Swapping Homes Anybody?


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Leaving for home...

Leaving my native country is the saddest part of the trip even after almost 2 months. Every time. Maybe I should take up a part-time residence there and “divide my time between….”as any author worth her reader will write in her bio.
When we swap homes, I always try to get a cleaner in place to make it easier for our departure. I also organize a cleaner for my house after our exchange partners have left. Before our arrival home.  Just to be sure…to be sure! (I still had to clean the garage and car from sand after our return!)
In a hotel or vacation rental, you simply pull shut the door behind you and leave. When swapping homes, besides packing, you have to clean up, strip beds, put the washer on etc. The second home we were staying didn’t have a helpful hand ready for us. She was on vacation herself. So the last day was utter chaos.
My tip: leave a day earlier than the owners are expected back even if that involves staying in a hotel. Flights from the States do come in early.  So the owners will be at their / your doorstep while you’re still tidying up.
We always choose to depart a day early anyway and spend the last night  at an airport hotel every time. Flights from Europe to the USA usually leave by 10 a.m. Check in time is two hours before. If you also have some distance to drive to the airport from your location, it means getting up at 4 of 5 o’clock ─ something hubby and I are not keen on anymore.
On departing this time, we made a mistake not to verify that the hotel had air condition. Bed & breakfasts in Germany usually wouldn’t have it. But it never dawned on me that we would end up in a hotel without. Temperatures had been in the high 30s (around 90 +) for the past week and that hotel room was like an incubator. Opening the windows didn’t even let in cool air because it didn’t cool down at nights in high summer. It only let in noise from planes and traffic. The night manager brought us a portable AC unit which we had to refill with water several times. Whatever technical genius had invented that - It didn’t work. No sleep was to be had.

     (One of our 6 bags containing office equipment +tools. Imagine that splayed out on the pavement!).
Arriving Stuttgart airport in the morning in good time, my husband pulled the car up to the curb and hauled  all the bags on the sidewalk before parking the car. “I don’t know where my passport is”, He said. Then the search for his passport began right there on the sidewalk. It wasn’t in its usual place, his computer bag. He started to open one bag after another while hundred streamed through the arrival/ departure doors trying to avoid our unwanted display. Hectic set in. I suggested  we put each bag back in the car to conduct a proper search there instead of having nosy-parkers getting a glimpse of our dirty laundry.

In the meantime, just after 8 o’clock, the heat was sweltering again. Sweating and adrenaline rushed, we eventually found it in his computer bag, right where it was supposed to be. Only one hour to departure. US officials and airport personnel don’t particularly like that. Hubby still had to park the car. As a result of our tardiness, everybody else had boarded, and we were upgraded to business class. The welcome drink, a Mimosa for me, was so welcome!
Summing up our experience this year:
-Home swapping is so worth it. It saves you literally thousands of dollars. Enjoy what your host country has to offer. Your exchange partners are likely to leave  recommendations for you. We were even given goodies, i.e. local specialties on arrival. We likewise prepared a folder for our guests about our area and Florida in general together with emergency information. A welcome drink is a nice gesture as well as providing staple foods and food for their first breakfast/meal. Exchangers from Europe are like to arrive late at night.
Swapping homes lets you experience a foreign country in a different way—not as a tourist but like a local even though you may not speak the language. You get by in most European countries with English.
I also want to emphasize the possibility of swapping homes within the US. Maybe home owners from Maine or California would like to visit Florida?
For more general tips see eBook 2: Intrepid Homeswappers - Secrets to Successful Home Swapping, Season 2

Insider Tips for Successful Home Swapping
A home swap needs some careful planning, especially if you do two or more after another. The best part of the deal is that your house is not unattended. People will take care of it (at least more or less)) and alert you if anything is wrong. So it's not an open invitation to burglars.

Will we do it again? Sure!

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