Why a Cambio is the Best Way to Travel Europe on a Budget
Budget travel has a kind of romanticism to it – the idea of being on the road with only a trusty pack for company, enjoying hospitality where you can get it and getting to know the locals. Unfortunately, for many travellers these days, “budget” involves staying in crowded, smelly, bed bug-infested hostel dormitories for weeks on end, showering whenever you can and surviving on two-minute noodles and pasta.
Europe has long been the realm of budget travellers seeking to satiate their desire to explore new cultures. The problem is that while parts of Europe remain relatively cheap, your wallet doesn’t stretch as far as it does in Southeast Asia. While some countries in Central and Eastern Europe will give you plenty of bang for your buck, others (Switzerland, the UK, I’m looking at you) are more likely to take the last of your pennies and then give you a parting kick up the backside. You go to Europe wanting a romantic and cultural experience and you soon realise that it’s a test of your financial self control. Hostel dorms, meals, flights, train tickets, tours, drinks and souvenirs all add up.
Before you know it you’re sitting on your hostel bunk using the dodgy wifi connection to Skype with a blurry figure that sounds a bit like your mum begging her to transfer you a couple of hundred bucks so that you can buy yourself something to eat tomorrow.
Let’s put it this way: it’s not your proudest moment.
The Concept of “Budget” Travel
Image Credit: Franklin Heijnen
People have been travelling “on a budget” since the dawn of time; we humans were making mass migrations and epic pilgrimages before the concept of money even existed. But the modern-day idea of budget travel has its origins in the humble Lonely Planet guide, which has romanticised the image of the lone adventurer with no more than a trusty backpack and sense of adventure for companionship. Since their time as 20-something broke backpackers in the 1970s, Tony and Maureen Wheeler have turned Lonely Planet into a global publishing powerhouse whose titles (in PDF format more often than not these days) continue to serve as bibles for backpacker looking for off-the-beaten-track experiences.
In the last few years, the sharing economy has made it even easier to travel on a budget, providing cheaper accommodation and the opportunity to stay with locals. As part of the sharing economy, we’re helping to pave the way for this still relatively new way of travelling. But, fellow budget traveller, you might be a bit sceptical, and that’s okay. Your interest is peaked, but you’re not quite 100% on board. “Why is a cambio the best option for me?” I hear you ask. Well, I was anticipating your question. So I thought I’d give you three reasons you can’t argue with as to why you should organise a cambio for your Eurotrip this summer if you want to make those euros go the extra mile.
1. A Cambio is Cheaper Than Staying in a Hostel…
The cost of hostel accommodation, meals, sightseeing trips, getting from A to B via plane/train/bus/taxi/rickshaw/donkey, nights out and souvenirs all adds up. But when you use the sharing economy, a lot of these costs are eliminated. On a cambio, your accommodation and meals are entirely free, so you get to put those euros towards experiences (or a few extra beers with your new mates).
The best part is that you can experience all the culture you like without paying a cent for your accommodation or meals, yet you won’t feel like you’re on a budget – you, know, the way that you do when you’re washing your underwear in your hostel bathroom or waking up at 5am to the blissful sound of your dormmate expunging their insides into the toilet bowel. Fun times.
Thanks to our ground-breaking barter system (that’s right, you heard it straight from the mouths of the gods at Lonely Planet themselves), all you need to do is spend some time with the people you’re staying with and share a skill with them. And even this part’s not hard. Help them practice their conversational English by simply chatting to them over a meal or some drinks.
2. You can forget about bed bugs and noisy dorm mates
Speaking of comfortable, the accommodation you stay in will be better than a hostel – heck, even better than a hotel – because it will be a real, cosy, warm, inviting home. No risk of finding a cockroach crawling around in your sheets, and no dorm mates stumbling in at 6am to wake you up just as you’ve started to fall asleep.
You can wander the streets of Prague, shop at Harrod’s in London or party it up at Temple Bar in Dublin and then return home to a cosy warm bed and some breakfast the next morning.
That’s right. A budget trip to Europe has never been more comfortable.
3. It’s more meaningful than other sharing economy alternatives
Many people choose to embark on an adventure to Europe after finishing school or university. They line up to jump on the next Contiki tour, book their hostels, take part in pub crawls and sailing weeks. But using sharing economy alternatives will mean that you form lifelong friendships: you will cook with your hosts, share their home, immerse yourself in their culture, meet their families and friends, and connect on a more genuine level.
Though certainly very memorable, highlights of my time in Europe were not the boozy nights out or the days spent recovering in hostel dorms. They were the ones spent living with locals and sharing their lives.
The sharing economy gives you the opportunity to travel Europe the way you want – with an authentic experience. A tour company will pop you on a bus and whisk you off in the comfort of air conditioning and guided tour bliss to every destination, showing you all the sights that every single other tourist sees. Using the sharing economy to travel Europe will help you see the parts of town that only the locals see.
Now I’ve personally had incredible experiences using platforms like Airbnb and Couchsurfing that do not compare to staying in hotels, hostels or guesthouses. But you do pay to use Airbnb, and while accommodation in general is still cheaper than most hotels, for a traveller on a shoestring budget it can sometimes be a bit out of the price range. Couchsurfing, on the other hand, is totally free, but that comes with a bit of risk-taking. Because you don’t pay or offer anything in return for your stay, your host doesn’t feel obliged to provide you with the very best of their hospitality.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
GoCambio is the perfect blend of both of these platforms. It’s free in the sense that you won’t use money to pay for your stay. But you’ll pay for your accommodation and meals in the form of sharing a skill – such as your native language, a sport, musical instrument, or something else you’re good at – for two hours every day.
A cambio is cheaper than Airbnb, and unlike Couchsurfing it’s a two-way exchange. With both parties gaining something, the experience is open from the beginning.
So consider organising a cambio for part of your Europe trip this summer. You can still live the hostel experience if you like, but make sure you give yourself the chance to experience some real local hospitality (and a decent meal) for a few days to compare. Though I must warn you, going on a cambio could be dangerous: once you Go Cambio, you may never go back!
About the Author: Clarissa Hirst is GoCambio’s Content Manager. A born-and-bred Australian, Clarissa currently calls Sweden home. She’s travelled to over 40 countries, loves learning foreign languages, and her passion is inspiring others to learn about and explore the world around them. She hopes to one day speak fluent Russian and ride the Trans-Siberian railway. You can learn more about Clarissa on Twitter!
COVER IMAGE CREDIT: Andrés Nieto Porras