Here are some final thoughts on our month-long home exchange from my husband and Cora, one of our home swapping partners.
During our month in the Hague, we took a few side day trips to other Dutch cities: Groningen, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
The Netherlands is a small country. Slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey. So, to us, taking a day to visit each of these places was a no-brainer. Rotterdam is a 20 minute train ride from den Haag Centraal. Amsterdam, 45 minutes. Groningen, the farthest of the three, gave us three hours of quiet time on the train to get work done.
People seemed a little shocked that we rode a train for the interminable length of three hours to visit a city for 24 hours, but I’ve driven 4 hours each way to and from Jacksonville in one day just to hang out with people. And there’s no wifi in a car. The train ride was lovely.
For four weeks, we swapped homes with Cora and Hans, a sweet and fun-loving couple from the Hague. We got to experience city life in the Netherlands (bikes, history, gin and very tall people), and they got to try on Southern living for a minute (heat, churches, music and hospitality). They wrote up a few thoughts about their time here in the States for me to post here. It’s always interesting to view your home through the eyes of an outsider. So take a look at what they saw.
How do you sum up a city? How do you convey the sense of an entire place, made up of so many people and buildings and cultures? How do you explain how this places makes you feel without veering into cliché territory?
Photos won’t do it justice. Words only capture opinion. If we could bottle the smells of the city, that might showcase the worst bits. Audio recordings would accentuate the loud and obnoxious, and video can show a lot but without a great camera, it’ll miss the lighting, the shadows, the colors.
For now, I must settle for words and pictures, and hope that I can convey some of the beauty, some of the attitude, some of the pace of a place you might never have even heard of until recently: the Hague.
Upon arriving at our home exchange in den Haag, I noticed something odd about two of the three toilets in the house: instead of a bowl full of water, they contained a shelf.
After the first couple uses, this shelf became baffling. What the hell was the point of it?! Why would you not want some odor-disguising water instead of allowing things to land on an open-air shelf?! Continue reading
The birds wake me up, their incessant morning chatter yanking me from a lovely dream. I roll over, and for the briefest of moments I think this isn’t my bed and then I remember where I am. My husband is next to me, but no this is not our bed. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I grab my phone, stumble down the steep, unfamiliar stairs. One of these days I’m going to fall down them, I’m sure of it. When I get to the kitchen, I make a cup of strong, black coffee. I sit down at the dining room table I did not buy, drinking a coffee brand I can’t pronounce, in a house built at the beginning of last century.
I am living in someone else’s house while they live in mine.
The concept of a home exchange might sound a tad bizarre. Instead of staying in a hotel or renting an apartment, you host guests in your home while they host you in theirs. It’s kind of like AirBNB without any monetary exchange.
I’ve been trying to write this post for over a week. I’ve started and deleted half a dozen variations on it, but haven’t been able to narrow down to a central theme. I had wanted to post something last week, but here we are, two days out from departing, and I still can’t figure out what to write.
So let’s just go with the thoughts that have been bouncing around my head for the last week and see what happens.
In America, it’s uncommon to hear of people taking really long vacations or trips lasting more than two weeks because most companies in the US don’t offer much paid time off or allow people to work remotely. In Europe, things are a little different. Spain and Germany give their workers 34 days of paid vacation, Italy and France give 31, but in America only 25% of workers are guaranteed any paid time off. Add in the fact that many companies are still scared to let employees work remotely, and you probably don’t hear, “Guess what? We’ll be gone for six weeks!” very often or at all.
Justin and I feel so fortunate to be able to say those exact words. “We’ll be gone for six weeks!”
In less than a month, we will be embarking on our Euro Adventure 2016: six weeks, five (planned) countries, four booked AirBNBs, three train rides, two carry-on bags, and one month-long home exchange with a lovely Dutch couple. What the heck are we thinking?! Continue reading
In just a couple months, we’ll be embarking on our greatest travel adventure together: six weeks in Europe! The first two weeks will be heavy on the travel, and the last month will be spent in the Hague; we’re home swapping with a cool Dutch couple who are crazy about country music and have always wanted to come to Nashville.
While we were on our honeymoon, staying in the beautiful Kailua Kona on Hawaii, we avoided doing much typically touristy stuff. We decided against the helicopter tour and dolphin experience after reading so many mixed reviews, instead choosing to spend our money on food and drink. Less doing, more vacating. When we did do something touristy, such as drive down to the volcano, we tried to balance it by asking locals where they would go next. We try to live like locals whenever we visit a new place.