Does anyone remember Couchsurfing? For those who don’t, it’s a website where you can meet other backpackers and the basic concept is that anywhere in the world you have a couch to crash on. It’s a great way of seeing the world for those on a budget, and offers the chance to hang out with locals in each place you visit. For more insight read Brian Thacker’s Sleeping Around; it’s great.

The reason I bring it up is because once, a long time ago, a young guy wrote to me from Aleppo, Syria, via the site. He was the “Ambassador” for Aleppo, which basically meant he had hosted a lot of couch surfers in his time, had a really good rating, and his passion was to show tourists around his hometown. Being 19 or however old I was, Syria wasn’t really on my to-do list yet, but I was really interested in what he had to say and I was fascinated and inspired by the passion he had for his home.

Of course, I can’t turn on the television, radio or internet now without hearing about the violence currently occurring in Syria and more recently Aleppo in particular. It always saddens me when these things go on, as they always do, and I have followed news on the Arab Spring closely (I’ve had to anyway because of my job). However, I think it’s so easy for us to be vaguely saddened by what’s happening but then to be able to ignore it because we have more important things to deal with right here.

I find myself thinking about this young man, so ecstatic about the city he was lucky enough to call home, and wondering where he is now and what he’s doing. I can only hope and pray he’s okay, and that he’s either fighting the good fight if that’s what he feels is right, or he’s in a much safer place. Either way, I hope he’s still teaching people about his country and reminding them of its place in the world.

He gave me a different perspective on a part of the world that was unknown to me, and for that I will be forever grateful. I hope thousands more are lucky enough to be given the same opportunity.

photo courtesy of Reuters