Go Cambio, A New, Alternative Sharing Economy For Backpackers.

Couchsurfing backpacking accomodation on gap year

The concept of staying with locals has become extremely popular in the gap year industry in recent years, and Go Cambio is a new service in this sharing economy. It is a free website where backpackers and independent world travellers alike can find alternatives to expensive hotels, guesthouses and crowded hostels by exchanging their native language skills in return for a nights stay with a local.

As independent world travellers have sought out alternatives to the more traditional forms of accommodation in efforts to both save money and get a more authentic travel experience away from the tourist trails, they have turned their attention toward elements of the sharing economy that allowed them to do just that.

There have been a number of hospitality networks that have sprung up over the years, but what travellers have really needed is a truly organic and mutually beneficial network. Now they have it.

What is Go Cambio?

Go Cambio is a new network that brings locals and travellers together. For free. It allows locals wishing to expand their language skills to open up their homes to travellers, and for travellers to get a place to stay and a couple of home cooked meals, all it costs you as a traveller is a couple of hours of your time.

Go Cambio are essentially on a mission to connect the millions of people around the world who want to improve their language skills with the millions of travellers and backpackers who want a real, local experience and a good bed for the night.

A simple exchange and new friends made. That’s Cambioing!

The benefits of Cambioing.

As a traveller the immediate benefits are obviously a free bed for the night and some (at least hopefully) good home cooking. Let’s face it when you have been in crowded hostels for extended periods and are eating on a budget these things alone are more than enough reason to sign up! But the benefits go far beyond that too.

Hosts share their homes, and guests share their skills.

As independent travellers, the benefits that learning about and experiencing a local culture as we travel cannot be overstated. It expands our mind, makes us more rounded, more knowledgeable, simply better in so many ways, and frankly there is no better way to do this as you travel than by actually interacting with a local!

Not only do you get to experience first hand local culture and customs with an actual live in homestay experience, you get their first hand knowledge of how best to see their city, where to go and what to do from a local viewpoint not just a guidebooks.

And if you can think out of the box a little bit, imagine what a couple of hours a day as a ‘language tutor’ can do for your CV when you get back home and need a job? Not to mention all the soft skills that you will develop as a result, more confidence, better communication skills, maybe even smatterings of an extra language yourself? All of these things and more are desirable traits that employers look for.

What do hosts get out of it?

One of the best things about Cambioing is the fact that this isn’t just a one way street. Both parties mutually benefit from the relationship. In return for hosting you and giving you a meal, your host gets to improve their language skills from a native speaker without having to shell out for tuition fees!

If you want a unique, local experience on your travels as well as some free accommodation, and you don’t mind giving up a couple of hours to hone your skills as a language tutor, then why not Go Cambioing!

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This article was written in partnership with Go Cambio. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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77 comments on “Go Cambio, A New, Alternative Sharing Economy For Backpackers.
  1. Laura Patrick says:

    Wow, this looks amazing! So it’s like teaching english abroad? But with a free stay?

    • Well, essentially yes. Except there are no formal qualifications or teaching experience or anything needed, it is more about allowing the host to practice their conversational skills with a native speaker (and it doesn’t have to be just English speakers either, hosts in England for example could host nationals from France, Spain, China, anywhere!) And in return for a couple of hours practice, you get a free bed and a meal or two. It really is a mutually beneficial relationship. Skills for services.

  2. Steph says:

    What a great idea! I’ve never liked the thought of couchsurfing because the ‘donation’ bit just to be ‘recognised’ put me right off. So it’s true this is all free?

  3. alicesgapyearadventures says:

    Oh no, why wasn’t this out when I started backpacking? I would have well signed up!

    • I know what you mean, I’ve been backpacking for well over a decade, and believe me there are so many more options for independent travellers now as there were then! It isn’t too late though, you can always have another trip and sign up?

  4. Revati says:

    This sounds like such a lovely idea. I just hope it doesn’t get filled up with the wrong kind of people, or it can all go downhill pretty quick!

    • Like who Revati? I think in anything in life you will get the bad apples, but Go Cambio have a robust vetting system to minimise the risk as much as possible, and with host reviews and peer to peer contact I really don’t think there’s much to worry about. Other sites like Couchsurfing have been around for years and the absolute majority have no problems, I don’t see that being any different here.

      • One Girl: One World says:

        Couch Surfing has had quite a bit of issues lately, things seem to have changed there. This seems like a very interesting and pure idea though! I like it! Thanks for sharing something new, I’ll have to poke around the website and learn more!

      • It has certainly fallen out of favour a little and has definitely had high profile bad apple cases, but to be fair they are still in the minority. As I said you will always get bad apples but robust screening and common sense weeds them out. Please do check it out, and please come back and let me know what you think if you go Cambioing!

  5. Raphael Alexander Zoren says:

    Great project, sounds like something worth investing into!

  6. sarah says:

    I absolutely love this idea and will definitely be signing up. Stay tuned for an experience update!

  7. Zofia BaΕ‚dyga says:

    Oh wow, I havent heard about this site yet. As a linguist I love the idea. I might try it out soon.

  8. Dana says:

    Cambioing looks like a great way to experience a new area on a budget. I love getting the opportunity to learn about a place from a local perspective.

    • Yes! Exactly Dana, that’s why I think this is such a great platform too. Don’t get me wrong the free accommodation and everything else is fantastic, but the chance to meet locals and see the places you are visiting from their perspective as well as a tourists/travellers perspective is so important I think, and not a benefit to be overlooked! Thanks for commenting. πŸ™‚

  9. carol colborn says:

    What a great idea! Is there anything like this for a little more than backpacking requirements?

    • Well considering you aren’t going to be in a shared dorm and have home cooked meals, I’d say the system is already above many backpacking requirements! What did you have in mind exactly?

  10. Anna says:

    Sounds interesting. But – if everything is free – how are they going to make money?

    • Well I don’t know to be honest Anna. I’m sure as a platform they know they will be a viable business. But the important thing to us as travellers is that is free to US. We get to use our language skills in exchange for free accommodation and food, and get to meet locals all over the world. Bonus!

  11. Jennifer says:

    I hadn’t heard about this service before – interesting concept.

  12. Skye says:

    I love the mutual aspect of it!

  13. Paul says:

    I’ll definitely check this out! I was just starting to plan my big trip in the summer too, thanks!

  14. loveandroad says:

    Sharing economy is the cleverest way to travel! The idea of Go Cambio it’s really nice, I’m just thinking that maybe english native speakers will have more advantage in finding places to stay than people who speaks different or not so popular languages…
    Happy Travels,

    Nat πŸ˜€

    • Totally agree Nat, it’s a really great and clever way to travel. I love the fact that Go Cambio is the barter system at it’s purest. You use your innate skill and language to help someone, they give you a service you need. It’s perfect! I don’t know about that though, it all depends where the host is I suppose. If you are from the UK and head to say China or India for example then yes, English may be more desirable, but if the host is from the UK then the opposite may be true! I’d love to have a native speaker help me with my Japanese and Mandarin for example! ;D Thanks for commenting.

  15. Stacey says:

    I’m having a look on their website now and I think these guys’ sound great!

    I’d previously thought about becoming an au pair but didn’t really want a really long commitment. This could be a great oportunity to meet great people, travel and share my language skills and spend a few days rather than months.

    I’m curious too, they’re featured in a UK and Irish newspaper but the video voice over is done by someone with a North American accent, is that because NA English is best understood around the world with so many American films airing around the world or was it just what happened?

    • I think they are great too, and you are absolutely right it is a fantastic way to ‘work’ your way around the world but without the time commitment something like being an au pair demands. nd as I say, it can be just as useful for your CV experience if you spin it right. 6 months or so as an independent language tutor in various countries is desireable in any employers minds! ;D As for the voiceover I have absolutely no idea to be honest. Thanks for the comment.

      • Stacey says:

        Hey, that’s a great idea! Spin it as an independent language tutor for your resume! I can see you’ve thought about this, nice one!

  16. Olga says:

    I never heard of this before, but looks like an awesome idea! Thanks for letting me know πŸ™‚

  17. Big Beaver says:

    Right on, I did not know about this…

  18. Bente Vold Klausen says:

    Sounds like a good idea. I like the idea that it is a mutual exchange of favours.

  19. Bente Vold Klausen says:

    Sounds like a good idea. I like that it is a mutual favour.

  20. Anneka says:

    Amazing! First I’ve ever heard of this. Such a great idea

  21. Paula says:

    I have a question, this really seems a brilliant idea, but what if I don’t have my TEFL or anything? How can I teach English?

    • You don’t need one Paula, this isn’t about having a formal, paid teaching position. If you want to get your TEFL and do that then great, that’s a fantastic way to work your way around the world too. But this is about helping a local practice your language with you in conversation, giving them informal coaching and practice, in return for a room and a meal or two. It really is that simple. πŸ™‚

  22. Melissa says:

    This sounds awesome, my mom would be thrilled to do this, will have to share with her. Thanks for sharing!

  23. lalegil says:

    I like the natural aspect of couchsurfing and not having expectations. Im not sure how much I like the idea behind Cambio. I don’t think being a native speaker is akin to be able to teach it. I am terrible at teaching spanish and I did my undergrad teaching. Im all about spontaneous interactions and I how much am I able to teach in a night or two, I rather build deep-rooted relationship with hosts not feeling the pressure of needing to teach my language.

    • That’s fair enough lalegil but I do disagree a little. There ARE expectations with couchsurfing and it certainly isn’t a ‘free’ ride. The massive problem with couchsurfing is that these expectations aren’t clearly defined and when you get surfers who turn up and abuse the hosts hospitality by thinking it is a free and natural hostel then the host can be put out. What I love about Go Cambio is that it is a fair bargain from the start and that both parties are gaining equally from the experience. Skills for a service. It is the barter system at it’s purest. It is still ‘natural’ in as much as it is up to the host and the cambioer to work out the specific details between themselves, but the fairness and equal aspect remains. And as to the second point it isn’t so much about teaching it as allowing the host to practice with a native speaker, and there are free tools from Go Cambio to advise you in this regard. Why not try it out? You may find you really like it? πŸ™‚

  24. Dale says:

    It’s quite well known that Franca and I both love Couchsurfing and continue to use it in every country we travel through, the idea for Go Cambio is fantastic and one I really see us both supporting in the future.

    • I think you’ll love it Dale! It costs nothing to give it a try, right? I personally think it is much better than couchsurfing, but I see no reason why people can’t couchsurf and go cambioing as well. Come back and let me know what you think after you’ve tried it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting.

  25. Fiona says:

    I’ve definitely gone past backpacking and I suspect that Cambioing is more for my god daughter than me, but I’ll keep an open mind till I hear more

    • Well neither age or style of travel is a barrier to go Cambioing Fiona, in fact one of the great things about it is you can check hosts out before you Cambio with them (and vice versa of course) to see if you will be a good fit for each other. Why not sign up (It’s absolutely free) and see what I mean?

  26. lesvoyagesdumonde says:

    As an avid Couchsurfer, I’ve been looking to expand into other similar services to test out the waters and engage with locals (my favourite thing to do). I am definitely going to be filling in a profile and giving this a shot on my upcoming trip! Free + locals = me happy! πŸ˜€

  27. Travel Babbo says:

    I love the concept. I remember many times walking around late at night in Europe with a heavy backpack and no clue where I was going to sleep. I would have loved to arrange stays through this – would have completely changed my backpacking mentality.

    • I think we’ve all been there! I know what you mean though, I wish Cambioing had been around when I had started travelling too. It’s never too late to try new experiences though!

  28. ordinarytraveler says:

    What a great idea! Maybe I need to host some travelers so I can practice my Spanish. πŸ™‚

    • That’s a great idea! I’m sure if you sign up you’ll have plenty of offers and be speaking fluently in no time! Be sure to come back and tell us all about the experience too. πŸ™‚

  29. LaMochilera says:

    This sounds like something I would absolutely love to try. It’s like Couchsurfing, but with a little something extra. I love languages, and I’m sure even as a guest I’d learn a thing or two. And getting a meal is a major draw! Will definitely look into it!

  30. savoredjourneys says:

    This sounds like a really great resource. I wish it was around years ago when I was traveling that way. It would be a great way to interact with the locals and get so much more out of your trip.

  31. donoghuemc says:

    This sounds far better than hosteling it up; very similar to couch-surfing, but I like how it’s more of a mutual exchange in that you’re both getting something of value πŸ™‚ Thanks for the tip!

    • You’re more than welcome. πŸ™‚ I still love hostels and would honestly recommend trying a variation of different accommodation types – especially on extended trips – but I think Cambioing is an excellent way to spend a night or two and connect with locals along your trip. I totally agree with you that both parties benefit too. Thanks for commenting. πŸ™‚

  32. heather843 says:

    I’ve never tried couch surfing or anything similar, mainly because I don’t like imposing on people, but this idea is fab, love the fact that both parties benefit and think it would actually be quite fun to help them practise their English with me.

    • Yes, that’s exactly it Heather! I don’t like imposing either, and this is more about a fair trade of services where both parties benefit! You should sign up and give it a go, what have you got to lose? ;D

  33. uncoveryours says:

    Programs like these that makes it easier for a traveller to travel further is fully supported by us!

  34. The Caffeinated Day Tripper says:

    Amazing how the most genius ideas are also the simplest. Love this stripped down approach. It reminds me of foreign exchange student programs but with none of the icky mathematics or science. Just the fun of immersing yourself in local language, food and culture.

  35. NYC JetSetter says:

    This sounds like a great idea! I will keep it in mind πŸ™‚

  36. Donny says:

    Sounds like it could be a cool alternative to couch surfing. Thanks for the heads up!

  37. Bobby says:

    This sounds awesome!

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