How to connect with “Hosts” who offer free accommodations and sometimes meals too, in exchange for sharing your skills with them.
NOTE: You may want to read the post “Traveling Abroad” first.
Work Exchange – Home and Farm stays
There are several work exchange world wide community websites on the Internet. Work exchange websites are set up to promote fair exchange, volunteering and work opportunities between budget travelers, language learners and cultural seekers who would like to stay with families, individuals or organizations that are looking for help with a range of varied and interesting activities.
In exchange for accommodations and usually also meals, the host will expect you to work on the tasks agreed upon, on average, three to four hours per day four to five days a week, usually less, and most hosts are flexible. Some hosts additionally offer to pay for extra help.
You will have the opportunity to learn about their local lifestyle and community with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings.
My personal favorite is Workaway.info for finding opportunities to be hosted in other people’s homes. I’ve seen offering from one week up to as much as 6 months. HelpX.net is a very similar website. I belong to both, but find the #workaway website a little easier to navigate.
If you like the outdoors, look into Wwoofing opportunities where you will work on organic farms.
OPTION # 2
Housesitting / Pet sitting
As appealing as it sounds to be handed the keys to someone else’s house while they are away on their vacation or a business trip, unless you have the time to stay for (in most cases) longer than a month in one location and are willing to care for their pets on a daily basis, with often times taking their dog for a walk a couple of times a day, chances are you will not have any days off during your stay. Depending on the location, you may also need to rent a car if you plan to do sightseeing if they live in a rural area, which can be costly.
Housesitting is definitely something to look into if you are someone who likes your privacy. There are several websites where you will find listings for available housesits.
So far I have housesit only one time when I visited Belgium. It just so happened that I found this opportunity through the Workaway.info website. The family wanted me to stay for a month, but I was only willing to stay for two weeks. They liked me so much, that they agreed upon the dates I could be there. The only task they wanted me to do for them was pick apples from their tree and make homemade apple jelly, which I have never done. But, that’s what the internet is for. I looked up the how-to of it, and it was easy peasy! I even made them a variety by adding some cinnamon to some of the jars I canned for them.
Although it sounds scary, you can actually make friends all over the world as a couchsurfer. When you take the time to meet people who are willing to open their home to strangers by offering everything from sleeping on their couch or air mattress in their living room, to being able to accommodate you in their guest bedroom for a few nights, getting to know these generous people ahead of time, I think will simply feel like being invited to a sleepover at your friends house.
Although I do have an account at couchsurfing.com where I have connected with several people, I do not yet have any personal experience staying at a host’s home that I met through the couchsurfing website. One of the reasons is, most couchsurfing hosts usually only host people for one to maybe three nights.
Setting up your membership Profile.
After joining any of the above type of websites, you will be asked to upload a photo and complete a profile. Choose a nice photo of yourself. A recent headshot is best. Depending on the template these websites use, some will allow you to post additional photos and an introduction videos. An action photo of you doing something that you have mentioned in your profile works well for additional photos.
When filling out your profile, think about the type of person you would welcome into your home. Don’t be shy about letting hosts know what a great person you are.
Just starting out, you will not have any reviews. Make sure you come across as being a friendly, genuinely trustworthy person.
Include a little about yourself using easy to read, brief and to the point paragraphs. There is usually also a section to write about the skills you have to offer.
And always invite them to get to know you better by letting them know you are available for an interview via FaceTime or Skype.
Next, start searching for hosts within the area you want to travel to.
Most of these websites are set up to search for available hosts within the area in which you wish to travel. Within each host’s profile there will be a contact button for you to use.
It really is up to you to contact the host. Occasionally, a host searching for help may find you, but don’t leave it up to chance.
Your first contact with them should be through the website form as it is sent securely without revealing your private email address. After the initial contact you are free to exchange whatever personal contact information you would like to.
When introducing yourself, it’s nice to also mention something about what you have read in their profile that inspired you to contact them. I do this as a way to personalize the communication, which indicates that I read their profile and that I want to get to know them more. I also make sure I ask a couple of questions to prompt them to respond to my inquiry.
Once sent, be patient. Sometimes you may not get a response right away. Give them a couple of weeks before sending a friendly reminder that you are waiting for their reply and look forward to hearing from them.
Make it convenient for them to personally contact you. I always mention that I would love to chat live with them on FaceTime or Skype and ask them when a convenient time to do so would be. I also include my email address and phone number underneath my full name which I sign with a nice salutation, often times written in their native language, which I simply do an internet translation search for.
Now that you know where to find no cost accommodations, you can travel very economically, without worrying about the added expense of housing and meals.
Start by building friendships with potential hosts. If I can do it, so can you.
I am fortunate in that I have not personally experienced any bad situations staying with other families.
Happy Host Hunting and Safe Travels!