Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Home Exchange for Teachers

The irony of being a teacher is that we normally have ample time to travel, but insufficient funds to do so. With this thought on my mind, I came up with a brilliant idea to start a website for teachers to swap homes during their summer breaks. However, like with many of my brilliant ideas, someone else had already invented the concept. ;) Anyway, while I was totally bummed to see that MY idea was already taken, I jumped right into researching different home exchanging websites and settled on Homeexchange.com because their interface looked the best and they had a search function that narrowed the results down by teachers.

I was so excited about the potential to be able to travel more, that I basically joined within 10 minutes of finding the site. I didn't have time to think it through which is actually a good thing. It wasn't until after I had already paid the $75 fee (I used a promo code) that I began to second-guess the impulsive thing I just did. First, my town isn't well-known. It's a small town in East Tennessee, and we don't get very many tourists. Second, if someone did want to visit my town, what would it be like to have stranger staying in my home??? Third, what if my home wasn't good enough to be on this site???

Well, I've been with this site for one and half years now and have currently completed 3 successful home exchanges! Here is a little bit of info about each one:

1. Little Switzerland, NC. The exchangers had a car club meeting in my town, so we did a weekend exchange. They had a vacation cabin in the woods that we stayed in complete with a hot tub. It was perfection.

2. Savannah, GA. My husband and I LOVE Savannah and try to visit as often as possible. The lady that we did a home exchange with was on a road trip to Wisconsin and stopped by our home to stay 3 nights for a break from driving (and to do some antiquing). She had actually set up a multiple exchange scenario because we were in charge of making sure her house was ready for the next visitors. That was a little stressful, but totally worth it because we were able to live like locals in a location that we have seriously considered moving to before this exchange. We were only about 3 miles outside of downtown, but quickly found out that much of what we love about Savannah would not be the same if we lived there (unless we win the lottery and can afford one of those amazing Victorian homes on Jones Street...Swoon!). In others words, the exchange was a great experience simply by allowing us the chance to try on a location before taking further steps into relocating. Besides, a free week in a city we adore and being able bring out dog? Um yes! (The search function on this site also allows you to search for dog friendly homes).

3. Florence, Arizona  This is our latest and favorite home exchange to date! In our profile on the site, I put down Arizona as a prefered destination since we had never seen the West. After only a month, I was contacted by the sweetest woman who said she noticed that I was looking to travel to AZ. She wanted to know if we were up for an exchange this summer, and I said YES immediately. After talking to our exchange partner on the phone, I found out that she really wanted to come to our home simply for the reason that she would never have thought to visit if it had not been for the home exchange website. I found this to be such an adventurous way of looking at travel! Like our first exchange, this AZ house was a vacation home for the owners; it was on a golf course and was absolutely immaculate. We were able to borrow their golf cart, clubs, and bikes which was a very nice bonus. We rented a car and drove all over Arizona--even to the Grand Canyon. As for our exchangers, they loved our little town and took hour long day trips to the birthplace of country music (Bristol) and Biltmore Estate (Ashville).

Everyone we tell about our home exchanging adventures either think that it's really cool or really weird. And you know what--it is weird, but being weird leads to an interesting life. :) Exchanging homes takes a mutual trust and a mutual love for travel in which we've been lucky enough to find in all of our exchange partners. Plus, the only real valuables I have in my home are my husband and dog--both of which will either be with me or at the dog kennel (is it possible to have husbands boarded?? haha).

P.S. This past new year, homeexchange sent me a coupon code to share with a friend for a whole year access to their site for FREE. If they send one of those out again, I would love to share it with someone.

P.S.S. I plan to do an overview of our whole trip to Arizona soon for anyone interested in hearing about the places we visited. Stay tuned.

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