HOUSE EXCHANGE …Should You Dare?
with Mary Schreiner
There is no question that travel enriches life. But, with the current economy and questionable future, many people feel as though they cannot afford to travel. Happily, there is a way to save a lot on travel expense and to have a fabulous experience at the same time–and that is through house exchanging. A person may use his primary residence, a condo, or an apartment. It may be in the city, the suburbs, or countryside. And it needs as little as one bedroom and a bathroom.
I have done 30 exchanges so far and look forward to many more in the future. One of our best exchanges was in Paris. We were near the Luxembourg Gardens, so in Paris but out of the tourist section. People there did not speak English, so we visited many local restaurants and, after much bad-French and charades on our part, we were warmly welcomed by the French and served some of the best food we have ever experienced. Since we were an exception to the rule (Americans actually living in a neighborhood of Paris not just on tour with 40 other Americans), we received hospitality normally not afforded to foreigners.
We had another great experience this past summer when we spent 6 weeks in a suburb of Melbourne Australia. We were just 3 blocks from the beach, where I walked almost every morning watching the sun rise over the Tasman Sea. The people there were so open and friendly, and the animals were something out of a storybook from childhood: kangaroos, koala bears, cockatoos, etc … all in the neighborhood. No need to visit a zoo.
We arrange to meet many of our exchangers. Either we stay in the USA until they arrive, or they meet us in their country. One of the most fun groups was a family who came from the south of Paris–a family of two parents in their 40’s and their two teenage sons. It was delightful getting to meet them after months of emails. And, while they were in our home they made friends with the neighbors and everyone took turns having backyard bar-be-ques.
The Italians from Padua (Podova), near Venice, were besotted with Colorado. They love everything about our area of the USA, except the food. You rarely find a bad or even mediocre meal in Italy … and Olive Garden is not even near their tastes or quality. But our dry air, the mountains, and friendly people really sold them on the fact the Americans are not such a bad lot … if only they could cook.
While home exchanging is a great way to travel, it isn’t for everyone. I’ve found it best to arrange exchanges through one of the sites online. A person should check out at least a couple of these sites to see which one feels best to them, and offers more of what they are looking for, such as more possible exchangers overseas or domestically.
My class, Home Exchange, Should You Dare?, is designed to answer the many questions that come up when thinking about swapping homes. Just a few are:
- Do you have to let the exchangers use your car?
- What do you do about insurance?
- What do you do about your pets?
- What should you do with valuables and antiques?
Let me help you decide if this adventure in travel is right for you.