I'm a born traveller. I love to explore new places, meet new people, and engage in interesting conversations heaving with new perspective. I thrive on adventure, the unknown and change. In a nutshell, I love diversity and I love to learn.
Although I've been living abroad for almost half of my life, it is just that. Living abroad. It's not strapping on a backpack, buying a ticket to anywhere, and traveling until the money runs out. And if you've ever done that, even once in your life, you'll find there is a yearning to recreate that freedom, those quick cross-cultural connections with fellow travelers, that exciting mysterious energy of what's to come next. I've got good news for you. You can have all that excitement without ever leaving your living room couch. And what's more, is that folks who haven't had the opportunity to hit the road yet in their lifetimes, or who have perhaps been a little apprehensive about taking the plunge, can have a trial run and experience the sensation of travel without leaving the comfort of their own home. It's win-win.
I've personally hosted 32 visitors from 15 different countries in the past year -- (New Zealand, Turkey, Poland, Spain, Italy, France, Ireland, Slovenia, Romania, England, USA, Canada, South Africa, Indonesia, and Guatemala).
Obviously I tend to jump in deep when I find a good thing, that's just the way I am. But for those folks who are on the introverted side, like a bit more privacy or have a less flexible schedule, even hosting travelers two or three weekends a year can open new doors to culturally diverse friendships and community.
Here's why you host:
Cultural insights, great conversations, friends all over the world, new skills, memories, new outlooks, laughter, connections, personal growth, and a better understanding of the human race. I also enjoy a cross-generational understanding as I'm 45 years old and most of my guests range from 26-36 years old.
Here's what you need: a bed or a couch or even just a comfortable pad and a sleeping bag! Just make sure you specify the sleeping arrangements on your profile so there are no accommodation surprises. Simple is okay!
Here's how you do it: My favorites are couchsurfing and workaway. Set up a profile on either or both. It's free. Couchsurfing is normally just an accommodation exchange. Workaway normally includes meals in exchange for some sort of help around the house, whether it be gardening, graphic design, cleaning, or photography. You name it, the skill sets of these travelling folks are endless!
Remember to be clear about what you are offering and what you expect in exchange. Will you provide meals? I personally always like to have dinner together because I find that this is the time for great conversations and connections across all cultures. People like to break bread together plus food is just an easy cultural exchange. Dinnertime is for stories and it's when I really get to know our guests. Morning coffee or tea time is also a great time to get to know people. Remember, you're hosting to enrich each other's lives; to foster cultural understanding and create community!
What are your interests? Do you want to learn Spanish? Host a native Spanish speaker to brush up on your Spanish or to tutor your son or daughter. What better way to gain interest in a culture or language than to have a friend to talk to! Have you always wanted to learn the guitar? Invite a musician! Do you love French cuisine? Invite a French chef.....believe me they're out there, and they're traveling! How about a yoga class exchange? So many travelers have cruised through SE Asia or India to get their certifications! The exchanges are endless. I once even hosted a professional ballroom dancer! My experience has been that everyone has something to offer.....Even if it's just a personal growth lesson for myself!
Do's and Don'ts—Be Clear. Are you a family that has to get up early for work and school everyday? You may ask your guests to be home at a decent hour on weekdays as not to disturb the family routine. Or you may just ask them to be quiet after 8 pm. Are you a vegetarian household that doesn't want meat in the kitchen or the refrigerator? Or perhaps you don't want alcohol in your home. Include this in your profile.
Connecting people is one of the best parts about hosting so many different people from all over the world. Oftentimes I meet a new guest today, who absolutely needs to meet the guest who left yesterday! I've found that many of our guests have an abundance of interests in common! So I decided to set up a Facebook group for everyone who passes through our house. Here former and current guests can connect to discuss itineraries, best modes of transport, must-visit attractions or recommended retreats or classes. And what's more, is that sometimes they find themselves in the same city at the same time and can actually physically meet up! And what's even more, (yes, it gets better) is when one of them is actually 'home' , the other gets to know all the local secrets!!
The question “Where are you headed next? ”sends light through my soul, whether I'm asking the question or answering it! While hosting, I get to ask that question often and even though I'm not the one moving, movement is in my house. Excitement is in my house. Adventure is in my house. And therefore I too am on an adventure. The best adventure of all....human connections.
So get started. Write your profile today. In the history of this world, it's never been easier to meet new people from across the globe. Live now. It's an exciting time. A time to foster friendships across borders, a time to create global communities. A time for cross-cultural conversations. A time for pioneers. Be a pioneer. Host a traveler and start your journey.
Gina Lauricella Hope is the Co-Founder of Global Groove Life.
When she's not advocating for Fair Trade or designing over copious cups of chai, she's raising and homeschooling two great third-culture-kid teenagers. The family spends 6 months a year in Thailand and 6 months a year learning something new, somewhere new.
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