It was going to be my first time so I put my best face forward, admittedly a little apprehensive about the process. I crafted a profile that accentuated the positive and deemphasized the negative, and took a few photos that strategically showed things off in the best light. I scoured the listings to cherry-pick the ones that seemed to be looking for the same things as I and sent out countless hopeful messages. Then I sat back and waited for the internet to work its magic and find me a compatible match.
It worked like a charm. The emails from intrigued internet strangers came flooding in. The vast majority could be eliminated right off the bat – there was just no chemistry, no connection in time or place. But there were a few possibilities left in the trickle, some that made my heart flutter and a couple that seemed like safe, sensible potentials worth pursuing. After all, I didn’t want to be fixated on superficialities like size and appearance alone.
So the seduction process began. I flirted with my shortlist of suitors like a pro, probing them with questions to help them reveal their true agendas, peppering them with little anecdotes that divulged what I wanted out of the merger. There was a lot of back and forth, and I had trouble juggling all the various options. Having eclectic tastes, I was cyber-mingling with a wide range of prospects and could imagine all sorts of scenarios with each of them. Each had their pros and cons so it was a matter of distilling things down to determine who would be the better fit for a summer fling.
Some were a bit too eager for me and turned me off by their desperation. They clearly weren’t my type/location and it was better to nip things in the bud with a polite kiss-off. Others just weren’t that into me, and I got a little stung by their quick rejection (they don’t know what they’re missing!). Some even had the nerve to lead me on, make me think “this is it” and then drop me like a hot potato. The worst was when they didn’t call back – even a cold email of “no thanks” is better than being left hanging, wondering what went wrong.
My clock was ticking, though. At this late date you can’t afford to be too choosy. Day by day, I whittled down my list until I was left with two promising potentials that seemed doable. Then just when I was about to seal the deal with my favorite front-runner, they broke my heart and dumped me out of the blue. Oh, they were apologetic and full of excuses, leaving the door open for another time – but it was still disappointing. No doubt they were two-timing me all along and chose the other option. I guess that’s part of the game, as I was admittedly romancing multiple properties simultaneously myself.
So I was left with my relatively mediocre plan B. It wasn’t exactly what I was longing for and didn’t compare to my first choice, but it would be comfortable and at least our time-frames meshed. I was too drained to start the process from square one again, and it would do just fine. I may be settling, but I figure if you can’t exchange with the home you want, honey, grab the one you can.
Of course, now that I’ve committed, I’m getting countless offers from new interested parties that would have been perfect had I not rushed into things. Perhaps I acted to hasty? No, no more second-guessing. I must surrender to my choice. I’ve made my bed and I’m going to lie in it – at least for 5 weeks this summer.
My uninitiated friends are asking how I could share something as intimate as my home with strangers met online. Well, just like affairs of the heart, you have to take a leap of faith and go with your gut with these things. Serendipity and trust come into play, bolstered by the knowledge that both parties are taking a mutual risk with each other’s properties. After you’ve communicated through lots of emails, you build a friendship and an understanding with the other party so they no longer feel like “strangers”.
It’s not for everyone, but those of us who have opened our minds the world of home exchanging feel like we’ve tapped into a gold mine of travel possibilities. My family and I will be spending the summer in Paris in a small but comfortable apartment a stone’s throw from the Palace of Versailles. We’d never even conceive of doing this if we had to pay for five weeks accommodation out of pocket. But the money savings is only part of the appeal. We’ve found a family with similar aged kids so we can share books, toys, bicycles, bunk beds etc., plus we get an enthusiastic live-in dog sitter for the summer. It’s a win-win situation that’s really growing on me.
In fact, I think I love it.
We have done numerous home exchanges to date. Home exchanging has allowed us to save on accommodation costs, car rental expenses, and restaurant meals…
Other benefits include the friends that we have made. We have stayed in touch with most of the people we exchanged with. And have also visited with them years later.
Families with children also benefit from having a whole house rather than a single room for the duration for the holiday. We often swap with other families, which usually means our kids have new toys to play with during the
For anyone serious about trying this out, we strongly recommend that you join a reputable home exchange club. There are numerous clubs you can join, but one that has worked out really well for us is http://www.HomeForSwap.com
Finding a home exchange may require some effort but we have always found that it has been well worth it.
Can you supply a post-script on how things went – what worked, what didn’t? It would be so useful…
Liza – I’ll definitely be writing a follow-up piece on our house swapping adventures soon.