The light goes on as the key card snaps into place. It’s quiet. There’s not much else than a freshly made bed and a small table with a TV on it. It’s comfortable but not too cozy, enjoyable but too anonymous to feel like home. The lack of distractions and space encourage you to sit down and get your work done, maybe explore the surroundings later on. Perfect for a short business trip. But if you like to live the local atmosphere and to explore a place from the inside, then there’s definitely a better way to travel – and that’s by staying with a local.
Whenever I can, I try to visit a place for several weeks or even months by looking for jobs or internships in the target destination. Slow travel, as they say. It was on my latest of these trips that I discovered this great way of travelling solo without being alone.
Staying with the locals
I am sure most of you already know websites like Airbnb for instance, but for those of you that don’t, let me just explain it very quickly: We are talking about websites where people rent out their homes. So instead of booking a room in a hotel, you book accommodation with a private host through the website. You can either book an entire place or just a private room in the house of the owner.
When you travel as a couple or a couple of friends, it may be more comfortable to book an entire place. But I recently discovered that it can be a great advantage to book a room in someone’s home instead, when you’re travelling solo for more than just a week or two.
It’s economical: You save money by renting a private room instead of an entire house or apartment – especially when travelling during peak times, like July or August or if your target destination simply has very high living expenses.
It’s convenient: The great thing about renting a room in someone’s house is that it’s already a home. The kitchen will most likely have all the common tools for cooking – you don’t want to go out every day for breakfast, lunch and supper when you’re travelling for more than a month – annoying little things like a bottle opener will just magically appear in the right moment and if you cut yourself, you probably don’t need to run down to the local pharmacy before you can get a little bandaid on your finger. You know, these little things that you don’t think of, but that you’ll definitely need when you’re living somewhere for a longer period of time.
It’s different: Instead of going through all the typical tourist attractions you’ll find yourself exploring your destination from the inside. By the end of your trip you’ll greet the waiters at the coffee shop around the corner; you’ll know where that little patisserie is, that makes the best bread and you’ll definitely know which pub is still open when all the other ones are closed. When you’re staying with a local, all you have to do is ask.
It’s –and this is the really important one–lovely: In the best case scenario, when you stay with someone for several weeks or even months, you end up becoming real friends. We sometimes forget that even while travelling, we might not only have great days. In that situation it can be very comforting to come home to a warm house and a person to chat to. And even when everything is magnificent, it’s just priceless to spend the evening drinking wine and exchanging stories about conquered adventures and embarrassing travel moments. At least that’s the experience I’ve made on my trip, when I stayed with a lovely lady in Brighton for one month through Airbnb. So at this point I would like to send a big big hug and a huge thank you to my dear host Barbara, who has made me feel at home from the minute I walked into the purple door of her pink house. It has truly been great to have my own space on a solo travel without having to be alone.
What you need to know
Every experience with this kind of accommodation is different. How much you interact with your host and whether you get along is really up to you and the person you’re staying with. Even though you are a paying customer, you are entering someone’s home and everyday life – respect and communication are the key to a pleasant stay for everyone involved. Not only on, but before your trip as well. Check up on things such as: Is there any internet access? Are you allowed to use the kitchen? Will you be the only guest staying there or does your host have several rooms that he/she rents out? Is the bathroom private or shared and does your host have pets etc. Think about whatever might be important for you to know before booking your stay – that way you get in touch with your host beforehand and you can make a well informed decision regarding your accommodation.
I truly enjoyed this newly discovered way of travelling solo and if you’re into slow travel and really getting in touch with the locals whilst on a trip, this kind of accommodation might be beneficial to you as well. Now, I can’t promise that you’ll all have a Barbara, but I do wish you