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Give your child the world.... and nourish your soul.

by Nancy Cross Shimmel

I can think of no greater single application for home exchange than traveling with children. For those of you who don't know about home exchange (and your numbers are dwindling), let me first briefly describe.

The short answer is: you stay in my home while I stay in yours. This arrangement can be anything from a month-long stay half-way around the world, to a weekend retreat a short drive from home. The dates and length of stay are mutually agreed upon, arrangements are made (usually with neighbors or friends) to pick up keys and you're off! Now that you have a clearer idea of the big picture, let your imagination take you on a vacation that's kid friendly and anxiety-reduced. Here's how.

You've done a full day of museums and landmarks and the last thing you want is to dress up and cart the kids to a restaurant where mayhem is certain and the cold stares of the wait staff is your personal, private hell. You do what any normal family would do: order take-out. This take-out however, is in Morocco, and the food is great because your home exchange host has left you a list of his favorite spots.

Your four-year old had an unhappy mix of chicken chow something and a revolving ride at the theme park and your two-year old has responded sympathetically by forgetting all of her toilet training. Although you are far from your own home, a washing machine and dryer await you back at the exchange house. At 3:00 am when the eldest child has recovered her appetite and demands her favorite juice drink, you are not at the mercy of a room service that can't accommodate you anyway.
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When you enter a home exchange community such as Digsville, you are given the opportunity to exchange with others who share common interests with you. Digsville also provides you ample opportunity to be very specific about yourself and what you seek in your your exchange. This ensures amenities (and necessities) such as child guards on windows, stairs, and cupboards, toys designated for sharing, sports equipment and videos. Phone numbers of babysitters, physicians and other service providers are also commonly swapped.

But these things simply address the convenience factor and that represents only a fraction of the benefits to be had. The real gold is in the cultural experience you can offer your family. When you bring your child to a real home in a real neighborhood 180 degrees away from what they commonly know, you bring them the world. Go ahead and leaf through the restaurant folder your exchange partner left of her personal recommendations and treat your family to dinner in your chosen exotic destination. This vacation you not only feed the body, you nourish the soul.

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RESOURCE BOX:
Nancy Cross Shimmel is a freelance editor and a member of the Digsville Home Exchange Club.

Visit http://www.digsville.com - Trade Homes, Travel Free.

Copyright 1998-2003. Permission is granted to reprint any of the articles found in the Digsville Network provided the resource box and copyright are included.