Date: Thursday, Jun 15, 1995 9:48 AM EDT
Subj: Home Exchanging
(Editor's Note: This was one of the first letters received prior to conceiving and launching Digsville.com - yes, it's framed and hanging in the office!)
11 SWAPS IN 3 1/2 YEARS!
Thanks for your recent e-mail. I would have answered earlier but we just returned from a very successful four-week home and car exchange in Holland.
You asked to hear about my exchange experiences, good and bad. We have exchanged homes and usually cars eleven times in the past 31/2 years. I can unequivocally state that every exchange has been extremely successful; a win win situation for both parties and every exchange has exceeded our expectations, in the enjoyment of the area, the home we went to, and the condition of our home on return. In my opinion, it's a marvelous way to travel.
Exchanging requires some work. Very few people seem to want to come to Walnut Creek, so I have to do almost all of the initial contact work. Once you establish a connection, you will exchange about five or six letters (including pictures) and three or four phone calls. I believe good communication helps assure the success of the exchange; by the time you actually exchange you are really pretty good friends.
On our first exchange, we locked up all of our valuable items. The other couple (a retired university professor) locked up nothing. Since then we do not lock away anything; we just aren't concerned with security. I believe that there has never been ANY security problem ever reported. Absolutely no money (security deposit) is ever exchanged. But you do need rules on breakage, car mileage, phone expenses, etc.
You do have to be somewhat flexible. The townhouse we had in London was very small, but it was wonderfully located, right on Thames dock, half mile from London Bridge. In contrast, the home we had in Spain was magnificent. It had a marvelous view of two cities and the Mediterranean from the pool deck. It also came with a cleaning lady and gardener one a week.
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What accommodations do you really need when you travel - a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room (den). It's just so nice to live in a real home. You can get yourself a cup of coffee whenever you feel like it or fix breakfast at home. It's a fun experience to shop in a Spanish super market. The advantages to exchanging are more than just saving scads of bucks.
Car exchanges have also worked out just fine. An overheated radiator was our worst car problem that in Derby, England. I retired from the insurance business, and my car and home insurance is completely in force when someone with my permission drives our car or stays in our home. I also try to make sure the other party has adequate car insurance, and if not, I purchase an umbrella policy to help cover me while driving the other car.
We try to avoid having kids come to our home (although two teachers from Calgary brought their eleven-year-old son, and he was great). We also avoid having to take care of any pets. Most of our exchanges have been for three to four weeks. You have to be a little flexible on the actual dates. We try to meet the people that we are exchanging with, either at the start or end of the exchange. Not for security reasons, but because they all seem to be such nice people, and we have a great time trading exchange stories.
As you can see, I'm sold on home exchanging as a means of travel. Would you send me some more information about the Digsville listserve.
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This article has been generously contributed by BobWosniack, a member of Digsville.com since November 1999.
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