We’ve arrived! Our third home swapping adventure trip to Europe has begun. The weather that was cold and wet until then, picked up and turned sunny and warm on our arrival date.
We’ll spend 8 weeks over here in total, first in the romantic Rhine Valley (Lorelei), then on a houseboat in Amsterdam and after that in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere at the foot of the Black Forest. We've been swapping homes three years in a row now with total strangers whom we haven’t met before. We only know them from a bunch of exploratory and explanatory emails as well as the odd phone call.
Home swapping is a great way to travel the world on a small budget because you also arrange to swap your cars. You can afford longer stays that would be too costly otherwise.
All it takes is some courage and organizational skills, maybe trust in the agency that facilitates the home exchanges. They are based in southern Florida and a lovely couple who have been very helpful and accommodating so far.
“So you don’t know these people you will stay in your house?”—NO!
“How do you know you can trust them?” –It’s like online dating; it requires a fair amount of trust and a sense of adventure; it also may bring a few surprises.
“What if they are dirty?—Then you start by cleaning up their house; and if it’s really bad you report them afterwards so that the agency can draw their own conclusions.
These are standard questions I encounter when the topic of our travel choice comes up.They are also the questions you have to answer yourself truthfully whether you are prepared for these risks. For the rest you take out an umbrella insurance to cover eventualities and expenses.
The flight across the Atlantic was uneventful, our bags arrived on time and unscathed- a rare event. Duesseldorf airport, the arrival destination of our choice, however, was a disappointment just like the last time 2 years ago. Unacceptably long waiting times in a crowded hall, teeming throngs of passengers due to several other planes arriving at the same time. The friendly policeman inspecting our passports explained to me that Duesseldorf is the new hub of Etihad-Air from Abu Dhabi. Their planes hold 400 passengers
“Why doesn’t Frankfurt or other German cities have these inordinate long lines on immigration?” I asked.
“Frankfurt has an extra terminal”. Aha…That might be preferable to fly to Frankfurt instead if you have a choice. Be advised, however, that in my experience based on many years of flying into Frankfurt, they have a tendency to make you wait for your luggage. In Duesseldorf that part at least was very quick. So come to think of it: It’s much of a muchness as they say in Ireland.
All we did for the rest of that day was crashing in a beautiful airport hotel. Jet lag seems to strike harder as we get older. Also our exchange house wasn’t free until the next day and this overnight offered us a welcome opportunity to meet up with my best friend who lives only half an hour away.