Planning resources aren’t hard to come by. Internet sites abound. They multiply like those furry little creatures on Star Trek. What were they called? Oh wait! I’ll just do a search.
Search string: Star Trek episode furry animal. Voila! TRIBBLES.
Travel planning resource sites are Tribbles. As in the title of the Star Trek episode, they are sometimes troublesome. Right now, I am struggling with an over abundance of vacation rental options for Madrid and Lisbon.
As an American, I use the word “vacation”. That gives me a lot of hits. But when I add in the British word “holiday” to my search string, I hit the mother lode.
So many choices, I can’t choose.
There is the added problem of rental properties with multiple listings. Several agencies represent the same apartment – for a fee. Each of them posts different pictures and descriptions. I may not realize at first that it is the same apartment.
If this were a trip to Italy, or England, or France it would be simple. I’d go to the trip reports and rental reviews on SlowTrav, then I’d post a few questions on SlowTalk, and my decision would be easy. But, Spain and Portugal are at the moment underrepresented. They are still lumped in with The Rest of Europe. Spain only has a few resident experts on SlowTalk, and Portugal hasn’t any. (However, I’m trying to remedy this. With every contact I make in my planning, I tell them about SlowTrav.)
I have to step outside my comfort zone on this one; do my own research; make my own mistakes.
To get control of my options, I’m about ready to set up a spread sheet. Then the obvious slaps me alongside the head. “Why don’t I ask some locals for recommendations?” I’m likely to find more interesting, locations. They will possibly be less expensive because agency fees aren’t involved. And along with the apartment, may come a few new friends to visit with while in their city.
No, I don’t personally know anyone living in either Madrid or Lisbon. My Spanish is limited to the words you learn in the first day of high school Spanish. My Portuguese is nonexistent. How am I to find locals to ask?
Hospitality Club. We’ve been members for four years. We’ve yet to be a host, and we aren’t young, or Bohemian enough any longer to throw our sleeping bags down in someone’s garden. But, I love the concept, of the organization.
We were host members of Servas before that, but found the organization to be too self-important and political for our taste. Hospitality Club is also all about brotherhood and cross cultural understanding and acceptance. But, it has fun with it, and realizes that hosting someone who is backpacking through your town doesn’t have to turn into an international summit. As a member, you aren’t required to host, you can offer a level of hospitality that fits your lifestyle. Some people only want to provide local information. Some will offer a place to pitch a tent. Some, like us, have the space to offer a guest room.
Demographically, the organization is very, very young. In fact, we belong to a small sub-group called “Seniors”. The requirement for being a Senior is over 30.
I’ve sent messages to about 20 members of Hospitality Club scattered throughout Spain and Portugal. Most of them are in Madrid or Lisbon. Some of them are in the two rural areas we plan to stay for our two middle weeks. I didn’t ask for hosting, rather I asked for recommendations.
I’ve heard back from a few. I’m excited. I’m still collecting data.
I still may need that spread sheet.