1.) We like to participate in the traveler community even when we can’t actively travel ourselves, and
2.) We believe in contributing to a better traveler world based on trust and camaraderie by giving people a cheap or free place to sleep and playing host during their stay.
This month, we have two trips in the works – all part of our master plan to see as much of Europe as possible during our three years here in Norway. First, we have some friends visiting from the States who want to do a weekend jaunt somewhere. Sweden? Poland (tickets are $21USD!!)? I’ll let you know next week! Our second trip will be to The Netherlands, where I will be attending a conference and Rob will fly down to meet me so we can check out his old haunts in The Hague and Amsterdam.
While we make an outrageously good living here in Norway given our age and occupations, the high cost of living combined with our savings goals mean that we still need to travel on a budget. Being the money grubber that I am, I want that budget to be as small as possible. Thus, we’ve been exploring options for how to have the most ‘local’ experience possible without blowing through our cash. To us, traveling like locals is paramount to the sort of traveling experience we desire.
So, this week I’m giving you a run down of some of the ‘communities’ popping up all over the world that let travelers eat, sleep, and be entertained like a local.
We love to check out the local food in a new place, but sometimes it’s hard to get far enough away from the typical tourist fare to enjoy something local, authentic, and easy on your budget. It can also be lonely to eat by yourself if you’re traveling alone, or know what’s worth your time if you’re facing a huge menu all in a foreign language.
Enter options like Bookalokal, VizEat, EatWith, and (perhaps my favorite) LeftoverSwap. These sites hook travelers up with locals who like to cook and host gatherings where travelers can book a seat and take part of a set menu meal. Similar to Airbnb but for food, Bookalokal, VizEat, and EatWith all allow you to search by meal preferences, times, locations, and prices to find an appealing menu and host where you can share a meal. While most meals offered aren’t what I would call super budget friendly, they do offer a great way to taste local, home cooked meals for much cheaper than you’d find at a restaurant.
LeftoverSwap, in a similar vein, is a downloadable app that lets people post their leftovers and travelers can claim them and pick them up. The site is based around the idea of reducing food waste and allowing travelers to eat for cheap or free. While we have yet to try any of these sites, I’m looking forward to picking up our first set of leftovers while on the road.
At this point, hotels are seriously old news. There are so many options for accommodations now that are cheaper, friendly, and a neat way to sleep like an actual local. You know I’m already a big fan of CouchSurfing and Airbnb, but did you know that there are many other sites that help connect travelers with people who want to rent a room, let you crash on their couch, or housesit their home?
Check out these sites:
Sort of like a lower-tech version of Airbnb, Wimdu is very popular in Europe for finding local accommodation. We have yet to use it, but we’ve heard good things from people who have used it while traveling in European cities.
Warm Showers is the CouchSurfing for traveling cyclists (and yes, I giggled at the name too). We learned about Warm Showers while we were hosting a cyclist through CouchSurfing who is currently on his 4th year (!) of traveling the world on a bicycle. Warm Showers, it should be noted, is not intended to be for people riding to raise money, big groups of travelers, or really anything other than long-term touring bicyclists. That being said, we’ve heard nothing but good things about the community of hosts and cyclist travelers.
Another version of Airbnb, Roomorama is available all over the world. We haven’t used this site yet, but we plan to list our own space on it to improve the number of bookings we get for our spare room.
A subscription-based service, Mindmyhouse brings together housesitters (who pay $20USD per year to use the site) and home owners (free). We haven’t used this site yet, but we plan to for some of our longer-term travel plans in the future.
A slightly more expensive version of Mindmyhouse, HouseCarers is a similar site that matches house sitters to homeowners. House sitters pay a subscription fee of $55USD per year.
With a more mid-range subscription fee for house sitters ($25USD per year), this site is pretty much the same as the other house sitting options, though perhaps their site is a little less functional.
Of course, that’s far from all of the options for local food, drink, and entertainment. But, I hate to re-invent the wheel when Matt from Nomadic Matt has already so thoroughly listed most of these sites. You can check out the options here, where he talks about monastery stays, farmstays, homestays, WWOOFing, and even resources for seniors!
I’ll be adding most of these sites to my Volunteer tab, where I’m trying to provide a detailed go-to place for travelers to expand their horizons for food, accommodation, and adventure. But, I know there’s more out there! So, if you know of a site I missed, tell me about it in the comments.