than relying on a ready–made and well-prepared network of people who do this all the time. How does it feel for me to be a perpetual houseguest with people with whom I already have some connection, however tenuous, that was formed for some other purpose than this trip. What are the feelings, problems, delights that emerge for me? And then how does it feel for a host to have someone you know from the internet just popping up in your town, on your doorstep, in your kitchen, sleeping in your spare room? And then, when they’re gone, going back to normal and watching them do the same thing over with someone else, maybe sharing stories about you or even physical objects that you had in your hand yesterday.