Did you know that HomeExchange.com is a totally virtual company? Our team gathers once a year to learn, brainstorm, share ideas, and have some fun. We just returned from our annual meeting in beautiful Mont-Tremblant, Canada, and we couldn’t be more excited about the year ahead.
Guest post by Angela Baldwin of DesksNear.Me
From private offices to creative spaces, know where to go if a work emergency comes up.
Exchanging homes has become easier than ever because of HomeExchange.com. But outside of where you’re staying when you’re traveling, many people run into problems when a work emergency comes up. Where do you go? How do you get proper wifi to send important documents? Or what if you learn you can’t take time off even though your vacation has been planned well in advance?
Whatever reason it is, it’s clear you need to have a plan for work emergencies while traveling that will make you feel safe, secure and productive without losing the beauty of your travel experience.
Whether it’s a last minute assignment and you need a quiet office or if you’re traveling for a long period of time in a vacation/business trip, here are a few ways to make it easier than it’s ever been.
1. Book a desk at an office nearby to handle a few hours of business while you’re in a new place. Check out these spaces in London or in New York. To think anyone can get work done from a crowded coffee shop is a fallacy. Sometimes, you just need a quiet desk. Need to sign a document? Use tools like Docusign to sign and send documents electronically.
2. Live in a new part of the world for the entire summer and have a place to go. Here are some long term spaces in Italy and Spain. Experience life as a local in all forms-your home and your office. Get your team on Flowdock to communicate while remote.
3. Meet locals by working side by side with at a coworking space. Want to make the most of a family trip? Find out where to eat, where to go or what pub to go to for happy hour by working from a coworking space and make new friends. Use Skype or GoToMeeting if you absolutely need to communicate with your colleagues back home.
4. Manage your time. Traveling with your children can be one of the most memorable experiences but sometimes you need to handle your business needs from afar. Spend your mornings in your remote office and be ready to play by lunchtime. Use toggl to manage your time and keep your commitments to your family!
5. Get as much work done in advance.Your family deserves your undivided attention. Traveling for work is never the same as traveling for fun, your mind is consumed and you can’t enjoy the small joys of your trip. Whatever you can do to get your work done in advance or while your family is sleeping, do it. Life is way too short. Use tools like Zirtual to pass off simple assignments or scheduling for a small cost.
From private offices to creative spaces, you need to know where you can set up your laptop and get your work done when an emergency comes up. Visit DesksNear.Me to find a space near you. DesksNear.Me is powered by Near Me, a technology platform enabling brands and entrepreneurs to create peer-to-peer marketplaces all over the world.
About the Author
Angela is the social media strategist for Near Me, a technology platform enabling brands and entrepreneurs to create peer-to-peer marketplaces. She is also the community manager for DesksNear.Me
HomeExchange.com team members and Montréalais Paul and Jean-Jacques are giving us the inside scoop on the best fun and free things to do in Montreal.
1. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal offers free admission for the majority of its collections at all times. The only paid exhibitions are temporary collections. MBAM also offers regular tours, film screenings, seminars, and conferences, always free.
2. Admire the Botanical Garden
The Montreal Botanical Garden opens its doors for free every evening from 6PM until sunset all summer long.
3. Dive into the pool
Enjoy the city’s free public swimming pools all year round; in the winter, they’re converted to ice rinks!
4. Observe Feux Loto-Québec
The International des Feux Loto-Québec is an international fireworks competition, and one of the largest festivals in the world in its category. It takes place every year between June and September. There are some strategic locations on the island of Montreal that will allow you to observe the lights in all their glory, without paying a cent. Enjoy it!
5. The Free Jazz Festival and Francofolies shows
Towards the end of June and beginning of July, the Jazz Festival of Montreal welcomes more than 3,000 artists from 30 countries and nearly 2 million festivalgoers. 1,000 concerts are presented, most of which are free and take place on 10 outdoor stages.
6. Dance to the Tam-tams du Mont-Royal
Every Sunday in the summer, go to Parc du Mont-Royal to dance to the Tam-Tams’ rhythm, or bring your beach towel and enjoy the beautiful weather in a bohemian and festive atmosphere.
7. Catch some sun at La Plage de l’Horloge
La Plage de l’Horloge in the Old Port of Montreal is now free! Go get a tan with friends under the beautiful blue umbrellas of this new urban beach. The beach is open every day of the summer (until September 2nd), from 11AM until 7:30PM.
8. Visit the Cinematheque Quebecoise
The Cinematheque is not just a movie theatre, but also a museum that presents different collections. Museum admission is free at the Cinematheque at all times.
9. See the Boules Roses
If you’re wondering what to do in Montreal on a beautiful summer afternoon, try a walk on Ste-Catherine, in the Village, between St-Hubert and Papineau. The street is closed to vehicular traffic and reserved for pedestrians, so you can enjoy the shops and bars of the area while walking under a sky of more than 200,000 pink balls.
10. Browse the Jean-Talon Market
Stroll to the Jean-Talon market, one of the largest public markets in the city. You will love the experience, especially all the food treasures (not expensive at all) you will taste! Take a few minutes to sit and enjoy some good pancakes or some good cheese from Quebec. Even if you do not buy anything, a promenade along the MJT is always a wonderful free thing to do.
We asked our Hungarian representative, Éva, to give us the inside scoop on her home country. This is Hungary: Unlocked!
How to say hello
How to say goodbye
How to say thank you
Forint ( 1 Euro = 305 HUF)
Favorite national foods
Start your adventure in the Big Food Hall with a lángos (fresh, deep fried flat bread), then try a stew (pork/chicken/beef/fish) made with red paprika powder. (Did you know that goulash, a popular stew in many countries, was originally a soup?) Enjoy with some wine from any of the five big vineyards of the country.
Finish your meal with a piece of Dobos torte, a sponge cake with five layers and caramel topping and a glass of the world famous Tokaj white dessert wine.
Best months to visit
Every month is a great month to visit Hungary! Here are some highlights:
- Wagner Festival in the beautiful Palace of Arts
- The 35 year-old Budapest Spring Festival with its unique series of cultural events
- Visit Balaton, the biggest lake in Central Europe. With its warm, shallow, and clean water, it’s a paradise for sailors, swimmers, and especially for families with kids.
- Sziget Festival, a week-long music festival.
- Celebrate Constitution Day (August 20th) with the locals and enjoy a spectacular 30-minute firework display over the Danube.
- Visit Hortobágy National Park for its rare plants.
- In the southern city of Pécs, Hungary’s 5th largest city, you can visit the source of the colored tiles that adorn many of the art nouveau buildings in Budapest, then do some winery hopping.
- Autumn is the best time for visiting one of Hungary’s many, many museums; you will always find an exciting exhibition.
- Watch and learn the basics of some Hungarian folk dances at one of the many dance houses.
- Discover the fascinating art nouveau buildings of Budapest.
- Have you ever had a bath in a cave spa? If not, then visit Miskolctapolca!
The best way to get around
Between cities you would want to use trains or a car. In Budapest you can use the public transport system, one of the most reliable services in Europe. You can also enjoy walking or cycling to many locations.
Hungarians shake hands when they meet someone for the first time. If they are seeing someone whom they’ve already met, which might for some people include contact via email and/or Skype (for example planning a Home Exchange visit), they often kiss each other on both cheeks.
Hungarians are very hospitable and like indulging their guests and friends. Do not be surprised when entering a household if you are offered (and feel obliged to drink) a small glass of Pálinka (fruit brandy) or Unicum (a bitter tasting aperitif made of 40 herbs) even before a meal. Unless you are a serious teetotaler, take this as a gesture of hospitality – it will help your digestion, too!
A novel to read or a film to watch to learn more about Hungary
A film about our 20th century history called Sunshine, directed by István Szabó, depicts Hungary from generation to generation leading up to 1989.
Local websites for discounts in restaurants, theatre, cinema, etc.
The Budapest Card offers discounts on attractions, public transportation, tours, museums, and baths.
The best kept secret about Hungary
Hungary is a great place for water lovers of all kinds! Besides spas, Hungary has many opportunities for enjoying natural water adventures: Lake Balaton, the Danube River, Lake Fertő, and the Tisza River just to name a few. Most natural waters are warm enough to swim in from the end of May to September thanks to the warm summer climate. All towns on rivers and lakes will have a local rent-a-boat shop that offers dinghy boats, water-bicycles, or even small sport sailboats. You can even explore downtown Budapest on a rented canoe.
The most unique thing about Hungary
There are over 1,000 natural wells in Hungary providing thermal water of over 30°C (86°F) and about 150 hot water medical baths. You can swim in Héviz Lake with water lilies around you or play a game of chess in a open pool at Széchenyi Bath while snow falls around you and the waters cure your ills.
If it is a Friday or a Saturday, on your way back you can stop by a Turkish bath called Rudas that’s open from 10PM to 4AM.
Common misconceptions about Hungary
Many people think that Hungary is a flat country. In fact we have wonderful forests and hills to hike, and all are very well marked. You can walk the entire length of the country on the National Blue Trail, and you can get local hiking maps for any area you visit.
Hungary’s best free activities
Margaret Island in Budapest is a great place to do all kinds of leisure activities. Besides walking around under beautiful trees, medieval ruins, and gardens, you can jog around the island or take a swim in an open-air pool or have a picnic in the island park in the heart of the city. For families, there is a water park with different sized pools, a small zoo, a musical water fountain, and the whole family can rent a bringo (a four-wheel bicycle).
Odds and ends
Hungarians are very good hosts and although our language is difficult, it is quite easy to be a tourist here; a lot of people speak at least a little bit of German or English!
Our members exchange homes of all shapes and sizes, from cozy apartments to sprawling estates and everything in between. Today, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the most design-centric listings on HomeExchange.com. Which one is your favorite?
The owners of this Parisian spot are a photographer and a street artist, so it’s no wonder the space is infused throughout with unique, creative touches.
This beautifully modern, kid-friendly home is close to the sea and the city, surrounded by nature. – and has an indoor swing!
This organic-modern home was built with sustainability in mind. From the view out the living room window, you might think you’re floating above the water. You’re not … but you’re close!
This airy Copenhagen home was built in 1931 by a famous Danish architect. Can you imagine cooking in that bright, beautiful kitchen?
Step inside this ultra-modern Houston, Texas home and you might think you’ve been transported to the hippest hotel in town. But with enough room to sleep 8 and easy access to downtown Houston, it leaves hotels in the dust.
San Francisco is a vibrant city full of culture, amazing food, and endless activities. But be honest: would you ever want to leave that soaking tub?
Ann Street, on which this home is located, has been called “the most attractive street in Britain” and this just might be its prettiest house. Yes, you can sit in those chairs. No, you may not take them home with you.
8. London, UK
If you didn’t know better, you might think that you had stepped into a loft in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. But this converted factory is located right in the middle of London – and has 360 degree views to prove it!
There’s just something about this minimalist industrial loft that gets our creative juices flowing. If you’re looking for a place to work on your memoirs, this just might be the place for you!
Did you just fall into the pages of a design magazine? This 1907 Dutch Colonial home was lovingly and impeccably remodeled over the course of two years, and you won’t want to leave.
Take flight with these top film and music festivals from around the globe. There’s something for every film and music type from the sleepy-town adventurer (see Telluride Film Festival) to the eclectic music enthusiast (check out the Mysteryland in The Netherlands). Wherever you want to go in the coming months, there are amazing places to see and explore.
From the land of movie magic, there’s a plethora of film festivals throughout the year. The Hollywood Film Festival, October 16-19, 2014, showcases independent, socially conscious filmmakers. Connect with the filmmakers who are using their work to help change lives. Last year the film Autumn Blood directed by Markus Blunder won Best Narrative Feature and went on to win three more awards. This year is bound to showcase even more talent than last year. See where to stay in Los Angeles.
August 27 – September 6, 2014 find yourself in scenic Venice, Italy at the Venice International Film Festival. In its 71st year, the festival spans across four theaters in Venice Lido (take a boat there if you like). The films in this competition come from some of the rising stars in the international film industry. In 2013, actress Elena Cotta won the Pasinetti Award for Best Actress for her role in Via Castellana Bandiera and was also nominated for a Golden Globe. See who will top the lists internationally at this year’s festival. Find a home in Venice.
Many are familiar with the New York and Toronto Film Festivals, however, the Chicago International Film Festival, October 9-23, 2014, is a festival to be noted. This rising film festival in the heart of the Midwest is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In 2013, there were over 140 filmmakers presenting, including director Jerome Bonnell of the award-winning film “Just a Sigh”. Go meet the filmmakers and watch hundreds of full and short-length films while enjoying the diverse sites of Chicago. Stay in Chicago.
One of the biggest film festivals is the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival taking place October 8-19, 2014. Line up to see the stars and filmmakers make their grand entrance on the red carpet and then be the first to see amazing movies (like last year’s big winner Ilo Ilo written and directed by Anthony Chen which went on to receive 20 more awards and 10 nominations). With over 300 films from around the world, you’re bound to discover new filmmakers and actors as well as see some of your favorites. Check out where to stay in London.
The Telluride Film Festival, August 29-September 1, 2014, is in its 37th year and gives you the opportunity to relax and enjoy the show. Held in the beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado, you will feel at home. Some folks have even remarked it felt like summer camp for cinephiles. This year Guest Directors, Guy Maddin and Kim Morgan, will be selecting a series of films to present at the festival. Find a home in Telluride.
For those of you who are big EDM fans, Outlook Festival in Pula, Croatia is a must! From September 3-7, 2014, check out the latest music and shows with over 300 artists, 12 stages in a 2,000 year old amphitheatre. There are even over 40 boat parties. This year’s star-studded line up includes Ms. Lauryn Hill, Busta Rymes, Dub FX and Barrington Levy. Find yourself at home in Pula.
Experiencing music is the theme at Mysteryland the electronic music cultural and arts festival in Haarlemmermeer. It’s happening August 23 for only 11 intense hours. On the main stage, you’ll see Hardwell, Steve Aoki, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Nervo (plus many more on other stages). Meet open-minded travelers and explore music in a wide variety of shows, stages and life-altering, musical experiences. Only 30 minutes from Amsterdam, you’ll be sure to find a great place to stay. Stay in Amsterdam.
Relax by the ocean in Monterey and attend the Monterey Jazz Festival. From September 19-21, 2014 explore the breadth and depth of this American style of music. After 57 years, this festival has it all with over 500 artists performing nonstop on 8 stages as well as amazing food. See Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper Experiment, Booker T. Jones and Cecile McLorin Salvant at the Arena. There’s even more brilliant talent throughout this event. This is hands down one of the best jazz festivals. Find a home in Monterey.
A socially conscious music festival, Rock in Rio is celebrating 29 years as a leader in changing how we interact with music from September 12-14. It’s easy to get swept away in the hundreds of thousands of event goers as well as get entranced by big name performers, like Beyoncé, David Guietta and Ivete Sangalo, that all descend onto beautiful Rio. Get a great place to stay in Rio.
Guest Post by Hollee Thornton
Everyone knows that saving money on accommodation is one motivating factor of home exchange. However, there are many more free perks that have me convinced home exchanging is the most enjoyable way for our family to travel. Many of them, money cannot buy.
Renting bikes is possible in most big cities, but it can be a costly addition to your holiday budget. I always ask my exchange partner about bicycles and scooters when arranging an exchange. In Amsterdam, we enjoyed exploring the countryside and charming little villages on bicycles provided by our exchange partners. Because we sought out a family with children of similar ages it made bicycle sizes comparable, too. Exploring an area on foot and by bicycle is the best way to slow down and see the details.
2. Cooking Classes
During our home exchange in Milan, we exchanged emails with our host family and when I mentioned admiring the huge, beautiful artichokes at the local market and wanting to learn to cook them. My exchange partner offered me a free Italian cooking class, including a house specialty that had been passed down through the family for generations. The night before we left, we enjoyed a really wonderful evening of cooking together, dinner, and conversation.
3. Pet Testing
Testing, you ask? Testing is our code for pet sitting. This perk may have saved us a lot more money and frustration than I can begin to imagine. For several years my children have begged me for a pet, but moving halfway around the world and traveling regularly does not make pet ownership something that I would jump into lightly. A small and simple pet like a guinea pig has been worthy of consideration, so when we were offered an exchange in Paris that included pet sitting 2 guinea pigs, we were excited. The children loved playing with the animals but realized that caring for them was a lot more work than they imagined. Having a pet on vacation provided the invaluable experience of learning what it is like to have one everyday.
4. Info in a language we understand
Everywhere we have exchanged, our partners have given us lots of valuable local information that we had never run across in our brief research about the respective cities, like how to buy the transit tickets at the tobacco shops in Milan, baby-animal-visiting day at a neighboring farm in Amsterdam, and the multitude of free street performances that are always entertaining at Pompidou in Paris. Even if we had, struggling with translation often limits what kinds of activities we participate in while on vacation. Lucky for us, our partners have always made it so easy for us to ask questions and learn more about the specialties of their countries.
5. Kids’ toys for downtime
When searching for an exchange partner, we try to find families that match our children’s ages and interests. Anytime we have exchanged with families it is always a bonus to have toys and books waiting at the new home. Our kids love trying out new and different toys and books and have learned how to respect and take care of other people’s belongings.
6. Generous tokens of hospitality
Another bonus of exchanges are the sweet welcome and thank you surprises we find waiting for us on both ends. Often there are homemade house specialties, fresh flowers, or small regional treasures waiting at our vacation home as a personal token of welcome and gratitude. My children love finding these when we arrive in a new home and when we get back to our home. These are perks that don’t come from typical travel accommodations.
Home exchange saves us both time and frustration when it comes to mealtime. For our family, having a kitchen to prepare breakfast in as soon as our young children wake up is a huge convenience . It also comes in very handy when dealing with the dietary restrictions and challenges that come with “eating out” for every meal.
8. The Sharing Economy
Sharing in the collaborative consumption movement is an easy way I can feel better about conserving resources. We love to entertain and introduce people to the exciting and beautiful country in which we live, whether hosting friends or hosting exchange partners. These experiences help us to feel more connected to people from all around the world – learning to love and understand other cultures helps us be better global citizens.
My home exchanges have always led to a more authentic travel experience; one in which I feel like I am experiencing what it is like to live in a new place, rather than the “canned” tourist experience that comes with more typical accommodations like hotels.
My attitude regarding mankind is that most people are good. In a day and age where we experience crime and fear as a regular part of life, home exchanging has provided opportunities for my trust in strangers to evolve. The mutual risk provides some level of assurance, but at the end of the day it really is all about trust. And with every positive exchange, my faith in the goodness of humanity increases. I echo the comments of Emily Kasriel: “Trust usually develops over time with repeated encounters, but when you enter into the house-swapping game it is immediate and quite intense – though brief and not usually repeated. What is interesting is the ease with which we felt able to trust this digitally mediated encounter.”
Want to exchange with Hollee? Check out her listing here!
What extra benefits have you found on a home exchange? Tell us in the comments!