The last year and a half or so has been an incredibly exciting time for me. After nearly a decade locked away, my passport and suitcase finally got to make up for lost time. The gent and I adventured the country and a bit of the globe with planes, trains, automobiles, even a hot air balloon in one instance. However, it wasn’t the mode of transport that blew me away, but rather our lodging. While we had our fair share of AirBnB and hotels, my favorite to date would be the time we switched houses with strangers!
“Oh! You mean like The Holiday!” I still haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve gotten this response nearly every time I told someone. I trust by the common reply that this is a decent flick. I’ll add it to the to-watch list, which is embarrassingly lengthy and full of titles that make my friends ashamed to know me and my lack of pop culture ability.
Anyway, back to house switching! Which brings me to Intervac Home Exchange. They’ve been in the business of facilitating worldwide home exchanges since the 1950’s! Always up for adventure, my gent and I decided to give it a try. After a bit of searching, we paired up with a family in Sweden who happened to have interest in seeing what life on our sandy Florida beaches was all about. Thus, we made arrangements to see how the other half lives and switched homes for two weeks in July.
What does this entail? #1: Free lodging! Yes, Intervac does come with an annual fee ($99 at time of this post), but that’s more than worth the two week stay we enjoyed! #2: Direct insider knowledge on how to best spend our time soaking up the best sites and living like locals. #3: (though this isn’t always the case) a car. They. Left. Us. Their. Car. While we only used it twice, it was wonderful to not have to worry about getting “home” from the airport.
We were pleased to discover our switch-mates were as enthusiastic about the summer adventure as we were. We set our dates months in advance and every few weeks, we’d touch base about life, getting to know each other so we could each offer the best suggestions on what all to see and do for our respective adventures. While at first I was surprised by the level of communication, by the end of it, I felt like we’d made great friends (whom I hope to actually meet one day).
We confirmed details all the way up until boarding our plane, checking in using WhatsApp to confirm how we’d find our car, etc. After a lengthy flight and a somewhat nervous drive from the airport, we arrived to a refrigerator stocked with local craft beer, dinner and a binder with metro cards, a guide to their home, and a personalized written guide to the city.
The next two weeks were a blend of covering as much ground as possible with a healthy mix of R&R in between. Though there was a six hour time difference between our switch-mates, we did check in occasionally to see how the other half were enjoying themselves or ask the occasional important question (Where can we buy wine after 5pm? Do you tip the Publix sub makers?). But mostly, we just relaxed and took in all the adventure we could possibly imagine. For being on the other side of the world, we felt entirely at home and at ease. If we wanted to go out and explore, we were armed with all of the tips and tricks and best bets on food and entertainment. If we wanted to stay in, we were as comfortable as if the house we were in was always our haven, and not that we were guests imposing in someone else’s space.
I’ll save the details of the vacation itself for another post as there are too many things to cover and I’ve babbled on quite a bit already. In summary: If you are looking for an adventure and interested in free lodging while getting to know others from across the world, take a chance on an Intervac Vacation!
(No, I did not get any sort of recognition or payment from Intervac for this post. I was just really pleased with the adventure and think everyone should try it!)