I want to talk today about travel and how our choice of accommodation impacts our experience in and impression of a new destination.
I’ve been to some pretty mundane places and had fantastic experiences, conversely, I’ve been to some right up there top destinations and had very average experiences. In my opinion, it comes down to two things; the people you’re with, and your luck. Luck is just luck; whether you ‘luck’ into some unexpectedly awesome experience, or not so. But ‘people’ includes people you’re travelling with, fellow travellers you may meet, and of course the locals you interact with. So while you can’t do much about luck, where you stay can have a large influence on the people you meet.
Historically travellers stayed in backpackers/hostel accommodation or hotels if they could afford it. But in today’s digital world there are more options. Couch surfing is one I’ve mentioned before, the organization has revolutionized how I travel and the experiences I’ve had. But it’s not for everyone, or suitable for every kind of travel.
Hotels are good if you’re looking for private space, which you can do as you please with. I.e. good for entertaining people.
Hostels are great if you want to stay somewhere cheap and just do your own thing. I’ve experienced some great hostels in Europe and the United States, but here are some really shocking examples too.
Couch surfing is fantastic for short stays when you’re willing to put in a little effort. A little effort is required to find hosts, and more effort to interact with your hosts. But a little effort can go a long way, and many people, myself included have had amazing experiences – experiences you’d never get without a little local knowledge. Couch surfing is better if you’re flexible to do things with your hosts, and not normally appropriate for stays of longer than a few nights. Personally I believe 3 nights is great; gives you time to get to know them, but not so long as to become an over staying burden on their normal lives.
A further option which has always existed is to rent accommodation, but this tends to be geared towards extended time periods (like a whole year), and often involves tedious paperwork, financial deposits, extended searches, utility setup/bills, and often the purchase of furniture. The idea of travelling slower and actually living in different places is nice, but renting is often just a little too tedious and restrictive.
Wimdu recently contacted me, their motto is ‘travel like a local’, they are looking to revolutionize travel, away from impersonal hotel rooms towards a variety of readily available local accommodation. Essentially anyone with spare accommodation space can list it on Wimdu; whether it be a couch or an entire apartment. In some situations it’s almost like couch surfing, but since you are paying rent for your stay it kind of removes the social obligation to interact with your hosts. My initial reaction was to think of it very much as a paid couch surfing experience, but I now think it serves a very different purpose. Avoid crowded hostel rooms and impersonal hotels, find your own space for the period of time you need with little bureaucracy; and I’m sure if you want to stay longer to really get a local experience in a new place, perhaps a few weeks or months, I’m sure there will be hosts willing to accommodate you. While couch surfing is only good for a few days without ‘overstaying’, with Wimdu you can travel at your own pace; instead of always being a ‘traveller’ you can actually be a ‘local’, but all over the world.
I often hear of people wanting to head to a different country and experience life like a local. For you guys, I highly recommend checking out Wimdu.com to see if anyone has a suitable place to rent that meets your criteria. Or use them on your next holiday, you’ll be supporting the locals rather than a large hotel chain. Lastly if you have no idea what couch surfing is, certainly check out the website and read up on the mission to see if it’s something you’d like to participate in.