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Travel Logs August 2012

Adventure and Affordable Travel Can Go Hand in Hand: Get Thee to a Nunnery!

By Janice Doyle

For a quiet adventure, consider staying at a monastery or convent. They are cheaper than hotels and very peaceful and clean. Monasteries that offer lodging are active religious communities, often in historical buildings. Some require attendance at religious services, but many do not.

Ready for adventure? Love to save money? Instead of adding big hotel bills to the cost of your future trips, there are ways to make both where and how you stay overnight a part of the adventure -- and save money on lodging.

 

Try a Hospitality Club

Single or married, hospitality clubs offer bed and breakfast for under $25 per night to members who love meeting new people. Evergreen Hospitality Club is open to individuals over 50 who pool their guest rooms with over 2,500 other members in the U.S. and Canada to make traveling as simple as staying with friends you haven’t yet met.

Here’s how it works. If I have one or two guest rooms, I offer them to other club members who may be planning to be in my area. Or, when I travel to New York or Missouri, I find a club member with lodging available in their home for a night or two when I need it. Contacts are found on an internet site or print directory followed by email and phone conversations between guests and hosts.

This is no drop-in unannounced arrangement. Guests make contact and arrange accommodations ahead of time directly with the host. Some hosts and guests are busy retirees; others are still working. Members might be marathoners, quilters, volunteers, photographers, bird watchers, teachers, accountants, etc. – active people!

Guests are expected to be self-sufficient, reasonable and considerate by planning outside activity during the day so hosts can carry on with their normal routines. However, guests and hosts often enjoy day-trip outings or dinner out together.

I’ve had a number of Evergreen members in my home, strangers who became friends. I once told a couple that I knew I’d be home from work late the day they would arrive. I also told them where they would find the key to let themselves in. They did and were napping when I got home. We had a delightful dinner together and the next day they had breakfast with me before attending their grandson’s college graduation. For solo travelers, hospitality clubs are a joy. Someone is anticipating their arrival at the end of the day.

Evenings are spent in safe and companionable ways, rather than in the isolation of a hotel room.

Home-stay advantages: Extremely low costs, insider’s view of the area, new friendships, and breakfast included. Hosts and amenities are screened by Evergreen.

Disadvantages: Additional planning and sticking at least reasonably close to your schedule; two-night limit for stay. There is always possible awkwardness between host and guest, night owl vs. early riser issues, etc.

Evergreen Club Membership is $75/year. Gratuity paid to host: $10/single (one person/1 room). $15/double (2 people/1 room). Evergreenclub.com

 

Other hospitality clubs:

  • Wayside Hospitality Club: Christian club for age 50 and older at gowayside.com
  • The Friendship Force: Formed by President Carter in 1977; organizes one-week stays in over 40 countries for cultural exchange. Thefriendshipforce.org
  • Or maybe a monastery. For a quiet adventure, consider staying at a monastery or convent. They are cheaper than hotels and very peaceful and clean. Monasteries that offer lodging are active religious communities, often in historical buildings. Some require attendance at religious services, but many do not. Of course they expect guests to respect the faith of the monastery residents.

Two books, Good Night and God Bless, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Trish Clark, provide details of guest rooms and amenities in hundreds of religious establishments in France, Italy, Austria, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Czech Republic. She says, “The sheer variety of facilities available makes staying in welcoming guesthouses an attractive alternative. They provide cheap, safe and clean accommodation, and many are in stunning locations.” Goodnightandgodbless.com.

Italy alone is dotted with monasteries and convents, particularly in Rome where some of the buildings are located in central positions. See monasterystays.com, which is a well-organized online booking center for 320 Italian monastery and convent stays.

  • Or a home exchange. Maybe you dream of spending a month in Ireland or South Africa. Home exchangers trade their homes, condominiums or apartments at a time that is convenient to both parties. There are many options and locations available, including a luxury yacht in the Caribbean, villas in Italy, and an RV in Oregon. Try homeexchange.com which deals in over 50,000 home swaps a year.

 

A Reminder

Keep in good communication with hosts (or guests) before your trip as the best precaution against unfortunate experiences, cancellations, plan changes, etc. It really all depends on you and your personality. If you love having people in your home and can adapt to other people well, join a hospitality club. If old European lodging appeals to you, you’ll gain your blessing in a monastery.

And if privacy and anonymity are important, make no mistake -- you’ll be happier in a hotel.

 

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