Any traveler knows the delight of being invited to see a place through a local’s eyes whether it’s through a friend, a tour guide, or a benevolent stranger. So why not do the same for other travelers and open your home or offer your time to someone visiting your city? Sometimes one of the best parts about living in a cool place is being able to show it to someone else. Not sure how to get started? Well, you could try standing around at hostels or popular tourist destinations and jumping out at tourists with offers to show them around (not advised), or you could take a look at a few options below to get some inspiration.
By now, pretty much everyone is familiar with CouchSurfing, its positives and negatives, and the hilarity that often ensues from inviting perfect strangers into your home. Love it or hate it, signing up at CouchSurfing and opening your home up to travelers is a great way to meet new people, have some awesome adventures, and increase your good travel karma. Sure you can just offer a bedroom or a couch, but you get bonus points for showing your guests around your city. Or ask your guests if they’d be willing to make a typical dinner from their native country and learn about someone else’s culture while sharing your own. It can also be pretty fun trying to hunt down the necessary ingredients in your local grocery store.
Show ‘Em Around Town
You don’t necessarily have to open up your home to someone if you’re not comfortable with the idea of having someone you’ve never met crash on your living room floor. There are plenty of options to interact with people visiting your city that don’t include inviting them to your home. Sign up with TripTrotting to meet likeminded travelers or find people who are looking to meet locals in areas they’re visiting. CouchSurfing also offers an activity board where you can post activities or meet up with travelers for as long (or as little) as you like. Offer to meet someone for coffee, spend a morning showing them your favorite hang out places, take them hiking, or invite them to celebrate a local holiday with you and your family and friends. Tripping is another good site to meet up with travelers.
Host an Exchange Student
Alright, if you’re a broke college student living in a crowded apartment, this option isn’t for you. Still, it’s something to consider for later down the road. If you’ve got extra space and a stable home environment, consider hosting an exchange student for a semester or a year. Visit AFS, the Center for Cultural Interchange, or the Council on International Education Exchange for more information on becoming a host. If you’re not quite in the position to host a student, visit the organizations for volunteer opportunities. Often these programs offer opportunities for those interested in taking students on trips or providing them support outside of their host family.
If you’re a university student, visit your student center to enquire about opportunities to volunteer with international and exchange student programs. You can build up some seriously good travel karma by helping fellow students coordinate some of the overwhelming logistical details of moving to and studying in another country.
Friends of Friends
Let your friends know that your home is always welcome to any travelers and that they should always feel free to give your contact info to anyone they know who is going to be in the area. You can take it from there and offer a guest room or just some tips on where to go, depending on how comfortable you feel with the person.