I feel slightly uncomfortable with labels, but here they are quite fitting. Within the span of few hours spent on a plane from New Zealand to Australia, I went from a family traveler to a solo female traveler and landed in Melbourne after blissfully quiet and calm flight sometime after midnight on a Monday night. For someone who had spent the previous couple of months in a small village or on the beach, arriving in a big city was quite the experience. All the suddenly I felt small, but not in the way you do out in the nature. Here I was small in a way one can seemingly disappear in a crowd, slightly loss among all the high-rises and wondering why everyone was in such a hurry.
Arriving in a new city, at night, it was a comforting thought there would be someone waiting for me.
When planning my short escape to Australia and looking into the accommodation options, I was curious to see what this Homestay was all about. Staying in someone’s home, but not as an invited but a paying guest, to me sounded like something between couch-surfing and an apartment rental. Consequently, the best bit for me was choosing my hosts. I went for Jo and Gil, a casting consultant and an actor with a cottage close to the South Melbourne Market, a walking distance from shops, cafés, restaurants – all that city life has on offer.
Choosing your hosts
Booking through Homestay is really a combination of many things. It’s not only about finding the perfect property in a suitable location, but also choosing the right hosts for you. If you want privacy, you don’t need to interact with your hosts, but for me this was the key. Here you have the perfect opportunity to meet locals, get all the insider information on where to eat and what to see, and experience a new location through the eyes of a local.
It works the other way around too. When I asked Jo why they decided to open their house to strangers she said “we love to meet people, we love to travel, and we love meeting people who travel”. As their kids have already left home they had the space and time to convert a section of their house so that guests have a beautiful private queen bedroom with brand new en suite, and additional living area with a kitchenette too. The entry to their heritage listed period home is shared, so it is easy to get assistance if needed, or hide away if that is more your thing.
Exploring South Melbourne from Emerald Cottage
Emerald Cottage. Maybe it was the name, just as much as the hosts with interesting backgrounds that caught my attention. Cottage in a city can be nothing but cozy. And cozy it was, and my hosts did have many interesting stories to tell from their lives and careers, so different to mine.
For this couple, the attraction of the South Melbourne location is its central location to everything. From beach, to the city centre, good restaurants and great cafés, or to the conference centre and theater, almost everything is within a walking distance from the Emerald Cottage. “This is city for the people” says Jo, and in Melbourne you do get that friendly vibe.
I have to say I was nosy, and asked a few questions about their professional lives as that was what caught my attention in their Homestay presentation.
Gil has had a long career as an actor on film, stage and TV and people on the street still remember him as Constable Roy Baker in the Australian television crime drama, Cop Shop. In the recent years his vegetable, herb and food business has kept him busy though albeit not totally out of the acting world. Jo on the other hand works from home and as a Casting Consultant she has had some pretty interesting assignments. Take casting for Australia’s Got Talent as an example!
And this is what Homestay is all about. Meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds with similar passion for travel and meeting likeminded people, in a setting where you can still have as much privacy as you want. Kind of a hotel stay with a friendly, welcoming twist.
Living life to the fullest
Skimbaco is all about living life to the fullest and for me it is always interesting to hear different takes on it. What is living life to the fullest for Jo and Gil?
“There’re no rehearsals, this is it”, says Gil and adds, “everyday is an adventure, the time is so short here, there is no point to do too much forward planning, and as Bob Dylan sang – don’t look back”.
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