Step out of the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

by Allison Roberts

Photo Courtesy of Lainie Mullen

Many Boomers are blurring the lines between travel and work. It takes creative thinking to blend the two. Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of examples in my own life of people who are doing it right. It is possible to bring a bit more spontaneity and zest into your life through creative vacationing. Three resources make it economical and fun to be global while keeping your current life intact:

Exchange homes with the locals

HomeforExchange is a marketplace for non-commercial home exchange: “You stay in their home while they stay in yours.” Five years ago, our family saved thousands on our vacation to Spain by exchanging our home in Bellingham, Wash., with a Spanish family’s summer place south of Barcelona. They wanted to visit somewhere in the Northwest and take an Alaska cruise. We wanted to fly into Barcelona, and live outside of the city for a week. HomeforExchange made it possible for us to make a local connection and set plans in motion for our exchange. Try it for ten days to explore the site; if you like it, just pay $64.50 for an annual membership. If it looks like it’s for you, create a listing for your home. It’s fun to browse the listings for a place in your destination area. If you don’t arrange an exchange in your first year, the second year is free.

Live with a local familyPhoto courtesy of Lainie Mullen

Invented in San Francisco, one of the most competitive and expensive markets in the world, Airbnb provides way to become a host or a traveler and invite the world into your life. For Boomers with an extra room or two, here’s a safe way to connect with world travelers who want a more personal connection to the local scene. With a tagline, “Belong Anywhere,” Airbnb has hosts in 190 countries who welcome travelers into their homes. Signing up for an account is free and their web interface makes it easy to search for adventure. For a fraction of the cost, our family recently stayed in Sausalito, Calif. with a nice woman who rents out her master bedroom. We had use of her kitchen and she made local resources available to us with special travel tips for local hangouts and things to do.

Work and play away from home

Photo courtesy of Lainie MullenWorkAway is a matchmaker for budget travelers, language learners or culture seekers and families, who are looking for a range of interesting activities. Through volunteer and cultural exchange, travelers integrate into local communities around the world. Volunteers come from all sorts of backgrounds and bring with them a variety of abilities and skills. Typical tasks with Workaway might involve helping with an eco-building or restoration project, teaching English in a multi-lingual family, managing the front desk at a resort, general maintenance, helping with a garden or animals, web design and marketing.

Three years ago, our son found a WorkAway at a yoga and meditation retreat center in southern Sweden. He lived there for five weeks with four other Workawayers to secure the center for the winter and to prepare a space in a barn for future expansion. He learned more than he ever anticipated about yoga, living off-grid, and eating vegetarian, and loved every minute from this mind-expanding experience. This enriched volunteer experience was well-worth the two-year membership fee of about $60.

HomeforExchange, Airbnb and Workaway are great ways to bring more spontaneity into your life. You’ll add new stories to your life, meet generous and wonderful people, create extra income or stretch your vacation dollars, and become a global citizen, connected with others whom you might never have met. Whether you leave home or not, you’ll step out of the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Photos courtesy of Lainie Mullen

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