free·load [free-lohd, -lohd] verb(used without object) Informal.

1. to take advantage of others for free food, entertainment, etc.

2. to get by freeloading: He freeloaded several meals a week.

freeloader  — n slang:  a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Well, guess what? It’s a little piece of wonderful (actually a BIG piece) for all travellers who want to see the world, but don’t have the budget to fly, train, bus and live in a hotel. It’s also a great way of meeting the “real” people in any country, becoming part of the worldwide community, and taking care of the environment.

Huh? How does this work—taking care of the environment by freeloading? Simple. The more who travel by these means, the greater the impact will be on the hotel industry—fewer hotels will be built and, just maybe, one day we’ll see an end to massive structures being installed along our now overcrowded beaches and other areas of natural beauty.


GlobalFreeloaders, a volunteer-run, advertiser-supported social network, was started by an Australian named Adam Staines in 2001 to, “Create a network of people willing to accommodate travellers completely at their own convenience, in any way that they can, completely free of charge. Whether it’s just a spare mattress or a spare bedroom or even a granny flat.”

Based in Melbourne, the user-friendly free accommodation search is only available to members, and membership is free. You are automatically listed as a possible host, although you can stipulate dates when you are not available. It now has more than 100,000 members in 200-plus countries around the world. You’ll find them in Bhutan, Pitcairn Island, Mali, Burkina Faso, Denmark and Egypt, and even Ethiopia—you name the country, GlobalFreeloaders are likely there.

How it works

Whether you plan on going somewhere particular or want to travel around the world, simply enter your chosen destination and dates into the GlobalFreeloaders directory and it spits out a list of all the hosts that may be willing to offer free accommodation in that area.

The only catch, if you wish to perceive it as such, is that global freeloading is about give and take, so there are two sides to being a GlobalFreeloader—host and guest. By registering as a GlobalFreeloader, you can become a guest and all that’s asked in return is that you also become a host, willing to offer free accommodation to other travellers, whenever it’s convenient for you. Give and take goes to the extent that, should you stay in say 20 free homes in a period of travel, it’s expected that you reciprocate by hosting the same number of times—at your convenience, of course.

GlobalFreeloaders can accommodate other members wherever, whenever, and as often as they like.  Some people enjoy the company and cultural exchange that comes with hosting. Others find it less enjoyable. So whether it’s one night or one hundred. Before, after or during travels—it’s completely up to each GlobalFreeloader to decide how accommodating they want to be.

All addresses and email addresses are kept strictly confidential. It’s up to the host to reveal their address to any potential guest and they can take as long as they like getting acquainted with each other before agreeing to accommodate them.

Since its inception more than a decade ago, GlobalFreeloaders truly has become a worldwide community in which people have formed friendships with others they never would have met. It goes far beyond just being a source for free accommodation, it’s a source for camaraderie and cultural immersion while exploring a new land.

To read about people’s experiences as both hosts and guests, visit the GlobalFreeloaders’ testimonials page and sign up.

image: Evan Spellman (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND)