Conversation between an Experienced HomeExchanger and a Newbie
Meet Ellen and Kirsten, good friends from Copenhagen and both freelance translators. They got two home exchanges almost for the same dates: Kirsten to Montreal and Ellen to Sydney. Since it was Kirsten’s first exchange, they decided to keep correspondence during their trips …And here’s their funny and entertaining result!
~ Kirsten in Montreal ~ May 7th
Yay! Here I am at 2:30 in the morning – except here it’s early evening – in Montreal! I was met at the bus station by the lovely Vivianne. She’s a friend of Andrée-Anne and Remi whose apartment I am going to live in for the next three weeks. The apartment is so nice, and Andrée-Anne left a can of maple syrup as a gift for me to take home – yup, this must be Quebec province. And Vivianne had even done some shopping for me so there’s some (vegan, even) food for me to eat before I collapse. Ah. All my (completely unfounded) fears have gone. I can’t wait to explore my new ‘hood tomorrow. But first, sleep.
~ Ellen in Sydney ~ May 8th
Great to hear from you and what a nice welcome. I too was picked up – by Faith and Rob, sister and brother-in-law of one of my exchangers – which was great after 25 hours of travelling. I’ve been on several long term exchanges, but this is the longest and furthest away ever. Almost two months in a house on a cliff with the most amazing view of the Sydney Harbour! I’m well settled in after a week and have rearranged a bit and set up office at the dinner table to enjoy the view. Faith is very helpful and showing me around. She showed me the fantastic Bar At The End Of The Wharf, where I will bring my computer later to try working a bit out of the house.
~ Kirsten in Montreal ~ May 10th
Already at the airport I got a reminder that I’m doing a slightly unusual thing, here. Or maybe the lady checking my passport was just having a lousy day. Anyway, there I was, a bit dazed after 12+ hours of travel plus one full hour standing in a line (and wondering whether my suitcase was still at the baggage claim).
Lady: Why are you here?
Me: Uhm, to see the city, mostly. For fun!
Lady: For 21 days! Do you know where you’re staying?
Me: Uhm, of course. I swapped my apartment with two Canadians, so I’m staying at their place in Ville-Marie, and …
Lady: So you haven’t got a hotel? What are you going to do here?!
Me: Uhm, I haven’t really decided yet. I’ve heard good things about the Museum of Modern Art and the Botanical Garden.
Me: And Mount Royal.
Lady: Do you know anyone in the city?
Me: Uhm, no, not a soul. I’m just here to …
Lady: So this was a spontaneous thing?!
Me: No, I’ve been planning it for months. I just …
Lady: Have you got a job?!
Me: Uhm, yes … I’m a translator …
Lady: Which languages?!
Me: From Swedish, Norwegian and English into …
Lady: Okay, next!!
I guess most people come better prepared, either to the country or just to the desk with the passport-checking lady. Anyway, my suitcase was still there, and I got a good laugh – at least now, afterwards.
Do you know, the time difference between Montreal and Sydney is 11 hours! What’s up on your side of the globe?
~ Ellen in Sydney ~ May 11th
Hilarious! I love that scene, and I know that situation. One of the first times I did a longer work while away exchange (possibly even in Canada) I too was interrogated and came totally unprepared. When they asked me which hotel, I simply replied, in order to avoid too much explaining, that I was going to stay with some friends, and then immediately blushed like a tomato as I didn’t even remember my exchange partners’ full names properly. Fortunately staying in other people’s private homes has now become a totally normal concept, and with the growth in location independent freelancers around the world, it simply has to become equally normal doing what you and I do, one would think.
It only takes one exchange to get the bug. 🙂
Have fun and work well!
~ Kirsten in Montreal ~ May 12th
Today is my fifth full day in Montreal and I’m really falling for this city. There are lots of murals and street art, vegetarian and vegan food everywhere (and I’m a vegetarian, which must be much more common here than in Copenhagen).
I’ve got some work with me that I need to do while I’m here (translating dubbing scripts for some documentaries), but I’m not super busy, so I’m working shorter days that usual. I actually like having my work with me – not just because it makes my trip less costly, but also because it allows me to pretend that I actually live here 🙂 “Look at me, I’m an ordinary person, working from home, living in a nice apartment in a cool neighbourhood! (Although I’m not quite sure how to work my washing machine!)” And it’s such a luxury not having to compress all the sights into a few days. I’ve got plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere and the culture.
It turns out that the weather is about as uneven as in Copenhagen. It seems I’ll get rain and gray skies the next week or so, but today the weather has been brilliant (25 C), so I took the whole day off. I hiked the Mount Royal this morning (the mountain / large hill which the city has its name from, and which is, literally, in the middle of the city), and now I’m at a cafe downtown with a view of the mountain. The city’s quite weird in that respect, actually: Street, street, street, mountain!!
Have you been out exploring, or did the Bar At The End Of The Wharf prove enough for you? 😉
~ Ellen in Sydney ~ May 18th
Finally I’ve decided that I work better from the flat. Honestly the view from here is breathtaking. The thought of bringing my laptop to a café is appealing but I don’t think it will work for me. Too many distractions. I’m reminded constantly that I’d rather take time off and go on adventures. But apart from that I totally agree with you. I love the part of pretending that I’m a local and living someone else’s life. I think that comes easier when you’re actually working at your destination.
Good for you that you’re not super busy. When I’m doing these kinds of exchanges I don’t work full weeks. Probably between 3 and 4 full days a week. Sometimes less if I’m lucky, so looking at it that way, a seven week exchange is actually not that much. I’m really happy that your first exchange has worked out so well for you. I’ve been wanting to go to Montreal for a long time.
~ Kirsten in Montreal ~ May 29th
I’m on the train from Montreal to New York City … with a lump in my throat. I‘ve had such a great stay and three weeks was long enough to make me feel like I belonged a little bit in Montreal. So though I miss my boyfriend (and black rye bread) I’m sad to leave. I’ve had plenty of time to take long walks, gorging myself on fabulous street art and crazy, charming architecture that the city has so much of, and I really got the feel of the atmosphere and the culture. I even was lucky enough to be taken on a hike in the Laurentians, the national park north of Montreal, by Vivianne, who picked me up when I arrived, and her husband, and I visited a few museums, too. All the while I got the work done I brought with me. I’m so glad I did this.
Now I’m going to spend a few days in New York and then head home. And come August I’ll finally get to meet Andrée-Anne when she comes to stay in my apartment (while I move in, temporarily, with my boyfriend). I feel like I already know her (she has great taste in wardrobes – we have the same Ikea-closet!) and I’m looking forward to sharing my love of Copenhagen with her.
Enjoy the rest of your stay!
~ Ellen in Sydney ~ June 1st
I know how you feel. I too am sad to leave, but I have tried this before and I know, that comes with this kind of travelling. You really get to feel at the end that you belong in this hood with the local shops, the sounds, the takeaways, the public transport, the neighbors.
Once I did an exchange with another translator, we also exchanged our respective shared offices. Walking to the office every morning during rush hour made me feel like a genuine part of the local (in this case Barcelonian) workforce right away.
So glad you had a great experience on your first ever swap 🙂 Enjoy your stay in New York and get back home safely.
~ Ellen in Sydney ~ June 24th
I’m now ready to go back home after the longest home exchange and work while away-experience in my life. It has been a great success and with all the time I had here I was able to both get a bit of work done, immerse myself in the local atmosphere and head out on some real adventures in Australia, using my place in Sydney as a base. I even had time and space enough to have a friend visit and stay here for three weeks.
See you in Copenhagen, and thank you for sharing!
Do you dream of working from anywhere in the world like Ellen and Kristen?