Meet a Member – Christine and Bruce
“Oh, the places you’ll go!” Dr. Seuss had that one right! Home Exchange.com certainly has expanded our options for travel. In 1991 we took our first trip to Europe – six weeks in a tiny rental car, staying in bed and breakfasts and cheap hotels, living out of a suitcase, searching out Laundromats in strange cities, eating all of our meals in restaurants. By the third or fourth week every menu looked the same. But we love to travel, and so we continued for the next seventeen years.
Then in 2008 we discovered HomeExchange.com. We were initially attracted by the savings. Obviously our trip would be less expensive without paying for lodging every night. Then we realized that many exchangers offered to exchange automobiles as well – no more rental car expense. And with a full kitchen at our disposal we’d be paying for fewer restaurant meals. We could even start packing picnic lunches for our day excursions. Oh yeah, laundry facilities in the home – we won’t need all those euro coins we’ve been hoarding for the Laundromat.
We arranged our first exchange in a small village in Norfolk County, England. We chose this location because my ancestors left there in 1831 to sail to America. I had just become interested in genealogy and planned to do some research. We quickly began to discover more side benefits of home exchange. The couple with whom we exchanged belonged to the Norfolk Genealogy Society, and provided lots of information and assistance via a continuing chain of e-mails between our computer in California and their computer in England. With their advice and assistance we found the ancestral homes of my great-great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather, and actually discovered cousins living in the area.
Homeowners share their knowledge of the area. They recommend restaurants, places to go and things to see – and not just things you’d find in a guide book, but places favored by locals and not always found by tourists. While staying in an 800 year old house in the south of France, we saw posters around the village advertising a “vide grenier”. Consulting our French dictionary, we discovered this meant “empty attic” – and we attended our first French yard sale.
You can pack lighter when exchanging homes. Folks offer the use of umbrellas, warm jackets, picnic baskets, and their computers. You can pack fewer clothes because you have laundry facilities in the home. We’ve had access to personal libraries of books and DVDs. On one exchange to Utah, while exploring the house upon arrival, we discovered a home theater with hundreds of movies. After exploring Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks during the day, we spent the autumn evenings watching movies and eating popcorn.
There is also the benefit of having your home occupied while you’re traveling. In the past we’ve engaged house sitters for our six week absences. With home exchange, your home is not vacant, and our exchangers have all been willing to water our plants, take in the mail, and feed our cats. While staying in rural Ireland in West County Cork, Bruce fed the chickens each morning and brought in fresh eggs for breakfast. When we were traveling away from the house overnight, a neighbor girl came to feed the chickens.
HomeExchange.com offers so many options – and we’ve taken advantage of all of them. We’ve done simultaneous exchanges, non-simultaneous, and vacation rentals. We even hosted a woman from Australia on a hospitality exchange. We have four granddaughters, and have promised them each a special trip when they turn fourteen. Two years ago we spent two weeks in London with Katie in a vacation rental – a two bedroom flat in central London for less than $100 per night. This summer we’ll stay in a home exchange flat in Dublin with Allison.
We can’t say enough about the joys of home exchange. We’ve never had a bad experience at either end of the exchange. We’ve met wonderful people and forged lasting friendships. We’ve visited London, rural England, rural Ireland, Paris, the south of France, and Utah. A family in Italy owes us a stay in their vacation home near Milan. We have a hospitality offer in Brisbane, Australia. And for 2013, Dublin is arranged, and Spain and Portugal are in the works. There’s no better way to see the world – and live like a local – than HomeExchange.com!