Exploring another of the many options available for traveling on a budget, I decided to sign us up for home exchange. I’m pretty darned excited about the possibilities. Oh yes, I am more than ready to spend a little time in the charming garden in the photo below…
I was first intrigued by this idea in 1996 when I discovered an organization called Intervac. It was started back in 1953 by two teachers who were looking for an economical way to travel and it’s still a great option for people with limited funds. You can exchange homes, flats, boats, cabins…pretty much any living accommodation you can think of in towns, cities, resorts and out of the way places all over the world.
So, way back when, I signed up to exchange my condo in Lake Oswego hoping to work out an inexpensive European vacation for my son and myself. This was during the stone age before everything was online. I wrote a short description of our home and the great things to do in the area, took a couple of photos and sent it all off with a check to be published in a very large book printed on newsprint – nothing fancy here. It took a while (they only published once a year) but I finally received my copy in the mail. The photos were black and white, small and often a little blurry, but I was hooked. I poured over the available exchanges every evening for weeks. Then, truth be told, I chickened out and didn’t follow up on the few opportunities that came my way. I’m pretty sure Portland, Oregon was not on a whole lot of international vacationers’ top ten destination lists back then. I’m hoping things have changed. I know Portland has. And I know I’ve changed too. These days getting signed up is SIMPLE. Here’s how it went when I registered a couple of weeks ago – I paid online using my Pay Pal account, uploaded several photos of our townhouse, wrote my description and voila! here’s our listing with homeexchange.com. It still needs some tweaking, but I’ll keep updating and improving it as I get a better feel for how everything works and what attracts potential exchangers. Within a couple of days we had two offers for exchanges. So easy!
Why home exchange? Well, to me it seems like the perfect way to travel just a little bit off the tourist path. You literally have all of the comforts of home if you understand that the home you are vacationing in may be very different from the one you currently live in. Having had several successful vacation rentals with VRBO – Vacation Rental By Owner – I’m ready to take the next step – swap vs. cash payment. For those of us who count their travel pennies, it is a great option. I’ve talked to several veteran house swappers and have yet to hear one horror story (although I’m sure there are some and it would be good to hear those as well).
Right now because I’m still chained to my office desk most of the year, we’re looking for a few short, easy exchanges closer to home. The two offers that came in right away were from St. Paul, MN from a couple that were coming to Portland in September for a conference and another from some folks in Redondo Beach, CA who were looking to exchange in July. Neither fit in our plans, so I just hit the “No Thanks, Not This Time” button. So, you know where to find me for the next several weeks, I’ll be cruising through the thousands of listings and tossing out a few offers of my own to see if we can connect on some west coast shares, maybe something in Mexcio and (fingers crossed) a house for next summer in France, Italy or Spain to tie in with my walking vacation that is also in the plans.
I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime. Here are a few options to consider for your own travels.