How to Exchange a Home and Live Irish
Email to Ireland from Albuquerque, 7 August: Gloom . . . setting the operation into departure mode. Ah well, thats part of vacations . . . if you didnt regret their ending . . . wouldnt have been a great holiday. Dermot.
This message on my computer at Kilkenny, Ireland, home of our Irish exchange family, echoed the way we felt about leaving.
We felt completely comfortable changing homes with the Currans because wed corresponded for eight months. We left each others homes better than when we found them. They brought us wonderful Kilkenny pottery, and we left them a New Mexico book and red chili powder. We left each other money for the telephone bills, but simply traded all other expenses like electricity, water, etc.
Because we exchanged houses and cars, we paid just over $100 a day to see the length and breadth of Eire, for over five weeks. Our total expense was under $4,000, including airfare and 13 nights in B and Bs. If you just wanted to stay put, the cost would be less than $50 a day.
We became like the locals. Would we do it again? Ach, tis a sweet, fair splendid country. You bet we would, in an English minute (which is shorter in the minds of the Irish).
We are planning another house exchange for this year.
If you want to exchange homes, first get hooked up with an organization. Read Transitions Abroad's publications or visit www.TransitionsAbroad.com. Or go to any search engine and type in home or house exchange.
After youve joined an exchange service and found your people, here are some suggestions to make things go smoothly.
The House and People
Tape notes to all appliances with directions for use. We made a three-ring binder, with short bullet lists of do and see suggestions. Dermot left us an excellent Michelin map of Ireland, with all the routes and towns of interest highlighted, plus excellent historical, hiking, and tour books, which we wore out.
Try to arrange to meet somewhere along the line. We arranged our ticket so that we could pick up our Irish family at the Albuquerque airport the evening before we left and meet them in Dublin when we were departing. Dermot suggested it so we could chat, get keys, trade insults, litigation, etc.
Put some zappable quick foods in the freezer for your exchange family, like pizzas, and buy them some cornflakes, bananas, milk, fruit, and bread. The first few days in any new country are very strange, and jet lag is inevitable.
Make sure to have your friends call them and check inafter a few days.
Medical, Money, and Insurance
Know your international bank card emergency phone number and your bank phone number in case of credit card loss. I lost my wallet in the first few days. It was returned, but there were tense moments and I was thankful for a safety net from the home bank.
In case of medical emergency, know the procedure for treatment, payment, and reimbursement. Check out all auto insurance. Carry a record of all policy numbers and accident and theft procedures with you. The Currans bought a health accident policy before they left which cost them around $90. Check out a similar one in the States to be used in the foreign country. Again, see Transitions Abroad.
No need to carry any travelers checks or personal checks. Just pop in your bank card at any machine in most cities and out comes the countrys money.
Bring empty duffels for purchases. We brought one, and had to buy another.
Save every receipt. If you paid VAT taxes on the merchandise, you can claim all of it when you leave the country and get a refund. Theres a special desk just for this at the airport. Businesses where you buy items will give you forms to fill out. Fill out the paperwork ahead of time, before you are standing in the line at the airport departure point.