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Lois Sealey, Editor, Home Swappers
'We reside near Washington, DC, and for the past several years have experienced "hospitality exchanges," which have worked wonderfully for us. This type of exchange involves one or both of us staying in our home and hosting the exchanged-with parties. We then, if able, will visit them in their homes as they remain there.
Why would we do exchanges this way? For us, having three dogs and at one point an elderly parent in residence, it has been ideal. We didn't have to make arrangements for the pets and Granny, didn't have to leave copious instructions on how to operate everything, didn't have to deal with the car-exchange issues, and could guide our guests to interesting sights in the area which they might not otherwise experience. In return, we have a fairly open invitation to travel to our visitors' home and enjoy their venues. In addition we find that we are not always able to travel as a couple - one might have needs to remain at home, and this arrangement allows the other to travel without putting a "hosting" burden on the partner left at home.
Our first such exchange was with a couple in Huntley, Scotland, whose flat in Aberdeen was ideal for visiting my university son, Chris. I was able to travel to Aberdeen, having first visited with other dear friends in Scotland, and have a wonderful apartment to myself, as well as a car (!), to see the sights, to visit Chris, and generally feel completely at home. I used the flat twice, and the third time husband David was also able to visit. In the interim, we hosted our wonderful exchangers, the Stewarts, and their youngest son. We had them here and then were also able to take them to our second home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a side trip which they would not have accomplished otherwise. Mrs. Stewart and her eldest son again visited us both this past August, and we all feel as though we have made friends for life.
Our most recent hospitality exchangers were the Butlers from Cheshire, England, who spent two delightful weeks with us this past September. They did lots of day-trips into Washington, and also spent a day in Baltimore. Together the four of us also visited Mt. Vernon, Annapolis, and a weekend in Gettysburg, and we all enjoyed each other tremendously. Without doing this as a hospitality exchange, that kind of bonding could not have occurred, and again we feel as if we have made more dear friends for life. We have a standing invitation to visit them whenever we can.
For us, the hospitality exchange has worked so very well, and has given us the opportunity to get to know our "exchangers" to a degree just not possible otherwise. I certainly can recommend this type of exchange, and certainly intend to embrace future opportunities as well! Happy Hospitality!!' - Carol Rathbun, Silver Spring, Maryland, HE13418
Carol and David's home and hospitality exchange offer in Silver Spring, Maryland:
Large family home in highly desirable neighborhood, 11 miles from White House, near main transport. Very spacious, built 1938 by owners' grandfather, large back garden with huge shady oaks and fenced. Very safe neighborhood known for its beauty and interest; near to revitalized, new shopping area (1 mile). 3 dogs needing care if simultaneous. See the full listing (link below).
In the last issue of Home Swappers I included a request from Alexander Grit, a PhD student from Strathclyde University, Glasgow, for volunteers willing to record their home exchanges for use in his research. Alexander's update:
'I had some very enthusiastic Home Base Holidays members volunteer to participate in my research. The data collection part of the research consists of recording the home or hospitality exchange by the home exchange participant. So, as a researcher, I'm sort of present during your holiday. One couple of both host and guest in a hospitality exchange have already taken part. Before their exchange, I sent the couple a video camera and they made a wonderful visual diary in their own style. Two weeks later DHL picked up the camera from their home.
Last week I had to present my results to the thesis committee at the University of Starthclyde and was grateful I could tell them about the successful diary. The thesis committee were very enthusiast, the diary revealed so many themes. The idea is that by watching and analysing several home exchange diaries we will get insights into this very exciting hospitality concept from the point of view of the participants. The diaries will all be different - in content, form and appearance - according to each participant's personal preference. Some diaries will take the form of written journals with pictures that cover activities on a day to day basis; others will be videos covering the main events of an exchange, or a blog on the Internet, or a podcast.
If you are interested in taking part please contact Lois who will forward your message to me. I will send you full details, including my supervisor's contact details for reference. Your privacy is guaranteed and, as gratitude, you will receive an Amazon Travel Voucher.'
Stop Press: I have just received another request for help with a thesis on home exchange. This is from Nathalie Warny, a Belgian bachelor student in Travel and Tourism Management at the Charles Peguy Institute in Louvain-la-Neuve. Nathalie would like home exchange volunteers willing to answer a few questions for research for her thesis. See more details on the blog, (2nd) Thesis on Home Exchange: Request for Help. I will forward a message (subject line: for Nathalie Warny) if you would like to help.
The last issue of Home Swappers was a bumper one for requests for volunteers. As well as home exchange diary keepers and Irish TV show participants, I also asked for volunteers who would like a free copy of a new e- book, 'Home Exchange Academy' in return for writing a review. Thanks to everyone who responded. I'm just sorry that I couldn't offer a free copy to all of you! Two reviewers were chosen at random from two categories of readers - an experienced home exchanger and a newsletter subscriber who had not yet done a home exchange. I am very pleased to include the first review, written by Catherine from Toronto. The time has not yet been right for Catherine and her family to consider an exchange but she has admitted to 'drooling over various exchange offers' on Home Base Holidays and is a regular newsletter reader. Over to Catherine:
I'm an addicted browser (read "dreamer") of home exchange websites so I leapt at the chance to read and review the new e-book, subtitled: "Blueprint to Swap Homes for Your Next Vacation and Get out of the Hotel Rut". Sadly, I was disappointed.
My overall impression? This 68 page book was hastily thrown together and could benefit from some careful editing. Both the book and the associated website include spelling errors. And, while the book includes much useful information, it also includes material that seems like filler of only tenuous interest to prospective home exchangers. The author seems to know this. She predicts at the beginning of "General Tips and Advice" that "[t]his section of my e-book may sound a little strange." She's right - the section is an awkward mix of tips relevant to home exchangers and other tips that would only be of use to someone who's never traveled before - hardly the typical home exchanger.
The book does contain some very good advice on how to evaluate a home exchange club before joining. The author advises readers to explore each club's website, check out contact info (and call or email the club to see how fast and helpful is the response), and look for clubs that focus on exchange rather than rentals. The author also offers useful cautions about avoiding clubs without membership fees or lacking security features to protect members' contact information. The latter advice, however, is inconsistent with her suggestion that you post your children's photos on your listing.
Something else I wouldn't have thought of is the author's advice that you record the "knocks and dings" in your own house before you leave so that your exchange partners won't feel responsible for damage they haven't caused. And I hadn't thought of the possibility of including photos of interesting sites in my city or neighbourhood.
Having drifted around the web, I know that similar information is available at no cost on the websites of many home exchange organizations. But, if you're looking for a quick overview and an example of home exchange documents, then this book is a convenient place to start.
The website promises that purchasers will get updated versions of the book at no cost. Here's hoping that the author takes the time to refine a promising first draft into a more substantial book.
Catherine & family, based in Toronto, Canada, are experienced travelers who stay in accommodation with cooking facilities whenever possible. One of these days, they'll get their act (and digital photos) together and actually post a home exchange listing. Where do they want to go? Shanghai, Beijing, Venice, Texas, California, Scotland and anywhere else interesting.
Note: Catherine's review was published on the blog earlier this week where you can also read comments about the review, and add a comment yourself. The next issue of the newsletter will include a second review.
See 'Home Exchange Academy' (link below) for further information and to order the e-book, $19.99US (+ tax).
The switch over to the new site based messaging system went very smoothly and it was good to see members start using the system right away. This is just a reminder in case you are a current Home Base Holidays member but haven't logged on for awhile:
All contact with other members is now done from your member area. Just as you have done previously, use the contact form at the end of a member's listing to send your home exchange offer message. As well as added security (your email address won't be disclosed to the contacting member and you decide when to share any contact information), your sent and received messages will also be stored in your member area, with all correspondence with each member stored separately in message 'threads'. This will make it easy to keep track of members you have contacted (or who have contacted you) and your on- going correspondence. Your inbox and sent folder can hold an infinite number of messages, and is not related to the latest members contacted stored on your Recently Contacted list.
Whenever there is a new message for you (either a reply to a message you sent, or a message from another member), you will receive a brief email to alert you to log on to your member area to read the new message. The subject line will be: New home exchange message for you from HExxxxx (the member's User ID).
A few new message alerts may end up in junk folders by mistake and so it is a very good idea to skim through mail in your junk folder before deleting it. It's tedious but, until there are better filters that can sort all legitimate messages from the masses of unsolicited junk, there may be a few 'good' messages that need to be rescued from your junk folder. If you can't check through your junk folder on your ISP's website, be sure to log on to your member area regularly to check for any recent messages you may have overlooked. As always, reply promptly to all exchange offers you receive whether you can consider the offer or not.
If you read the Oct/Nov issue of Home Swappers Newsletter you may remember the request for experienced home exchangers living in Ireland to take part in RTÉ One's new lifestyle consumer show, 'Highly Recommended', with Joe Duffy. A number of Home Base Holidays members responded to this request and, if the chosen participants managed to convince the team of consumer experts that home exchange is a good way to save money, could now be the lucky recipients of 2000 euros - a very nice bonus just before the holiday season. Naturally, the producers won't give the game away before the show is broadcast so we'll have to wait to hear the outcome.
If you are in Ireland, do try to watch 'Highly Recommended' on Sunday evening, 16 December, at 8.30 pm. As I won't be able to see it, I'd love to get reports back after the show. Was the audience and Joe Duffy and his team of consumer experts impressed by the savings they could make by having a home exchange holiday? If not, why ever not?!
Check out that many attractive home exchange offers in Ireland: Search listings.
In the last issue of Home Swappers I ended with this teaser: I am itching to tell you about a brand new project I have been closely involved in over the last few months, and that will be launched within the next few weeks. Sorry I can't reveal more than that at present but, although this development is separate from Home Base Holidays, it will definitely be a major benefit for our members.
Although I promised that all would be revealed in this issue, and the project is now very close to completion, it's not quite there yet. As I didn't want to delay publication of this newsletter, you will just have to keep reading the blog and watch out for further information shortly. Sorry to end with yet another teaser!
Happy holidays to all members and subscribers.
Newsletter Contributions: We are always pleased to hear from members and subscribers and to receive contributions for the newsletter and weblog - short reports on your exchange experiences, tips you feel would be useful to those new to the idea of home swapping and any questions you have on home exchange. Please include 'home exchange' in the subject line when contacting us as messages with no subjects (or dubious sounding subject lines!) or unexpected attachments may end up in our spam folder and deleted unread.
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Be Alert: The Home Base Holidays private member area is for one-to-one exchange offers between members only, not for any other purpose. Please let us know if you receive any other type of message via your member area. It is important to be alert to potential scams on the Internet (reputable businesses prominently display phone numbers and postal addresses on websites - and never send spam). Never respond to unsolicited messages - if a 'free' offer seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Copyright: All Home Swappers content is copyright and cannot be used in any form without written permission from Home Base Holidays. However, please feel free to forward the newsletter (in full) to friends and colleagues who may be interested in home exchange (use the Forward Email link below the newsletter).
Further Information: Check the archives to read past issues of Home Swappers Newsletter. Also, don't forget to visit the Travel the Home Exchange Way weblog for regular information and updates plus special exchange requests. To receive notices by email whenever a new post is added (generally no more than three a week), add your email address to the box above 'Get email updates' in the left hand column of Travel the Home Exchange Way.
Home Base Holidays, London, UK 1985-2008: 23rd year providing a home exchange service worldwide