Here are some final thoughts on our month-long home exchange from my husband and Cora, one of our home swapping partners.
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.
We had the opportunity to spend 8 wonderful days in this city. We’ve seen so much, met lots of friendly people, and have blisters on our feet from walking so much. I wish we could have visited during a less busy time of year (seriously, so many people, it became claustrophobic), but overall it was a positive experience. It’s hard to sum up our experience or even choose our favorite bits. So I thought I’d share some of the most memorable moments through photos.
We arrived on Wednesday, Aug 10. It’s been a fun, but not over-taxing, four days. We’ve seen some and still have some of the big sites to see (up next: la Sagrada Familia and Park Güell) but have walked nearly 29 miles and feel like we’ve seen a lot of the city. We’ve hung out in our quarter (el Gótico, el Raval, la Barceloneta, la vila de Gràcia). We have four more days, and lots more to see, but I wanted to go over our first few impressions of Barcelona. Continue reading
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