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September 27-October 4, 2006

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Syrun Quenel

First-time New Yorker: In 2003, Syrun made a three-month visit to New York, Washington and New Orleans. He'd never been to America before.

The Man Who Wants to Run the World ...

... and couch-surf along the way

By Rachel Stern


For Sylvain "Syrun" Quenel, 24, who left his hometown of Toulouse, France, at the age of 18 to jog around the world, couch surfing is a way of life. He has been using the CouchSurfing Project--as well as other free hospitality sites--to help him jog through over 37 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Canada, North America and South America.

In every city he visits, the ambitious Quenel tells mayors and the media about his possibly never-ending mission--to promote peace, tolerance and environmental protection--while keeping the public updated on his adventures at syrun.com.

Metro Santa Cruz managed to catch up with Quenel in Cork, Ireland, in one of the homes at which he was a guest. The Frenchman enthusiastically provided the following interview in broken English.

METRO SANTA CRUZ: Why did you decide to use the websites instead of staying at a hostel or camping out?

QUENEL: Good question. It's very good to meet the people of the country, to live in a family. In a hostel I meet other travelers, but I don't meet the local people. I was a guest in India so I could learn the Indian life, so I could eat the food with the family. It's very useful. In the future, I think [hospitality websites] will become bigger websites in every country in the world. It's cheaper, but we can participate towards [helping people make food], and teaching children a different language.

Do you feel the websites are safe ways to travel? Did you ever feel unsafe with the people you stayed with?

Oh, never, never. Sometimes, the first day, it's difficult to understand. Like, if it's in another language. Sometimes it's hard to organize where to meet. But safe, yes. Maybe more so for boys than for girls. Maybe for girls it's better to be with a boy. But it depends in which country. In European countries and North America, of course, it's always safe. Sometimes it was difficult to find the address, and sometimes they gave the wrong address and I had to stay at a hostel because I didn't--we didn't--understand how to meet. [Laughs] I speak French. For young people, it's very useful, and young people are not afraid. So for young people it's very easy to meet new people, to speak new languages.

What message are you trying to spread to people through your jogging journey?

I want to tell people to enjoy life. We are lucky to have life. We should take time to talk to people and focus on the nature around us. I think we should think less about money and think more about friendship and hospitality. To jog is very good for the self. Not everybody can jog for years. It's difficult, but maybe when people see me running, I can open their mind. Maybe they will think another life is possible. And with the websites another life is possible. Not with money, just with friendships.

How long do you plan to continue your run for?

It depends. Five years. Or maybe ten years. If I can, all my life. [On his website, Quenel states he plans to have run 150,000 kilometers (93.205 miles) through 200 countries within a span of 15 years.]

And you don't mind not settling into one life, or just staying in one place?

To jog is just another style of life. Not everybody can do it, [just as] few people can be a priest. Everybody can jog maybe five kilometers [3.1 miles] a day. It's good for oneself.

How many kilometers do you usually jog a day?

Oh yes, much more. Everyday between 25 and 30 kilometers [15.5 to 18.6 miles], and some days up to 50 kilometers [31 miles].

How do you get the money to continue supporting yourself?

Good question. The most important is the people who invite me everyday to stay and maybe [provide] dinner. Everybody invites me each day of the year, so it's very cheap. But of course the planes are difficult, so I have to work in many towns to pay the planes and the boats [when I need them to go between countries]. But [when I walk] I can go camping between villages if the distance is too much. But it's possible to live on just five dollars a day, just for food if people invite me into their homes.


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