Round the world in Home Exchanges – Our half way trip review
It’s been 6 months since we hatched the brilliant scheme to travel round the world staying in other people’s homes while they stayed in ours. We’ve been travelling for four months now and have just arrived at our half way point in New Zealand (although we are in Australia now!) after visits to California, Oregon, Mexico and the tropcial islands of French Polynesia.
So, how has it gone so far? How easy would it be for you to do a similar trip? Here’s our journey so far in Love Play and Work!
We have been genuinely touched by how kind, thoughtful and welcoming people are. We’ve found kindred spirits in some unexpected places.The generosity home exchangers have shown seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Plus it rubs off- you want to be better too. They’ve driven us around, invited us out, cooked us dinners, treated us to fun activities, shared their homes and simply made time for us.
We’ve connected with people we share an interest with (travel and blogging) and renewed friendships with location independent buddies as well.When you travel a lot, you never know which continent you will meet up again on! We’ve been inspired by the volume of people exploring and seeking adventures without limitation, irrespective of age or circumstance.
Chris and I spend enough time in each other’s company to make our friends think we’re weird, so this is not a new experience for us. Of course no ONE person can be everything to the other and sometimes we do need to seek out new company, but despite a couple of minor disagreements we don’t seem to be winding each other up too much, yet!
Something neither of us are particularly good at is staying in touch with loved ones at home. They can follow our progress online but when it comes to catching up with the day-to-day goings on, it doesn’t take long to start feeling out of the loop. Time zones add to this- it’s easy to grow disconnected when it’s hard to find a slot to chat. When one of you has just woken and up and the other is half way through their evening you are unlikely to be on quite the same wavelength!
- Keep your social skills intact by connecting with like-minded people in your area. Twitter is a great starting point, using hashtags of where you are going to be, or finding meetups to go along to. Start looking and you will find yourself disappearing down a rabbit hole of websites and blogs, but you will find plenty of people to hook up with.
- If the internet isn’t going to be good enough for a comfortable Skype conversation invest in a local SIM card. Some data packages for your mobile internet dongle include cheap overseas calls
Home is where the heart is, or so they say, so this has been a big part of our experience. The traditional home exchanges we have stayed in (i.e. we swap a stay in our home for a stay in theirs at roughly the same time) have exceeded our expectations- a river side lodge, a sea view condo, a modern country retreat, a beach house. The exchanges have all gone smoothly, as we knew they would, and we have not only saved a ton of money by travelling this way but also lived in some fantastic little communities we never would have visited otherwise.
Because we left it to the very last minute to arrange much of this trip we have been hosted far more than we ever anticipated This is where home exchangers offer to put us up (and put up with us) and maybe one day they’ll call in the favour. Or maybe not. It’s been a life-saver as without this the whole challenge would have fallen on its rear. There’s one thing all our hosts who agreed to put us up (and put up with us) have in common; they are passionate about travel. Because of this they are receptive to new experiences and opportunities related to this. Thank goodness; we would have been sleeping in a ditch otherwise.
Pros and cons
The beauty of this arrangement is in the opportunities for all sorts of different activities which land in your lap. The obvious drawback is that living in someone else’s home is less relaxing for all concerned. Sometimes you just kind of want to stop worrying if you are stepping on anyone’s toes.
Out of the 120 days we have been way for we have only paid for 6 nights of accommodation on top of what we pay at home for our mortgage. We only actually needed to pay for one of those hotel nights, when we arrived late at an airport. The rest we chose as a springboard to explore some further afield.
- Work out what you are looking for from a home exchange and make your arrangements plenty of time in advanced so you both get exactly what you want.
- Be wary about accepting too many non-simultaneous offers. A disproportionate number of the home exchange community seem to have second homes (lucky them!) so they can afford to offer out their ‘spare’ at any point if the dates you have in mind don’t quite work. If you just have one home and are hawking out weeks of its future, you may run into trouble finding somewhere else to stay when they want to cash in their half of the deal.
- If you plan to work as you travel and are considering home exchanging, think carefully before committing to a hosted exchange. Some hosts will be keen to show you the local sights and this can be awkward when you know you have work to do! However much your hosts accept that you work while you travel, it can still be hard for them to understand why you would choose to spend hours at your laptop each day while you are on ‘holiday’ (cue our standard phrase- ‘it’s not a holiday, it’s a lifestyle!!)
- Use your home exchange as a base but explore further afield. There are always cheap deals to be had and hotel costs don’t seem so bad when you know the rest of your accommodation is free.
- Try to arrange for a car exchange as part of the deal. Costs for a hire car can add up alarmingly and it is especially frustrating when you know you have a fully paid up vehicle sat on your drive at home.
We’ve had so many high points! Tubing an Oregon river and watching a meteor shower from a canoe on a lake, learning to wake board, riding a horse to a waterfall and having a cookery class in Mexico, going to a rodeo and releasing turtles into the ocean, hiking and snorkelling, browsing local food and craft markets and trying delicious new dishes, kayaking in French Polynesia and playing in a lagoon. We’ve watched seal cubs sunbathe on a rock; the sun set behind a mountain from a hot tub; we’ve hiked through a moon-like landscape and wallowed in bubbling natural springs; we’ve got lost in cave tunnels and found glow worms in the dark. We’ve joined a team for a traditional Tahitian canoe race, sweated our way up a well hidden rack to ancient marae (ruins), scoured a local market for the very freshest vanilla, shrieked with the delight of swimming with curious sharks and rays, chased leaping dolphins from a wave soaked rib and eaten lobster the size of our heads. And we are only half way through!
- Say yes! You never know what opportunities will come your way and even if you are a little hesitant, give it a go. You’ll feel pleased with yourself for doing it and the chances are you’ll have an awesome time.
On the plus side, it can be easy to feel inspired to create when you are fired up by beautiful experiences and new surroundings. On the minus side, you need to get the right balance between enjoying those inspirational things and losing yourself for days at a time to your laptop. To stay on top of our businesses we need to work about 30-35 hours a week when we travel. We tend to average this out with 6 hours on a ‘week off’, and sixty hours the next to make it up!
It often seems to be the way that when we leave the UK, requests through our consultancy business increase! Most of these can be done remotely; the rest can be handled by associates. We could probably make slightly more progress on work if we were at home, although our facebook updates for LovePlaywork wouldn’t be as varied!
Some tasks can be trickier to arrange from overseas. Customer service issues can escalate when conversations with our team can have a 24 hour turn around when at home they would take 2 minutes!
Moving money or trying to sort insurances etc can be a challenge; whether it’s having accounts locked for spurious reasons, not having the right codes or card readers, struggling to catch call centres or needing to fax authorisations when there are no facilities to do so, nuisance issues which are irritating at home can become a bit of a headache on the road!
- Let your banks know when you plant to be out of the country and as far as you can make sure all your insurances are up to date. Ideally, leave authorisation with someone you trust who can deal with these sorts of issues on your behalf.
- Be disciplined. This can mean the structure to stop yourself spending all your time working just as much as the willpower not to spend too much time out having fun!
So far, has the last four months on the road with our business been worth it?
It hasn’t always been easy but every week we experience something amazing. Who knows what the rest of the trip will bring? As for tonight, we’ve impulse bought a box of fireworks to have an impromptu display on the wide front lawn of our current home exchange which slopes down to overlook a remote northland bay. We just hope we don’t frighten the cows.
Would you tackle a challenge like this one? What would make it worthwhile for you?
Would anything be a deal-breaker?
P.S – Its Hannah’s birthday today!
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