GoAbroad Interview

Deirdre Bounds - Founder

Deirdre Bounds, Founder of GoCambio 

Former comedienne, Deirdre Bounds is the founder of both i-to-i TEFL, and the newly launched GoCambio, a platform for knowledge and skills exchange while traveling. She has presented on Channel 4 News in England, taught English in Japan, and even had a best-selling book, Fulfilled. Her latest venture, GoCambio, has taken her entrepreneurial skills to the next level, and she cannot wait to share more about it!

You founded one of the largest and most successful international volunteer organizations in the UK, i-to-i, and then you sold that company. Most people would have been satisfied to ride off into the sunset and retire. You’re back in the international education and meaningful travel space with a new organization, GoCambio, can you tell us about it?

I like to innovate. I would not have come back to work if the idea wasn’t new and exciting. I was getting restless and wanted a new challenge other than knitting and gardening! 

My brother, who lives in Ireland, was still in the volunteering/intern business. My son had just completed his first Spanish exchange, and Couchsurfing and Airbnb were in full swing. So, there were a lot of ideas still spinning in my head at the same time.

Deirdre Bounds speaking at an event

I was talking to my brother about costs of travel and language learning and asked whether there was a platform where people could find each other to be able to travel and learn a language. He didn’t know of one. We searched and couldn’t find anything that didn’t cost a lot to either learn a language or to go to a family and teach.

Paying intermediaries is so last century. The world is changing. The sharing economy is upon us. GoCambio came to us during a one hour walk around a cliff top in Ireland. It’s the future, it’s the right thing to do, and it will surely make the world smaller and allow access to many people who could either:

  1. Not really afford to travel
  2. Not be able to afford expensive language lessons

It is inclusive as everybody has a language they speak and (mostly) everybody has a home.

How is GoCambio going to revolutionize the way people travel?

Well, it is a pure sharing site enabling people to share what they have, for what they want. What a great way to travel! And it isn’t free, you actually have to do something, so you don’t feel totally obliged to someone for giving you a free bed. There is a “deal” element in this. And because everybody speaks a language, this whole way of travel is inclusive.

Because of our expertise with online TEFL courses, we have included an online “homestay” teaching course for free, so there is no excuse. Everybody speaks a language and you can learn how to teach it with one of the most experienced TEFL providers in the world, another first. I love it!

Deirdre Bounds, founder of GoCambio

GoCambio allows a no cost way to travel and immerse yourself in a new culture, what is this going to mean for diversifying travelers? Will travelers with less money be able to travel now?

Yes, of course, but it does have a cost in terms of the traveler’s time. They need to commit to coaching or “conversing” in their native language at least two hours a day.

How do you vet both hosts and travelers in this new era where you’re connecting travelers in a shared economy?

This is of course an important question. We have a full briefing on safety. Phone verification, endorsement, review, and reference tools are built into the site. We recommend Skype and social media checking before a Cambio takes place. As always, investigate your Cambio partner carefully!

GoCambio also has a unique tool that would allow a guitarist or flamenco dancer from Spain to go to England and teach children in a host family guitar or flamenco. It would allow a computer programmer from Iceland to travel to Namibia and share computer skills with a homestay in a village. What other sort of unusual and unique shared skills do you imagine are being exchanged on GoCambio?

We have an American music tech student coming to our home in England to help my husband set up his home music studio. We have people who teach piano, Calligraphy, cooking, soccer, tennis, math, ballet, etc!

Where did the name GoCambio come from?

We had so many variables: Spareroomtutor.com, Triparia, Triptalk...I know enough about branding that we needed to find something that could also be a multifuncional verb, so none of the above seemed right.

But, I was organising an exchange for my son to go to Spain and I had so many requests for an Intercambio (“-cambio” meaning exchange) one day, about 15 in my inbox, that it just came to me, rather like the whole idea itself! I checked that the web name was available and well here we are with GoCambio. People doing a “Cambio” and going “Cambioing”. It all seemed to work, and the word Cambio is global, you see it every day at airports.

Volunteer with children in Africa

GoCambio’s office is based in Ireland, but you have staff from all over the world, how does that work? How do you get so many interns interested in working for you?

Ireland has a great global brand. Everybody loves the Irish. It is the only English speaking country in the Euro-zone, and a magnet for intelligent go getting people and interns from all over Europe. There is the added bonus that no visas are needed in Europe. Added to the fact that GoCambio is a very exciting start up and we have had many applications. I can’t blame people for wanting to go to Ireland to work with such an exciting start up. I would too, wouldn’t you?

Is GoCambio a student travel portal only, or who can travel?

It is open to anybody, regardless of age, social status, or nationality. GoCambio has no boundaries. You speak a language, or you or your family want to learn one, easy, just sign up. It’s free!

Who’s the ideal GoCambio traveler?

Someone who is patient and is prepared to learn how to give their host family the best coaching they can (by spending time doing a bit of planning and completing the GoCambio Express homestay course, which is free too).

What should somebody hosting a GoCambio traveler expect?

A really interesting and useful addition to their family. A person who has the skills and desire to travel and help you and your family improve their language skills. And, it won’t cost anything apart from a few home cooked meals. 

Who’s the ideal GoCambio host?

A person or family who is curious about the world and is serious about learning a skill. Your guest is coming to help out, so be mindful of that.

How long do people typically go Cambioing?

Anywhere from three days (a long weekend break) to a month.