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10 Reasons Why I Love Homestays

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip -- Vol. 5, #6 (October, 2001)

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MY RESPONSE TO 9/11/01
I couldn't get much work done this month—spent the time I should have been working reading accounts of the terror and responses to it. I'm a NYC native and have also lived in DC. So instead of doing work for my own benefit, I decided there was one small thing I could do for the world. I put a lot of time and energy into creating a page of resources that helped me, personally, cope with the tragedy and help me understand the reasons behind it. Obviously, these resources reflect my own particular worldview: one that puts things in a context of our history around the world, and my general orientation toward peace. Unlike almost every page on my site, this one contains no pitches for my products and services—just 16 articles that spoke to me on a personal level.

This page includes not only the coping resources I sent around mid-month, but perspectives from the Dalai Lama, a journalist, a professor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Rep. Barbara Lee, an Afghani-American, and others.

If you feel moved to visit, the page is http://www.frugalfun.com/peace.html

Feel free to share that URL with anyone who may take some comfort from it.

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THIS MONTH'S TIP - 10 Reasons Why I Love Homestays

Joining a homestay organization is one of the best ways to not only slash the cost of a trip, but also create a much richer experience. When I think about my favorite travel memories, so many of them would never have happened if we'd not been a member of a homestay organization.
1. Going to a school talent show—in Welsh—with our hosts who lived in a 400-year-old stone house in Snowdonia, Wales (the directions to their house: go past the third sheep gate after the road becomes a narrow lane).
2. Being pleasantly surrounded by a dozen very tame horses near Boulder, Colorado, and watching my daughter get on a horse for the first time and my son for the second time—bareback.
3. Watching Rob Reiner's "The Robber Bride" dubbed in Spanish with hosts in Seville, Spain—and not realizing until halfway through the movie that it was a parody.
4. A long and passionate discussion of Middle East politics with Palestinian Arab hosts in an Arab village in Israel.
5.Getting a bouzouki and piano concert from our host family's two teenage sons in Athens, Greece.
6. Touring a private collection of thousands of exquisite Native American and Asian art pieces—the owners are working on setting up a museum for it—with our hosts in Alamosa, Colorado (neighbors and friends of the collectors).
7. Watching my son, who had never seen citrus growing outside a greenhouse, pick oranges for breakfast daily with several hosts in northern California.
8. Eating authentic homemade couscous in the apartment of a Moroccan graduate student, our host in Paris.
9. Staying in a wide range of unusual situations, from mansions and private guest houses to a working farm in Texas to a college dormitory in Israel to a converted church in Wales where the wind was strong enough to blow the door open against a barricade of full five-gallon motor oil containers.
10. Getting a custom tour of Orange County, California, from a 70-year old woman who had just returned from an adventure trip to Indonesia.
In short, the people we meet, the adventures they give us, and the sights they tell us to see or avoid give us a far richer travel experience than we'd otherwise have. And to make it even more attractive, we pay an annual membership fee of about $55 and then the lodging cost is free, other than reimbursing hosts for direct expenses such as long distance calls. (We do usually bring a small gift, however—a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, some fresh fruit.)

If the idea of homestays interests you, my book, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook, offers a list of over 20 homestay and home exchange organizations, with contact information and descriptions. We've found it a delightful way to not only travel very frugally, but also have a far better trip.

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