I’ve settled back into daily home life but can’t seem to kick this travel bug. So I have fleshed out a breadth of alternative hospitality exchange organizations that might inspire you (and me!) to adventure a little further in the coming years. So, what’s stopping you from planning your next expedition?
Couchsurfing.org, With it’s 2.6 million members and over 1 million worldwide couches available at any given time, this is organization is your best shot at finding a place to rest your head and enliven your heart, even in Antarctica, where, currently, 98 hosts await your request. Clearly, the organization’s use of emerging technologies and down right fun and easy user interface with simple, interchangeable language translations inspired throngs of people to join and participate since its founding in 2004.
Servas International, the original, real deal. Founded by US peace activist Bob Luitweiler in 1949, this international organization builds tolerance and world peace one traveler and host at a time. Servas’ membership process seems a bit outdated compared to similar organizations as potential members must apply to join then be interviewed. But then again, 60 years of amazing connections make it worth mentioning and giving mad props.
Hospitalityclub.org Founded in 2000 by Veit Kuehne, This project may appeal to you because it’s entirely non-commercial even though it boasts less than half the members of Couchsurfing.org.
HomeExchange.com This fee-based company begun in 1992 connects you with one of the other 40,000 worldwide homeowners who’d like to house swap with you for an average stay of 1-3 weeks. This 2009 article interviews founder Ed Kushins.
Intervac Home Exchange Begun in the early 1950s, this non-profit boasts members who are typically affluent and between the ages of 35-60. $99/yr membership fee.
Home Exchange University A home exchange site for people ages 50+. This is home exchange for mostly couples without children who have the time and flexibility to travel anytime throughout the year. The site has a handy Home Exchange 101 section to help answer newbie questions.
Know Your Trade is a useful home exhange portal site, not affiliated with one particular home exchange site but partners with various companies to offer one stop searching for home exchange. The site also includes great exchange tips and an article on various free home exchange sites.
Want to Take It Up a Notch?
These volunteer organizations exchange work for lodging and food.
Help Exchange (ests. 2001) Want to volunteer on a ranch or a sailboat? Then join this fee-based company ($29/2 years) to find your next serious adventure.
Global Volunteer Network (est. 2000) connects people with communities in need by becoming a portal for local volunteer organizations and potential volunteers worldwide. Come on! Don’t you want to volunteer at Thailand’s Elephant Refuge and Education Centre? One downside: a $350 application fee for 5 years access to the site and it’s amenities may be steep for some of the most richly traveled, yet financially strapped volunteers.
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms est. 1971) One of my new Brazilian friends couldn’t stop telling stories about her experiences with WWOOF New Zealand. She volunteered on an organic farm and learned about local, sustainable farm techniques while tilling the soil and getting to know the farm family. Volunteers work for food and lodging. (WWOOF charges a $30 membership fee to help defray administrative costs.)
PLEASE, tell me about other similar organizations or companies you’ve heard of or experienced. Now, back to the elephants…