Could you handle a swap?
Running a business from another country is all very well, but how on earth do you manage it without spending everything you earn on rent or hotel bills? Even a laptop needs a desk from time to time and the thought of living out of a suitcase for months at a time would exhaust even the most seasoned traveller.
So what’s the secret?
Well, there are a couple, but the one I want to explain today is quite simple- it’s house swapping.
Now this is not for everyone. We have talked to a lot of people about it, and the conversations tend to go like this: ‘home exchanges are such a great idea! How do you do it?… oh, so you have other people stay in your house?….hmm, I’m not sure I could do that actually….
I am writing this as I am sat at someone else’s dining room table. I’ve never met them, but I have been sleeping in their bed for a month; I have taken their wedding photos off the wall above the bed because it freaks me out a little; I have been overcome with envy at the extent of this woman’s Tupperware collection and the fact that her linen cupboard is actually labelled; I curse her non-stick pans, drive her car, and have even lifted her husband’s weights. If I think about Pam and her husband sleeping in my bed, critiquing my cupboards (there is plenty to comment on) and spitting meat juices all over my vegetarian oven, I don’t like it too much. But then, I don’t go to a hotel and wonder who has occupied the bed the night before me, or eat in a restaurant and wonder whose mouth my fork last visited. Do you?
What a lot of tubs!
View from out balcony in our Australian house swap
The mechanism for house swapping seems a lot like internet dating to me. You put pictures on line; you browse what other people are offering; if you like what you see, you make a tentative approach; if others like what they see, they make you an offer; if it isn’t for you, you say how lovely their offer is, but it’s just not a good time for you; if they aren’t into yours, they do the same. It’s all very polite, very uncomplicated. You are all looking to find a good match.
So first step might be to think about, what’s stopping you? It can be helpful to have a recommendation, have someone you trust go ahead to see how it works. My sister and her family tested the waters first; when my nieces were growing up they stayed in no end of family homes in places like Austria and France. Think about what your reservations are, then think about the benefits. Holiday accommodation with no rent? No car hire fees? All the comforts of home but in a new country? Everyone looking into this has a different set of criteria, so work out what yours might be. We are lucky that we aren’t tied to school holidays or even location, so we can consider any offer, as long as it fits in with our checklist;
- Broadband internet connection;
- Walking distance to bars/ restaurants;
- Near to beach, parks, forest or hills;
- NO badly patterned carpets or garish flowery curtains Preferably some outside space.
Our Canadian house swap
Canoeing near our Canadian house
Maybe a good place to start is to have a browse round the different websites. See what homes are on offer, where you might like to go. Think about what countries you might like to visit, and when. Work out what your list of essentials would be, and what would be a deal breaker for you (we will take on other people’s pets, tend their veggie plot and even help out their neighbours but don’t ask me to look at ugly furniture every day). There will always be someone who wants to come to your home, wherever it is (us fanning ourselves in Australia while kind Aussie folk shiver in sub zero UK temperatures amply proves that point). You just need to take the first small step.
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