In a recent post I reported on a new website, GoCambio, which facilitates free language exchange for travel lodging. I could travel to another country, stay with a local, and spend some time each day helping them practice English in exchange for my free lodging. Alternately, I could get free private lessons in Spanish or Mandarin (or take up a new language) while hosting a guest from another country. The concept is simple and brilliant. And the website functionality has improved significantly from a few months ago when I first signed up.
The folks at GoCambio told me that, as of the beginning of June, they had just over 2500 sign ups in 90 countries. Impressive growth for a new and different concept of hospitality lodging exchanges. They put me in touch with a few people who have done cambios (as they call it) who told me about their experiences.
Sinead, who is currently in Africa volunteering, talked about her cambio in Zaragoza:
Many people thought I was crazy when I mentioned I was going to Zaragoza in Spain to people I have never met before but I thought it was an unmissable opportunity. I believe true happiness is achieved when you are out of your comfort zone and every experience adds to your personal growth and perception of life.
I LOVE to travel like most people and so to be able to stay with the local people of the area and not a poolside hotel was amazing as you get to experience the real culture.
I was apprehensive naturally as I thought I hope we get along etc. but it was a waste of worry time as we all got along immediately. I was given my own room and treated so well with good food and hospitality.
The language barrier was not a problem as we all have the common love for a glass of wine and tapas. After only 5 days together I could see an improvement in their English just from having conversations while socialising. I mean I got fed and free accommodation to socialise with amazing people… Tough life eh!
I would recommend GoCambio to anyone and everyone as life is too short to say “one day I’ll go there”. This way it’s much more affordable and it creates lifetime memories. I am going back to visit as I have made really good friends from my experience.
Lorraine, a traveller from Ireland, wrote about her cambio experience in Spain:
I sent an offer through the website to my host, Alex, who accepted and we arranged dates. As we were both working coming up to the cambio we only spoke briefly on whatsapp so I was a little bit nervous about how we would get on and what we might do. I sent Alex my arrival and departure times and he offered to come pick me up from the train station (something which most hosts are kind enough to offer).When I arrived Alex was there to meet me and took me to the apartment. He showed me to my room and gave me time to settle in. Since it was late (ish) Alex said he had made plans for us, we would cook dinner for his friends who were arriving at 11 (typical Spanish dinner time!). We chatted while we prepared the food, played Spanish music and English music and got to know each other. Alex even showed me some salsa moves in the kitchen!
To enjoy cambioing you certainly don’t need to be able to speak your hosts language which is half the fun of it! But since I speak Spanish it was a unique exchange, when Alex’s friends arrived we switched in and out of English and Spanish. We sat around the table and enjoyed some beer and fajitas.
Alex and I really got along and he said he was happy to aaccompany me for the weekend. I think the beauty of cambioing is that you can be as involved with your host as you like or you can stick to a pre arranged schedule for class and head off to explore on your own. It really caters for all types of travellers.
The next morning we got up early and had breakfast before heading off to see the city. Alex took me to the park and explained the city’s history, then we went to a bar for some pinchos de tortilla. I have lived in Madrid for over a year and it was the best tortilla I had ever had!
Later that day Alex needed some time alone. He plays water polo and they had a big competition the following week, so he was off to training for about 5 hours. I was just about to head out when his roommate asked me to come with her for drinks with the girls. I didn’t pass up the chance to practice my Spanish and we headed to some cool bars for some wine and tapas. Later Alex joined us and had dinner.
The next morning the three of us went to the park and enjoyed the sun for a few hours before I had to catch my train home. Alex said he is going to come visit me when I get home to Ireland so I can extend him the same courtesy that he welcomed me with.
I definitely made a friend and it was a really genuine experience that I cannot wait to repeat again. GoCambio is a travel essential. It caters for all walks of people who want to travel low budget (free accommodation certainly appeals to me!), whether you are travelling alone and would like the safety and comfort of staying with a family or you are an adventurous couple who want to travel together. GoCambio is a place to put your head down at night, to lose the guide book and to immerse yourself in the people and the place.
It’s easy to sign up, and if you want to visit Spain they already have an active group of hosts in that country. These stories have me inspired to seek a cambio of my own for a future trip.