Home Exchange – Pros and Cons
Home exchange has gone a long way since the 50’s when it was a simple travel lodging option popularized by the academia (teachers, writers, professors, graduate students) wanting to go to places but saddled with very limited budgets. From printed pamphlets sent out periodically before, home exchange organizations now have their own websites where one can surf through thousands of listed homes for exchange.
Typically, home exchange is an agreement between two people or families from different parts of the country (or the world) deciding to “exchange” their places of residence for an agreed period of time. The main consideration then was money, or the lack of it, actually.
Of course, money is still the biggest factor why home exchange is still popular now, and getting to be more so. The hard cash principle is simple – you don’t pay a single cent for the accommodations.
Very often the exchange reaches beyond dwellings to include cars and/or pet care, rewarding you with additional savings on rentals and boarding. Many people opt to travel to more exotic locations for longer periods with significant savings on accommodation costs.
But other reasons like comfort and culture are added to its being a good, cost-effective travel option. Most of today’s accommodations are tight, there is minimal privacy, never enough bathrooms, and places are usually crowded with tourists for a traveler to really enjoy the place of destination.
In a real home, you can whip up scrambled eggs sandwich and warm milk at 2 a.m. in a real kitchen. Or, go to a real terrace to take in some real breeze. It is always fun just to go shopping in a neighborhood market. And after a hectic day and you don’t feel like getting dressed up just for dinner, you can eat supper in your favorite pajamas.
An expert in home exchange program once asserted that “the very act of staying in someone’s home, living, shopping, and doing the things residents do also makes for the kinds of personal interaction that is often deeper than just staying in a hotel and visiting tourist attractions.”
A frequent home swapper had declared that “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. Your home exchange partner would leave hints like ‘Don’t go to the market on a Thursday, go about 1:00 on a Friday when they have all the bargains’ or ‘The best and cheapest restaurant is…’ or ‘My neighbors will give you a typical meal from the region and take you to see the best view in our area’ and many more. People couldn’t be more friendly and helpful.”
It makes no difference how good the tour guide says it or how well the travel book describes a destination; the real picture can only be seen from your ‘own’ backyard. Traveling to another country and staying as a guest in someone’s home makes the experience richer, and more meaningful.
Sometimes however, you have to work a little harder in looking for a partner. If your place is not that appealing or is out of the way, perhaps, very few people will want to go there. So, the initial contact work has to come from you. Once a connection is set, there might be five or six letters and about four or five phone calls before things get settled.
On the average, one needs to send out 20 to 25 letters of interest to get at least one positive response. One should not get very disappointed if there is no positive news in the first few contacts that were made.
All in all, the pros far outweigh our small complaints on home exchange. Simply put, it’s just so nice to live in a real home, especially on your vacation.
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