Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad  FacebookTwitterGoogle+  
As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine November/December 2000
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Home Exchanges Abroad

Seven Great Reasons to Home Exchange

1. World Travel Becomes Affordable. Would you like to live in a Hansel and Gretel fairy tale hamlet in southern Germany or spend a month in a Welsh coastal village in the shadow of a 16th century castle? Perhaps your family would prefer a home on Lake Lucerne near the towering peaks of the Swiss Alps. If wanderlust is calling but you fear the costs and hassles of a family vacation in Europe, home exchanging is simple. It eliminates hotel and rental car bills and minimizes restaurant expenses.

2. Exchanging is a Cultural Adventure. Aside from the obvious budgetary advantages, home exchanging offers a chance to temporarily be a part of a community. Living in a home abroad immerses us in the country’s style of living, forcing us to question some common U.S. lifestyle choices—such as two cars, several televisions, and double ovens. Meeting and interacting with the neighbors is a valuable part of the experience of living abroad, turning vacations into cultural adventures.

When we exchanged with a family near Munich, Germany, we attended the neighborhood’s annual block party. For this weekend the neighbors park their cars on the streets and turn their garages into areas for barbecues, picnics, dancing, and games.

3. Homes Offer Spacious Comforts. Touring can be exhausting when you have to deal with cranky kids and a time crunch. It is relaxing to come home at the end of a busy day, make your own meal the way you like it, and climb into the same bed each night. Traveling with children is not a chore when you have enough room to spread out and get comfortable.

We found ample room near Lyon, France, where we exchanged with a family who had restored an 18th century farm house. After a day of touring and togetherness, our family dispersed as quickly as marbles on a hardwood floor. The younger children splashed in the pool or collected apples in the orchard. Our teenager blared music on her headset in her room while writing letters to her boyfriend. My husband and I relaxed with a glass of local Chardonnay and a country brie in the garden, and planned the next day’s excursion.

4. Choose Your Location. Choosing a central town with good highway access for day trips is helpful. Picturesque locations that are not easily accessible may initially sound enticing but discourage spontaneous side trips.

Locating ourselves south of Munich, off the autobahn, offered us access to a variety of excursions around the compass.

5. Eliminate Car Rentals. Beyond the exchange of living quarters, we often exchange automobiles. Though insurance coverage varies, many policies cover any responsible adult driver. Our agent asks that we send him a letter of permission with a copy of the authorized user’s driver’s licenses proving that they were over age 25. We agree in advance with our guests that in the case of an accident the user would pay the cost of the deductible.

6. Meet the People of the Country. In a home exchange, families usually identify a contact person such as a neighbor or relative who is available to answer questions, show you how the appliances work, and offer information on the area. Often these unofficial concierges go beyond simple instruction and assume the role of ambassador, treating you as a visiting dignitary.

In Switzerland our hosts’ brother volunteered to guide us through an outdoor historical museum of Swiss culture. Although we could have visited the museum without him, it was fun to hear his humorous comments the Swiss.

7. It’s Easy to Do. The Internet offers numerous listings of both free and fee services agencies. Access them by entering the keyword search “home exchange” and start browsing. List your personal information with the ones that match your style, including deal breakers such as smoking preferences. You can also contact some of the larger networks such as Intervac, 800-756-4663, and HomeLink, 800-638-3841 by phone.

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