Wednesday, September 20, 2006 an American "Donkey Friends"?

I recently attended a tourism research conference in Singapore, some of the papers from which are appearing on the Geography for Travelers podcast. One of the things that I learned about, through two different researchers, was the Chinese concept of Donkey Friends. In Mandarin Chinese, the words Travel and Donkey have the same sound ("lyu"), though the tones are different. Because of this, the word Donkey has come to applied to a distinctly Chinese for or "backpacker" travel.

Using a social software travel website, the Head Donkey posts a notice that he or she is going to organize a trip on a certain date to a certain destination, and asks if anyone wants to join. Other Donkeys sign up by responding to this post. The trips are self organized and catered to save money, and everyone has their backpack. Like other tour groups, there are expected standards of behavior and role differentiations (some of which are along gendered lines), and people develop friendships that last beyond the one trip. Apparently the Chinese media has cautioned about the the potential dangers of traveling with strangers. Searching for information in English on Donkey Friend Travel online, however, did not result in anything that I could find.

This type of travel has not, to my knowledge, been very common in the US. Tripmates. com, however, may hope to change that. Tripmates is a new social travel site that share a lot in common with other social travel sites, such as, and, all of which I have used in the past, and the new This includes asking and sharing information about destinations and blogging about trips. What is different with Tripmates is an explicit focus on meeting new people. According to the website you can:
  • Find a trip buddy so you don't have to travel alone
  • Organize group trips with our exclusive Tripvite feature
  • Meet locals or people traveling to your destination

There is an interest in this kind of travel, at least among a segment of the population in the west (see, for example, It will be interesting to see if traveling with Donkey Friends catches on outside of China.

FYI -Tripmates has also been reviewed breifly on

NEW: 6/21/07 - I see that TripMates has changed its name to - though the concept seems to be the same.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

WAYN.COM - Where Are You Now?

WAYN.COM - Log your trips - see who is where - make new friends

If you have a ton of friends who travel all over the world, or if you want a ton of friends who travel all over the world, then WAYN (Where Are You Now) is probably just what you need! Personally, I like my small group of friends, who happen to live all over the world, but I do not feel any need to know exactly where everyone is at any one point in time. However, if you do want to know that, and if they want to let you know that, then WAYN is what you need.

Personally, I am a bit skeptical that people travel all that much, and that they really want to let all their friends and the whole world know every time they make a trip anywhere. Or that they are open to meeting strangers everywhere they go in the world.

But then I am an old guy, who does not do MySpace nor Second Life.

Actually, WAYNE kind of reminds me of, but is much more socially oriented. It is built around your friends, who you can notify about your travels, search to see where they are in the world, and SMS to their cell phone (as well as non-member cell phones). The focus on friends (current and potential) gives it a MySpace-ish feel -- more so than 43Places, which is very social, but feels more focused on places than WAYNE. WAYNE does have place discussion (a core feature of 43Places), and it allows you to upload trip photos.

While it may not be my cut of tea, it is certainly interesting -- so check it out.