My love for travels has been evident in my travel posts. It is my favorite thing to do when time and money permits. I've missed it some since Natalia was born but I am pretty sure we will resume our trips around the globe as soon as she gets a little older. After all, things are easier now in some regards.
I mean think about it! Before the internet came along, travelling was still fun but in some ways a lot more complicated. You couldn’t browse the web for a last minute flight, google “Things to do in Lisbon” and hop on a plane. You had to take a bus to the travel agents, have a long discussion about dates, flip through books, write a large cheque and then return a few days later to collect your handwritten paper tickets. Yes I am that ancient!
All that’s changed, as we know. Now, we use e-tickets -either printing them out at home or simply presenting them on our cellphones at check-in. We don’t take travel guides with as as often - we find information on our laptops or tablets. Although if you are anything like Nick, you will first read every travel guide available in print and then surf the net! We’re also travelling more, because flights have never been cheaper - within Europe and worldwide.
So if all that’s changed, why then are we not changing our attitudes towards a crucial part of our holiday - where we’ll stay. After all, in the last few years AirBNB have revolutionised the industry - by letting locals renting out their spare rooms, letting travellers see a neighbourhood (rather than a city centre), use their kitchen and getting inside tips on the country they’re in. Whatever way you look at it, it’s a new way of journeying.
But home exchange takes all this even one step further - revolutionising the travel experience. Why? Because instead of renting someone’s home, you’re swapping it for your own. You’re not just taking a leap of faith (which it’s always good to take in life, once in a while) but you’re also part of a whole new movement - the sharing economy.
Take, for example, CasaVersa - a free homeswapping start-up that lets you search for other swapppers across the globe. Just sign up, write a few sentences about your home and neighbourhood, add a few photos, put in your dates then let the app do the work. CasaVersa will list for you ‘swapportunities’ and you can choose ones that appeal to you. Before you make any decision, you can chat online with the other person, ask practical questions and generally get to know each other. Kind of like what happened in the 2006 film The holiday, between Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, remember?
Once you feel comfortable, you’re free to make the swap and start planning your vacation. It’s an incredibly affordable way of travelling, because you’ve immediately cut out accommodation costs. And using CasaVersa is free, unlike most other platforms that charge an annual fee.
I know this may sound tricky to a lot of you and I've still to try it out for myself but I got to tell ya there are some great advantages in my mind! See, when you swap homes, you’re doing much more than saving money (which, of course, is a great thing). You’re also saving valuable eco-resources. After all, think about how much water and electricity is consumed in hotel laundromats. Furthermore, you’re utilising a space that would otherwise remain empty and as well as keeping it safe (it’s well-known that you’re more likely to be broken into when you’re on holiday).
And you’re joining the sharing economy - you can swap cars, membership cards (for museums, zoos, national homes) and information about your respective neighbourhoods. If you feel ok about it, you can even swap names of your good friends, who’ll promise to be there in an emergency but perhaps even take your swappers out on a walking tour, or invite them to their home for dinner.
One of the things that has me really considering this option for our next trip is that when you homeswap, you’re more likely to be in a local neighbourhood area than a central touristy area of town. You’ll see how people live on a day to day basis, you can shop at the local market, eat in small restaurants (where quality matters) and get a ‘feel’ for the country you’re in. I mean, you will experience the place as close to being a local as it can get! You can still see all the tourist sites your heart desires but you will get to see a whole lot more.
That’s the beauty of homeswapping - there’s so many advantages to it, beyond the obvious financial saving. You get to see the world, and live like a local at the same time. And with the money you save on accommodation, you can travel more frequently. Instead of having to choose between a culture-vulture week in Europe or a lazy beach holiday in Florida, have them both! An average family of four, who travels to Paris in the summer, will spend $4,000 (almost 3.500 euros) on their accommodation. That’s a staggering amount when you think about it. So why do it, when you have a viable alternative?
And if you are scared about ending up with a horror story of a house swap gone wrong, there are things that you can do that can put your mind at ease. Decide on the swap only for those properties that have a lot of pictures. Don't be shy in asking about the cleaning habits of the owners. Not all of us have the same standards. Only go through with the exchange when you feel that you've reached an understanding with the other party. I mean, if my instinct told me that we are not in the same wave length, I would choose another house, it's that simple! And if you are serious about doing this for the long run you may want to invest to a nice insurance just to be on the safe side. It will pay off for sure!
The bottom line is that home-swapping can revolutionize the way you think about travel - and the way in which you actually travel! Many swappers say that once they’ve tried it, they’re hooked forever. And all it takes is 15 minutes of your time...sign up, upload a few photos of your home, write a bit about yourself, your place and your city and get browsing. Who knows? You could be on your way to the airport sooner than you think. And you may even meet your very own Jude Law when you get there, too!!!
Have you ever tried home-swapping? Would you consider doing so in the future?