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Adventures in Home Exchange



Vacations are one of best times of our lives. We go and explore places we have always dreamed about, see those breath-taking sights, savor exotic food, maybe sample some dance steps and try out those colorful costumes. At today’s prices, an average wage-earner can only dream about it. With home exchange, all that is possible.

Discovered and popularized by cash-strapped European teachers in the mid-50s, home exchange is the simple free-accommodation vacation idea where two people from different places exchange homes for a period of time. People caught up the idea right away.

Huge hotel bills simply disappeared for these people living in each other’s homes. In their borrowed homes, they cook and do their usual daily business as if they are in their own homes, when in fact they are on vacation. Travel budgets are cut more than half and the average guy enjoys his vacation like the rich guys do.

Other advantages begin to emerge, too, as this type of travel became popular through the years. Now, there are home exchange groups with their own websites who specialize in facilitating these exchanges more smoothly than before.

Where usual tourists are served with expensive hotel food (on top of their expensive accommodations), home exchangers get to cook their own favorite food in their exchanged houses. Where usual vacationers are herded along through their hectic destinations (“four cities in seven days" tour packages), the home exchanger strolls down a historic boulevard leisurely chatting with some neighbors or new friends.

There are other perks as well. Many stories were swapped as well with these house swappers, as they are called sometimes. Some were funny, some were quaint, and some were feel-good love stories. People on vacation meet all kinds of adventure but home exchangers are more susceptible.

Some stories, even in their brevity, paint some memorable encounters. Here are some of them:

“There is something addictive about taking the place of a ‘native’ family in a different culture. You are immediately living a life, not being an exploited tourist. The hints they leave: ‘Don't go to the market on a Thursday, go about 1.00 on a Friday when they have all the bargains’; ‘The best and cheapest restaurant is...’, ‘If you want to see our country at its best then go to...’; People couldn't be more friendly and helpful. ‘My friend will take you to...'; ‘If you need any more information then ring my friends and they will come round’, ‘My neighbors will give you a typical meal from the region and take you to see the best view in our area’".

“At our Boston exchange…we waited a week before realizing we didn't know where to empty the kitchen garbage. We looked on the back porch, in the garage, in the front yard, everywhere we could possibly imagine, but couldn't find the garbage can anywhere…We finally gave up and called our exchangers.

‘The garbage? We don't empty the garbage. We store it in the basement.’ Turned out that our exchangers…eliminated their garbage service in favor of a serious recycling program. They store it and take it to the dump once every month or two.”

“Having completed two big trips, we reconciled ourselves to a final few days in Reykjavik. Almost half the population lives in the capital and on Friday and Saturday nights, we joined residents to drink coffee in mellow little shops, dance in all-night clubs where the joyous atmosphere felt like a high school dance, and dine on the national dish, which is a really terrific steamed hot dog served with two kinds of mustard, fried and raw onions, and remoulade…Five dollars: a dog and a Coke.”

“A family from Big Sky, Montana, arrived at their Caribbean exchange home to find a 42-foot sloop complete with a captain and first mate. New Jersey exchangers got much more than they bargained for when they spent six weeks overlooking Hong Kong harbor, their meals served by a live-in maid.”

Sometimes, our most-carefully planned home exchanges bring us other things totally out of the blue. Thankfully, most of them are full of pleasant surprises. Who wouldn’t want that?







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