By Anthony O’Brien
If you are planning to travel abroad and are looking for affordable accommodation for the term, or if you’ve got room to spare and are interesting in developing your skills with speaking a second language, you should check out GoCambio.
Founded by businesswoman and stand-up comedian, Deirdre Bounds and her brother, Ian O’Sullivan back in March of this year, and headquartered in Youghal, Co. Cork, the website has been involved in organising teaching-for-accommodation arrangements in 114 countries.
GoCambio matches people looking for a place to stay whilst abroad with people who are willing to let them stay in a room in their residences for free to them. What the landlord gets in return is free tutoring lessons from their guest during their stay, with the current primary focus on language teaching and a planned expansion into other taught skills.
The site offers a database of verified hosts and skill-possessing room seekers to search through and users can look for specific locations and skills needed to find an opportunity that suits their circumstances.
Hosts and guests can negotiate and specify their acceptable terms of their arrangements. The site is free to register for and free to secure an arrangement through. To date the site has had over 6,000 accounts registered and expects to reach one million by next year as it develops the V2.0 version of its web interface, planned to be released this month.
Lorraine Healy, an Applied Languages student at UL, spoke to An Focal about her time in Spain, having secured accommodation through GoCambio.
When and how did you get involved with GoCambio?
I first heard about GoCambio last Christmas when I was home for the holidays. It started up in my home town. I met an old school friend in the pub and he said he was working on an exciting new project where people would go on language exchanges, get their accommodation for free and in return give lessons to their host in the language they spoke. I am an avid traveller and spend more time abroad than at home so for me it sounded perfect
What kind of qualifications or prerequisites did you need to get accepted into the programme?
No qualification is needed, just an open mind and a positive attitude. You must sign up at www.GoCambio.com – it’s a very straight forward, step-by-step process in which you must also verify your account which is a really positive feature because it makes the whole process safer for both guests and hosts.
Where did you stay, and what did you teach?
I went to Zaragoza in the Spanish countryside. I stayed with a guy called Alex, he was my host and really looked after me. He gave me a tour of the city, brought me to some great local tourist sites that were off the beaten track and in exchange I helped him to practice his English. The beauty of a Cambio is that you can decide with your host where the most convenient way to have the lesson is. Some people prefer to sit down and have a chat where others might prefer an hour of more structured language in the morning before you head off to explore, it’s really up to you!
How did you find the experience, and how supportive were GoCambio?
They are always on hand if I needed advice or wasn’t sure about a situation. They offer a free induction course online too to help you with some basic language content and approaches, it’s so useful.
Would you recommend joining Gocambio to others?
Absolutely, it’s an alternative to your everyday traveling experience. You get to ditch the map and actually get stuck into the local culture with your host, try things you would never have tried and see hidden gems that you would never have seen. It is a fantastic way for people traveling alone to meet other people and go off the beaten track, even for couples who want to meet new people!
I have travelled all over the world and never had such an enriching experience as I had in Zaragoza simple because I was able to get lost in a way that I would never have done if I went there alone. And it’s also a sharing economy, a bartered agreement, totally free. What more could you ask for? A place to throw down your head at night in exchange for a personal tour guide, local food expert and fountain of local knowledge.