- Some people are suspicious. What assurance do we have that they won't steal from us or destroy our house?
- Some people are curious. How does it work? Is it a club you join? How did you get started?
- Some people are excited. Really? Can I do that? What does it take for you to do it?
We have recently returned from Nice on the French Riviera. We spent four gorgeous weeks in Nice and "lived like the locals" in a beautiful apartment while our exchange partners lived in our home and enjoyed their time in the USA! It was a great exchange!
Let me try to address some of the suspicions, curiosity and excitement!
No - we aren't afraid they will destroy our home. When we decided to do Home Exchange, we looked around our home and said, "So what would happen if we came home and found that blah-blah had been broken? Or that blah-blah was stolen? Or that blah-blah was really dirty? We decided that anything that might happen to blah-blah was far outweighed by the excitement of our adventures!
We have met people who have been doing home exchanges for years. I believe the highest count was 17 years. Not one person has had a bad experience to share. Why? Well - because they are people like us. Like you. They want to take good care of your home and want you to take good care of their home. Most of us have had family or friends that have done more damage to our homes than any of the home exchangers would ever do!
The first time someone wrote back to us after we inquired about exchanging with them and said, "I can't come to Naples this year, but you can have my place and then you will owe me the time for your place" - I thought, "What's up with that? What is her angle? Why would she do that?"
Then we started to realize that this community of home exchangers is really the way we wished the world would be: people who treat others the way they want to be treated. People who are kind and gracious. People who appreciate the experience of meeting new people, learning about new cultures. People who are curious. People who stretch and grow because of their interactions.
So - the lady had no "angle". She was simply paying it forward. We have had home exchangers stay in our home when we were not able to travel to theirs. Now we have trips coming up where we will stay in the homes of others before they ever get a chance to stay in our home. I believe it is the law of the universe. It is paying it forward and backward and everyone somehow comes out even.
It works very simply - I will explain later in this blog.
We got started because we looked at the expenses of a three week trip in 2015 and our hotel bills far exceeded the cost of the plane tickets!
We have LOTS of traveling we want to do. Places to go and people to meet. We would not be able to do all of the traveling we want if we were staying in hotels. The cost of any decent hotel is very expensive in Europe and we have tried Airbnb and some other sites, but they still charge a pretty penny and for any long stays the costs add up.
Arriving in a strange city, not speaking the language, different cultures to experience - all of that is so much more comfortable when you have made new friends with your exchange partners. They are just a phone call or an email away to answer questions. Most of us also try to connect our exchange partners with friends or family that live nearby and can help answer local questions and be a friendly point of contact if wanted or needed.
One of our favorite perks is being able to get up in the morning and have coffee in our own "home". No need to hurry and dress and go out to find coffee or breakfast like in hotels. You also have the opportunity to shop for groceries and prepare meals like you would in your own home. That allows you to eat healthier and save money on restaurants. Bonus: there are fruits and vegetables that you have never seen or eaten and you will love the fresh produce!
We also like to have our resting, lazy days if we want. After lots of walking, sight seeing and dealing with crowds, it is nice to just have a day or two to do nothing if that is what we want to do. It is so much more restful than a hotel room.
Of course you can do it! It takes some preparation and work, but after the first one or two exchanges, it is really just a system that you need to get in place.
We use HomeExchange (www.homeexchange.com). There are other websites that do something similar, but this one works for us and we have not heard of anyone having problems. It costs about $120 per year to join HomeExchange. Less than one night in a decent hotel.
Prepare your house as if you were going to show it for a real estate sale. Clean and neat. Then take pictures of your home - usually inside and outside if you live in a house. Condos or apartments are normally only inside shots. Take interesting pictures of your community and town. Tell people about your home - why do you love it? What makes your area attractive for travel?
Decide what items in your house you want to put away and where you want to store them while you are gone. Some people lock things away in closets, garages, etc. We have a 3rd bedroom that we use for our important papers, family pictures and other things that we want put away and we lock it when we leave. That room is off limits for exchange partners.
Have comfortable beds, pillows, towels, etc.
Clear some drawers and closet space for them.
Leave instructions for operating your appliances, places you like to eat, stores that are nearby, favorite things you like to do, anything of interest. Leave phone numbers for any emergencies that might arise.
Sometimes we exchange cars with our new friends and sometimes we don't. When we are in a city with great mass transit systems, we don't need or want a car.
So - what are you waiting for? If you want to travel, live like the locals and not spend a lot of money doing it - sign up! It has been a great decision for us!
Who knows - we might be exchange partners some day!
Postscript: We left Nice on July 13 - one day before the horrible murder of innocent souls enjoying Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais. As we watched the news and recognized landmarks and streets that had become so familiar after one month, we grieved with the rest of the world. We have been asked if this will change our plans for travel and we can answer without hesitation: "No". Life is too precious to live in fear. We will be as smart as we can about our travels and are always watchful when in public, but nothing could have predicted what happened in Nice, or San Bernadino, or Paris, or Brussels, or Orlando. We saw such heavy military and police presence in Nice because of the World Soccer and the Jazz Festival. Yet - with all the presence, one murderer still did the unexpected.
We will continue to make our plans, be street smart, and pray for traveling mercies.