How to connect with people who are offering free accommodations for a night or two on their couch, to a longer stay with more comfort in exchange for a little help or sharing your skills with 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.
Housesitting / Petsitting
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.
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, four hours per day 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.
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 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.
Example of what I put in my profile:
I start off with a motto, or you could use an inspirational quote…
My motto is: “Attitude is so important!”
I then tell prospective hosts a little about myself using brief, and to the point paragraphs…
I aspire to “Be the Change I Want to See in the World.” I prefer to spend money on experiences rather than things and hope to one day be able to say that I have traveled around the world.
I am from the United State of America and fluently speak only English although as I travel to different parts of the world I plan to at least familiarize myself with other languages out of both respect for the culture and to be able to communicate with people there.
I adore children. My husband and I have raised 4 children and we are now blessed with grandchildren. We have family spread out across the globe.
My career background has been in early childhood education. I owned and operated a preschool for over 20 years, taught after school art and music programs and have since written and self-published several books ranging from children’s storybooks to caring for the elderly.
I’m a natural born teacher and entrepreneur. Having started several businesses throughout my adult life, I have worn many different hats. Some endeavors were more successful than others, but all learning experiences that I am grateful for.
I love teaching about what I know and am passionate about. Most recently I have become passionate about inspiring people to write down and publish their own stories in a book. Even if there are a thousand books on the shelf about the same subject, I believe that everyone’s voice matters and no two books will ever be written in exactly the same way.
Now retired, (figuratively speaking), I am just starting to put my travel hat on. Two of our grown son’s, who have traveled quite a bit, have inspired me with a desire to do too.
In 2017 I had the opportunity to take my oldest granddaughter to Paris. I loved it so much and now have my sights on traveling the world.
Although my husband and I plan to do some traveling together, he is not as interested in traveling to all the places I would like to visit. When he chooses to stay at home, I will travel to far off lands on my own. We are both fine with these travel arrangements. I enjoy exploring different destinations on my own time schedule. I love living in the moment like that!
When traveling solo, I have chosen to participate in work exchange opportunities as I love being invited into local people’s homes. For me, it’s the people that I have the good fortune of meeting, not the places along the way, that interest me the most. I would love to help in schools, participate in community projects and meet families around the world to learn more about their country, their culture and their family traditions. My hope is to have a worldwide network of friends.
There is usually a section to write about the skills you have to offer…
I am a mature, strong, healthy, native English speaking woman from the USA.
As a gentle, patient grandmother, I can offer your children good care and attention from doing babysitting for you to helping them with their schoolwork and English speaking skills.
Having raised a large family, I am very experienced at doing housework, cooking, and also little home repairs involving a hammer, screwdriver, plaster, wallpaper, brush and paint. I enjoy gardening, planting, weeding and harvesting.
Having owned a web development company at one time I am good with computers, WordPress websites, Photoshop and Google docs. I am also willing to learn new skills.
I close with…
I am a very easy going responsible woman. I am also self-sufficient, reliable, and trustworthy. I adapt well to different situations, respectfully step in to take care of things whenever I see a need. I have always been very family oriented, doo not drink or smoke.
I welcome the chance for you to get to know me by making myself available for an interview via FaceTime or Skype.
Thank you for your consideration in hosting me.
Next, start searching for hosts within the area you will be traveling to…
Most of these websites are set up to search for available hosts within the area in which you wish to travel. Within each profile you then visit, 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. But if you have please share your experiences in the comment section below, as a way to alert other readers on what to watch out for.
Happy Host Hunting and Safe Travels!
Have you ever experienced a bad couchsurfing, housesitting, or work exchange situation?
Leave your comments below.