I’m excited to announce that I’ve just set up my first Cambio to Madrid for next April to share my special skill: English. In exchange for speaking a language I happen to know quite well, I’m going to get free lodging (my own private room and bathroom) and meals with a family who lives in Madrid. I set this up through GoCambio, a new website that facilitates language for lodging exchanges. If you want to read more about GoCambio, check out my interview with a few folks who used this service.
First I created a GoCambio account and filled out my profile. I’m not looking to host people, so I just filled out the GuestCambio portion. You can Host, be a Guest, or do both.
As a Guest you’re prompted to describe skills you have that might be useful to someone else. The focus is on language skills but you can also pick from a list of other desired skills or describe anything else you can offer. For instance, as a regular writer for this website I offered to help people with writing and editing.
Finally, there is a section where you can describe why you’d be a great pick as a house guest. I focused on my experience learning and teaching languages, and the fact that I’m a respectful guest and a pretty good cook. Once I was done filling this out I sat back and waited for the offers to come in (in truth I pretty much forgot about it).
A few months later I got a message from a woman in Barcelona inviting me to come for 7 days to teach her English. Unfortunately the dates were already booked in my calendar so I had to turn down her offer. I did ask if other dates might work but never heard back.
After another month I got an offer from a woman in Madrid inviting me to come for 3 months to help her practice English. I asked if she could do something shorter and we commenced a back and forth negotiation about dates and timing.
Around the same time I also got a cryptic offer from a man in Italy (possibly cryptic because his English wasn’t great). His profile had very little information and while he was probably harmless and genuinely looking for English help, I wasn’t comfortable pursuing discussions with a single guy who was sharing nothing about himself except a picture and an invite to come stay with him.
The Madrid invitation progressed to the point where we agreed on a length of stay and approximate dates, so I proposed we have a call on Skype just to make sure we had the same expectations for the Cambio. On the call I met both Patricia and her husband. He was there to help translate in case she couldn’t understand my English. We ended up just talking in Spanish so that wasn’t a problem. I learned that my Cambio partner has two kids and a husband, and she works in an English-speaking office, which would be easier if she improved her speaking abilities. But Patricia doesn’t want to take classes, so the idea of having someone in her house who will talk with her in the evenings is very appealing.
I got to see a bit of their house, learned what they were offering me for accommodations, and gained a general comfort that this family is legit and would be nice people to spend some time with. By the end of the call I was ready to commit.
It took me a few more weeks to come up with free flights using a good miles award redemption, and a bit more back and forth to nail down a plan that worked for both of us. But now it’s locked in and we’re all set for my April visit. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time in Madrid and helping my new friend improve her English. We both love hiking and so we’re planning for at least some of the language practice to be done out in nature.