Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Home Exchange, Part One

Well, we have finally pulled the trigger and have settled on a very interesting series of home exchanges for 2009. This will be our first time exchanging homes, and I'm not exactly sure what to expect! I originally researched the idea, and found that there were two major home exchange websites, each a little different but both around a hundred bucks for a listing. I read and read, and then read again, and scoured the listings to see if there were actual homes for exchange that were of interest to us. I didn't want to join both, so when I finally fell upon a blog by an American woman from Arizona who decided to spend a year in France on a home exchange, I couldn't get enough. I read her whole blog and finally decided to join the one she joined, as she found the type of exchange that we were looking for.

I wrote up my listing, and took a million photos of our house and then re-took them until they were perfect and posted them right away. I wrote carefully-crafted personalized messages to the most promising listings, letting them know that we were looking for a long-term exchange, ideally a year, in a non-English-speaking country in Europe. We didn't care which country, what type of home, inland or coastal, apartment or two story house, it didn't matter. We were looking for new experiences, foreign language knowledge for our kids, interesting new foods. We were looking for culture! Hours passed, then days, then nothing. A whole lot of nothing, no replies, no offers, just nothing. This isn't supposed to happen like this. Then, one morning, I had an email from someone looking for an exchange! Finally! The email said:

Dear exchange partner:
We would like to exchange our home with you this summer for 3 weeks. We have a nice home in Ireland, close to the coast and to shopping, that you will like very much.
Please respond right away, thank you.

Hmmm. Alas, this was the way it would go for a long time, and I did receive a few very lovely replies from families who were not available for long-term travel, or who had already found exchanges. However, the promise of finding a perfect home exchange after only a matter of weeks was out of reach and the process started to feel more and more like internet dating. Why aren't they replying to my email? Maybe they don't like the way I decorated? Maybe they appreciate my sense of humor in my listing? I'm funny, aren't I? My house is nice, isn't it? Finally, after a few months of little to no interest, I decided my house could no longer suffer these indignities and I decided to take a drastic step. I joined the other website. Things were about to look up.

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