Strangers now sleep in my bed: How my travels influenced my decision to become a home-stay host 17



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I travel for pleasure…a lot.

I travel to new cities, countries and continents each year. When people ask me about my experiences, I tell them about the wonderful people I have met and connected with, not the manmade structures I have photographed or climbed over. The same goes for accommodation. I have stayed in more hotel rooms than I care to remember with only a few which I could say were “unique”. I would much rather stay with a rice farmer and his family in a Sri Lankan village than the 5-star, Buri Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai! Don’t get me wrong, I like a little bit of luxury every now and again and would not pass up the opportunity if someone wants to spoil me rotten with a complimentary stay, however, hotel rooms are often expensive, lonely and impersonal for the solo traveller. When you find yourself waiting for the housemaid to come so you can make conversation, you know you have problems!

Increasingly, like many international travellers, I want the opportunity to stay in someone’s house, where I can have a unique and meaningful experience by connecting with a local and get to know the culture first hand. When someone welcomes you into their home and treats you as family, you come away with everlasting memories which cannot be measured in monetary terms.

Capitalising on my own experiences while using bed and breakfast and homestay accommodations in Asia, I decided to explore the possibility of starting my own business. The extra income would help offset my travelling addiction but more importantly enable me to meet like-minded people who enjoyed travelling. I felt there must be travellers, both domestic and international, to my part of Australia who would like to experience “real” hospitality and not find themselves in just another king-sized bed, in a non-descript, lonely hotel room.

Deciding to open up my house to strangers was not something to be taken lightly and my decision was met with apprehension by family members who were concerned about my safety. My grown children were certainly not impressed with the idea I would be soon renting out their childhood bedrooms even though they had long since left home!

There are a variety of important factors to consider before deciding to rent out the spare bedroom. These are my top two tips.

1. Like people.

You have to actually really like people. You must be prepared to welcome strangers into your home and treat them like royalty. The money is nice but it will not make up for someone sharing your house, using your bathroom and sleeping in your spare bed – no matter how much you are charging for the privilege. If you don’t think you can do that then maybe you should give the whole idea of being a B & B host a miss. Remember, your business will rely on good reviews and word of mouth so it ultimately it is up to you to make sure you give your guests the best experience they have ever had.

2. Research

Take your time to research and talk to different operators and customers about their experiences. Recently, I had guests who specifically booked to stay with me to “take notes” as they were considering starting their own businesses.

I had previously used a well-known international organisation (Airbnb) on my travels for accommodation and with this knowledge, decided to list the spare bedroom in my home. Within two days I received a booking and the rest is history! My business, as a B & B host became not just a way of making some extra cash but it has also enabled me to meet some wonderful people and learn about their lives and travels.

My family’s fears of dubious guests stealing our cats, or other valuables, have been unfounded. I have hosted some amazing international visitors from Asia, Europe and North America, who want a unique Australian country experience complete with kangaroos in the top paddock and a thousand bush flies on the kitchen screen door. Most importantly, it is my responsibility to make sure my guests feel safe, comfortable and relaxed within my home. As one guest from Switzerland recently told me, “I am looking for an experience, with real people, not just a bed to sleep in”.

Most of my guests are just like me – they are tired of lonely hotel rooms. They are looking for connections with locals, whether it be in a large city or on a farm in the Australian outback. They desire a unique and meaningful accommodation experience.

And yes, I decided to move out of the master bedroom and turn it over to my guests, so now strangers do actually sleep in my bed!

What is the best part about sharing my home with strangers? Those strangers now depart as new found friends.


Tell us, would you let a stranger sleep in your bed?


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Penny Frederiksen

My name is Penny and I'm searching for a cure for a bug I picked up. Beware, it is often contagious's called "travelling"! I live in rural Australia on a cattle property and my love affair with travel and photography started at a very young age..the National Geographic Magazines at my local dentist! Travel makes me step outside my comfort zone and get a better prospective of the world around me, and yes, if you hang around me, you might just catch the bug as well.

  1. To make some money for travels ..get into the air bnb craze and do it for yourself …… Soon there will be so many Air bnb’s hotels will become obsolete.

  2. A friend has turned her spare bedroom into B& B accommodation to supplement her income. She loves meeting new people and her guests often return.

  3. I have Helpx travellers so they do some odd jobs for their bed & a meal.Its a win win as I get jobs done & meet lovely people they love being in a real home in Tasmania

  4. I welcomed Couchsurfers into my home earlier this year and met some wonderful people. One couple, a mother and daughter, stayed 10 days and looked after me during a back injury. I have been considering the Airbnb idea for a while. A good positive story…. Thank you!

    1 REPLY
    • Thank you for your kind comments Johanna. If you enjoyed your experience with Couch-surfing then give Airbnb a go. It is easy to set up and has a great support network.

  5. I value my alone time too much. I am a loner and would not be able to handle having someone else living in my home even for a few days.
    But good on those you can do it. And as you say, the extra income allows you to do things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

    1 REPLY
  6. Agree with author that you need to love people and look into it carefully. Could work for the right person.

  7. Like Ruth, I like my own space – especially being an author where it’s imperative to have big chunks of alone time each day – however, I’ve often thought of opening a BnB which has a small standalone cottage with breakfast provisions provided. That way we could share our lovely part of the world with others while still maintaining a small distance, along with making some treat money and gaining new friends along the way.

  8. Absolutely not. I live alone and i’m a writer and up all hours of the day and night. Haven’t lived with anyone for 15 years and wouldn’t feel comfortable. I’m happy for friends to come and stay for a holiday, but not complete strangers.

  9. I too just stumbled into the bnb hosting and use Airbnb. A very easy way to set up everything. I now use Airbnb for my own travels. The guests are on the whole, lovely, ordinary people and really the pretty town l live in.

  10. I do couch surfing haven’t had any for awhile great way to met people but will only have them for a couple of nights.I just hope when the grand children do there OE that someone on the other side of the world give them a bed.They come mainly from Europe

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