Going Solo? The sociable alternative to hotels
Wednesday 1, December 2010
Exploring a new city, country or continent can be an incredibly empowering experience. However, whether you choose to immerse yourself in the bristling high-rise of New-York or the idyllic wilderness of Scotland, a little company can be a godsend.
Hostels are a good solution for some, but anyone who’s graduated beyond the ‘dorm chorus’ and tooth-brushing en masse will probably appreciate the new breed of homestay websites.
The metamorphosis of accommodation
These new communities include websites like London-based Crashpadder.com, which has offices in Brixton, but rooms in over 80 countries. Both serve as social marketplaces for guest bedrooms. Essentially they pair friendly hosts with travelers, who are looking to travel in a way that allows them to interact with a place on a local level, rather than simply passing through it sampling the odd mini-bar as they go.
Staying with a local allows travellers to withdraw themselves from the type of conveyor-belt tourism that it’s so easy to get sucked into. Local recommendations allow travellers to unearth hidden gems and experience the real texture of a place.
But they offer more than that.
Many hosts are only too happy to have tourists under their roof; a lone traveller is suddenly transformed into a member of the household, be it only for a short space of time:
Jeffrey and his flatmate love meeting new people - London "We're well-travelled ourselves and are happy to share conversation, cups of tea and any information we have about the local area and/or London in general."
Yolanda is a New York veteran - NYC "I've been living in NYC for over 14 years and I love it! My spare bedroom is a wonderful place to crash for your stay!"
Alison loves living in her part of the world - Edinburgh "Sharing with the friendly female owner and 2 well behaved cats. Gorgeous views from the living room across Newhaven harbour and lighthouse over the Forth estuary - best view in Edinburgh in my opinion!"
The benefits of staying in someone’s ‘pop-up hotel’ (as they’re known) are manifold and more than just social. Carbon Coach Dave Hampton asserts that a Crashpadder stay has a carbon footprint that is up to 90% smaller than that of the average hotel stay. In addition, those mindful of their budget will appreciate that the average place on Crashpadder.com is, according to the annual Hotel Index on hotels.com, 83% cheaper than the equivalent budget hotel.
Time for something different?
As exciting as it may sounds to some, the notion of homestays usurping budget hotels is a real Marmite issue. While some people couldn’t be keener to escape ‘mini-bar fatigue’ others enjoy the solitude and safety of a hotel.
These communities recognise that they’re not for everyone and they’re not for everyone all of the time. “Crashpadder is probably not the best accommodation option for the vast majority of people," reflects Josie Robson, who helps to run the website. "But the group we’re trying to reach is that small pocket of travellers, who place real value on human interaction, and are chomping at the bit to experience everything that a city has to offer."
One thing’s for certain, the internet is allowing people to make the choice for themselves. So Conrad Hilton’s descendants had better have something clever up their sleeves if they want to keep their mitts on their fortunes.
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