Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Affordable Travel - How it Works

We have joined three Home Exchange sites as well as the Affordable Travel Club.  Each site charges a nominal fee, ranging from $60 to $100, for an annual listing.  On the listing, you provide all the information which would be useful to potential visitors:  pictures of your home, preferred dates, destinations etc.  Once you have registered with an agency, you will be provided with weekly emails which will inform you of new and updated listings of other members who have indicated their preferred destinations which coincide with yours.

The listing agency does not do any vetting of the integrity of the individual listing.  It is up to the individuals to develop that sense of trust.  The underlying assumption of course is that you will take care of the home of the other people as they will of yours.   Arrangements regarding an exchange of cars,  care of pets, accommodation of children,  etc. are all negotiated by the people interested in the exchange.  Our experience has been in the positive without qualification.  One tends to get people who are professional and like-minded.  To this day, lasting friendships have developed because of our home exchange experience.

In the case of the Affordable Travel Club, no exchange is involved or any responsibility to reciprocate.  

Both, the Affordable Travel Club and Home Exchange Agencies list people who are interested in house sitting or pet-sitting.  We spend six wonderful weeks in the Basque Country of France, looking after four cats, when no reciprocal arrangements were negotiated. 

I have selected this picture of a typical Turkish meal which was offered by our home exchange hosts in Istanbul.   It illustrates the fact that a home exchange gives one an opportunity to savour the life-style of another culture in a way that is rarely possible through other means of travel.   I have a cookbook,  Extending the table of the World.  That is what home exchange offers:  an opportunity to extend one's experience of the colour and diversity of another culture different from one's own.  Food is a wonderful way to do just that. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't pre-judge the possibilities...

We often wonder:  "Why would anyone want to come to Brantford?"  It's hard to imagine why anyone living in Paris or St. Petersburg would want to spend time in our town.   But then, again and again, we are surprised by the number of people, living in what we consider "exotic places", want to do just that!  I guess we are too close to the place in which live to appreciate its attractiveness to others.

Recently we received an invitation from a couple living in the heart of New York city to consider a home exchange with them.  We are now in the process of working out the details of that possibility.    Imagine, living in that exciting and vibrant city for a period of several weeks!  But the other people are probably saying the same thing:  "Imagine, living in Brantford with its hiking trails, wild life, proximity to vineyards and live theatre, fishing, sailing, golf,  for a period of several weeks"

The point is:  Don't pre-judge the possibilities of a home exchange.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Recently we had an enquiry from a couple in Holland who wanted us to do a home exchange.  Unfortunately, we were not able to consider because we had other plans.  We suggested that they might stay in our home in Canada while we are away visiting relatives and friends on the East coast, with the understanding that at some future time we might stay in their home in The Netherlands.   It's a kind of "I owe you" idea which seems to work quite well  in a home exchange. In other words, home exchanges don't have to be simultaneous.  The same idea works quite well when someone has a second home, a cottage or whatever.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Citizen Diplomacy is the answer

During the cold war, "citizen diplomacy" was very much in vogue:  the idea of ordinary people, like you and me,  visiting other ordinary people in Russia or East Germany.  An enormous amount of good was accomplished in breaking down the barriers of alienation and misunderstanding between nations by means of this simple idea:  ordinary people getting to know ordinary people in other countries in their daily circumstances.  The idea is still important today and is most beautifully embodied in Home Exchange and The Affordable Travel Club.  My wife and I have recently met wonderful people in France,  Australia, Turkey and the USA and have come to know them and their way of life in a way which those poor people at the Hilton or others sitting on cruise ships will never experience. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why would anyone bother....?
Why would anyone living in Paris or London want to come to humble little Brantford?   The anwer is  "you would be surprised how many!"   You would be surprised to see the list of people from world cities who would love to visit.  Since joining the home exchange network we've had enquiries from Paris, St. Petersburg, Helsinsky, Dehli, Istanbul, Amsterdam  and other exotic locations about a possible exchange with us in "humble little Brantford".  The point is that we have things to offer which others would love to experience.  The point is too that we, living in these humble little places,  tend to underestimate their appeal.  


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Affordable Travel

Imagine.... $20 a day to see the world!




That's what The Affordable Travel Club offers for only $20 a night, breakfast included!
The idea is that you join the club at about $60 a year and then select someone from the
membership list who is willing to host you.  The basic rate is $20 a night, breakfast is offered
and your host will spend at least an hour with you to help you get oriented. It is expected that
you will not overstay your welcome, the limit is usually 4 days, unless a more extensive stay
has been negotiated.  In most cases, people tend to more generous in their welcome with the
result that wonderful, lasting friendships develop.  Of course, you may get an email or phonecall  from someone who asks you to host a visit.  Friends of ours are presently on a wonderful vacation down-under who are enjoying the hospitality of friendly, welcoming Austrlians.   Can you think of a more wonderful, affordable way to travel and see the world?

Those Poor People at the Hilton.....

Recently, we spent four wonderful days in San FranciscoThe total cost of lodging for those 4 nights came to a mere $80 and that included our breakfast and a glass of wine in the evening before going to bed.  How is that possible?  It's the Affordable Travel Club that made it possible.
  Check it out by clicking on the link above.  Those poor people at the Hilton, spending maybe more than $300 a night, would never have the experience we had.  Our hosts were a wonderful couple who generously extended their hospitality to two Canucks from Brantford Ontario.  During the days of the cold war, it was a movement called "Citizen Diplomacy" that opened the doors to a frank exchange of people from the West and East in the belief that it is ordinary people meeting ordinary people that breaks down the barriers of misunderstanding between nations. Canada and the US have much in common.  But there is also a lot of ignorance and lack of understanding that keeps us  frozen in our stereotypes of each other.  Two couples sitting down for a glass of wine before retiring for the evening and enjoying a breakfast together the next morning has a way of opening up  the channels of understanding and enriching each other in ways that those poor people at the Hilton will never know.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dont' forget or ignore the medical insurance.....

I had a heart attack while hiking in the hills of the Basque country of France.  This was probably the best country in the world to have an attack -  We were lucky to be able to benefit from the best medical system in the world at a cost that would have necessitated a re-financing of our mortgage in the US.  The total cost of ambulance and 5 days in an intensive care unit came to a mere $15,000 Euros.  Fortunately,  I had the insurance and pre-condition statements to cover the total cost.  The moral of this message is:  Don't take a risk.  Declare all your pre-conditions, changes in drugs etc. as required by the insurance companies.  Even for a short stay, don't take a chance.  Affordable travel or home exchange gets kinds of meaningless when you have to foot as substantial  bill for medical expenses.  Several years ago, we ventured into the US for a one-day trip from Canada and had a car accident.  Luckily, there were no injuries for we had no medical travel insurance.  But what if we did have injuries and had ended up in a hospital?  It's just not worth it, at any age.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Home Exchanges don't have to be simultaneous. 

Recently we received an email from a couple in The Netherlands who wanted to do a home exchange.  Unfortunately, we had to tell them that we were in no position at the moment to consider a simultaneous exchange.  However, we suggested that they might wish to stay in our home while we are away on a trip to the Eastern provinces of Canada during the period they wished to visit.  This was with the understanding that at some future time we would avail ourselves of the opportunity to stay in their home in The Netherlands.  This would have to be at their convenience and at a time when they would expect to be away from their home.  They accepted the idea, giving us the assurance that this would work for them.   So next year they will be visiting Canada and staying in our home for a 3 week period, giving us the pleasure of looking forward to a time in the future, as yet undetermined,  when we will visit The Netherlands and stay in their home.

The point is: home exchanges do not have to be simultaneous.  We worked it out in our way and there may be other ways this could work, especially if you have a second cottage or a second home where you could stay.  The point is there are many different ways in which a home exchange can work to the benefit of both parties.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Another Travel Club Experience

We have just returned from a wonderful 4 day stay in San Francisco with a couple who belong to the Affordable Travel Club but whom we had never met before.  Today we call them "friends".   One of the most common questions asked by doubters is "How can you trust a total stranger you have never met before in your home?"   Our hosts in San Francisco had no such qualms.  Although they both work and would not be arriving home till early evening, they left the key and allowed us to enter their home and leave our suitcases before returning to the city for sightseeing.  We were perfect strangers to them and yet they trusted us implicitly.  That is what the Affordable Travel Club is all about:  trust and have that trust returned.  We spent the next four days sight-seeing and exploring this marvellous city, returning in the evening and chatting about our experiences,  waking up the next day to a wonderful breakfast and sitting around the table chatting about this and that and discovering how much we had in common.


Friday, April 22, 2011

New Ideas for Affordable Travel

When you click on the Affordable Travel Club link above, you will discover that there other ways of traveling affordably.  Listed there you will find the names and addresses of people who are looking for house and pet sitters and those who are willing to look after your house or pet in return.  My wife and I recently looked after 4 cats in the Basque Region of France and were able to stay in a beautiful home in exchange for that service.  The cats were gone most of the time, giving us an opportunity to visit the area at our leisure.  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Traveling affordably in Australia

As part of our trip through the state of South Australia, we had arranged to stay for 4 nights with 2 couples who are members of The Affordable Travel Club.   The first two nights stayed in the city of Adelaide.  When we arrived in the late afternoon, we asked our hosts for suggestions regarding places to dine.  They suggested they would come along and join us at one of their favourite dining spots in the Adelaide Hills. It turned out to be a wonderful experience in a place we would never have been able to find by ourselves.  The quality of food was superb and the views breathtaking.  Those poor people at the Hilton or on cruise liners!  There is just no substitute for staying like this with people who know their area and are proud to show it off.

The next two nights, we stayed with a wonderful couple in the Barossa Valley, famous for its wonderful vineyards.  Again, only affordable travel enabled us to enjoy this fabulous area and savour the best shirazes we have had anywhere. 


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Affordable Travel in Australia

While visiting our daughter and her family in Melbourne, we decided on a one week trip to Adelaide in the state of South Australia, giving us a wonderful opportunity to visit the city of Adelaide and explore the vineyards of the Barossa Valley, famous for their wonderfull shirazWe had arranged to stay with two families, two nights  in Adelaide and two nights in the Barossa Valley,  as members of the Affordable Travel ClubThe first stopover was disappointing.  While our hosts were gracious and hospitable, their home premises were anything but clean.  In fact, after our first night stay, we wondered if we should stay a second night.  However, the next stopover was totally different:  not only were our hosts friendly and accommodating, their home was impeccably clean. Our first experience, thankfully, is an exception.  Friends of ours, recently spent a month in Australia as participants in the Affordable Travel Club and came away with glowing reports of the experience.  We continued our trip to Kangaroo Island where we enjoyed the wonderful scenery and wildlife

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Advantages of Affordable Travel.

On Saturday we are leaving for a 7 week visit to Australia.  One week of our stay we will be traveling to Adelaide in South Australia to visit the city of Adelaide, tour the wineries of the Barossa Valley and  Kangaroo Island.  Four nights of that week we will be staying with two families who are members of The Affordable Travel Club.  Imagine, instead of staying in a hotel and bump into a few Australians by chance here and there, we are being hosted by local Australians and experience their hospitality in their own homes!  That is the beauty of Home Exchange and the Affordable Travel Club:  being able to experience a culture and its people, different from our own, in a way that nothing else can allow.  If you need more information, don't hesitate to contact us. It's so simple and wonderful.