Frugal travel with Esperanto
Travel presents the classic conundrum: If you have the money you don't have the time, and if you have the time you don't have the money.
You can travel on the cheap if you have friends or relatives that you can stay with. But even if you have some, they probably aren't all over the world, so your options are limited. Suppose, in addition to them, you had another twelve or thirteen hundred friends willing to give you a place to sleep? And suppose they lived in close to 100 different countries? Well, you very nearly do: The Passport Service.
The Passport Service is a book with names and addresses of well over a thousand people (the number varies from year to year) willing to host international guests in their home for free. All you can count on is a place to sleep, but you're reasonably likely to also get a home cooked meal, some tips on places to see and things to do, and very possibly a local guide.
There's a catch, though: the service is provided in Esperanto, and only Esperanto speakers are invited. Fortunately, Esperanto is really easy to learn. Anyone willing to study 30 or 40 minutes a day for a month or two can learn Esperanto well enough to use the Passport Service, even if they've never learned a second language before. It's not a spur-of-the-moment thing, but as I said at the start, this is an idea for people who find themselves in the "time but no money" category.
How it works
The key item that you need is the Passport Service (Pasporta Servo in Esperanto) book. In it you'll find names and address with contact information for people willing to host Esperanto speakers for free. You can buy the book for about $25. Alternatively, you can get the book for free if you agree to list your own home in it.
Hosts are allowed to set pretty much any conditions for guests that they want. A lot of hosts say no smokers. Many hosts only have room for one or two guests. Some hosts don't accept guests during certain months of the year. Many only allow guests to stay for one or a few nights. But many others open their homes with few or no restrictions--except that the guests speak Esperanto.
Once you have the book, look through it for people who live in the places you want to visit. Use the contact information to inquire with the details of your planned trip. Some places may be unavailable, but most will be glad to have you. Repeat for as many places as you want to visit. Show up and get free places to sleep.
A free place to sleep is all that's promised, but in fact, you get a lot more. The people who list their homes are people who want to make a connection with foreign travelers. They'll want to spend some time talking with you about your home and your trip. They'll also want to tell you about themselves and the place you're visiting. You might imagine that it would be difficult to have such a conversation in a language you've only been studying for a few weeks, but if you give it a try, you'll be surprised and pleased. Esperanto really is that easy to learn.
Details about pasporta servo
Esperanto organizations in English-speaking countries
- info in many languages
- Esperanto-USA (their on-line book service sells Pasporta Servo)
- Esperanto Association of Britain
- Australian Esperanto Association
- New Zealand Esperanto Association