Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mobility is Important

Mobility is very, very important when on a home exchange venture.  These scenes above could not have been captured unless we had been able to drive around in our own vehicle.  In Ireland this is especially problematic because rental companies do not rent to individuals over the age of 65.  In most cases too, rental with an automatic transmission is prohibitively high. When traveling on the continent in Europe, Renault and Peugeot offer an excellent alternative:  "Euro Drive".  If you plan to stay more than 17 days, you can purchase a vehicle from these companies and sell these vehicles back to them when you leave.  You get a new car model of your choice, delivered at the airport, for a rate which does not exceed the usual rental per diem rate and return it upon your departure.  The companies then sell these vehicles to a waiting line of customers who are getting an almost-new vehicle at a substantially reduced cost.  But, you the traveler, benefits as well:  the usual age-limitation does not apply, as long as you have a valid driver's license from your home country and you have had the luxury of driving a brand new car of your choice.  When purchasing the vehicle the cost is tabulated on a lease-basis so that you don't actually have to pay the actual purchase price of the vehicle.  It is mere paper work.
In the case of a home exchange, the situation is even easier:  you negotiate a car exchange as part of the home exchange.  It is important in this case to notify your insurance company and inform them of the arrangement.  We did this recently with a couple from Turkey who used our car in  Canada and we theirs in Turkey, without a single hitch or problem. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Seeing your own country the affordable way

The two photos above span the width of our country, Canada from Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia to Vancouver in British Columbia.   When we think of affordable travel, we tend to think of going to a foreign country.   However, there are many members of the Affordable Travel Club and Home Exchange who offer hospitality or an exchange to individuals and families within their own country.   We have traveled extensively in Europe and Asia.  Some of our most rewarding experiences however have been when exploring our own country. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Make Sure you are Insured

I had a heart attack while hiking in the foothills of the Pyrenees in France.   The picture above was taken in Turkey, but it could have happened there too.   If you are going to have a heart attack anyway, France is probably the best place in the world to have one!  French medicine is equal to none, thanks to a highly developed socialized system.  The ambulance, with an MD on board,  had to come from a distance of 45 minutes and was there in about 20 minutes.  For the next 5 days I had the attention of top specialists at the clinic in Bayonne and, upon departing, was given a huge file containing the print-outs and photographs of all the tests that had been performed on me during the stay.  The total bill came to $15,000 would you believe?  In the US , and without insurance in Canada, I probably would have had to remortgage my home to pay the bill!  But even that modest bill of $15,000 would have put some strain on my retirement pension, had it not been for the fact that I had travel insurance and had made sure that all my disclosures to the insurance company had been up to date and accurate.  I cannot overstate this point:  do not leave anything to chance and make sure that any changes in the prescription of drugs from your physician have been stated when you apply for insurance.  Even a reduction of a dosage must be stated and indicated as a change in medication. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Live like a local

Recently we participated in a home exchange with a couple from Instanbul in Turkey.  We even exchanged vehicles!  It was a wonderful, problem-free experience.  While our Turkish friends were at our home in Canada, we were being entertained by their family in Istanbul.  The second picture below was taken in their apartment in Istanbul with grandmother, brother and sister in law.   The first picture shows their friends at Mordogan where they have a weekend retreat.  This is what home eschange is all about:  "living like a local",  meeting family and friends in their own settings and discovering what it is like to "be a local".  Only home exchange makes it possible for that to happen.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

About Hurling and Curling

We have just returned from The Republic of Ireland.  Loved it!  This morning I found myself back in Canada on the curling rink and was vividly reminded of the conversation I had with an Irishman in a pub about the mysteries of Curling and Hurling.  He had no idea what curling was and how one could spend a Winter throwing a large stone across the ice.  I tried to explain that it is a bit like lawn bowling played on ice and that seemed to make a bit of sense of to him.  But I was equally intrigued by the game of Hurling which I had just been watching on TV when Kilkenny won another All Irish Championship over Galway.  Being a patient man he was happy to explain the intricacies of hurling, its history and rules.  

During the course of our conversation with both learned something about each other:  what makes us as Canadians excited and what makes Irishmen exited.  We also learned something about other issues that preoccupy us in these times:  the economy, religion, family life etc.  The kind of conversation we had is  why we travel and visit other countries.  It may be possible while sitting on a cruise ship but is less likely to happen in that kind of setting.  When you take advantage of the benefits of the Affordable Travel Club or Home Exchange,  allowing you to stay for extended periods of time and "living" the culture and country you are visiting, this kind of encounter is happening all the time.  
Affordable Travel knows no geographical limits

The Town of Galway in Ireland

The Affordable Travel Club is especially popular in the US, Australia and Canada.  But you will find members almost anywhere in the world.  We have hosted and have been hosted by people in the US and Australia with great success.  We have done home exchanges with people in France, Turkey and the USA.  Remember that both are possible within the boundaries of your own country!  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Home Exchange is the Way to Go

Imagine this.... you're sitting on a tour bus, setting off to another destination that might interest you little.... another church, another ruin, another guide going blah...blah...blah.... and from the corner of your eye you catch this sight:  a beautiful scene of poppies just doing their popping-best in the grove of ancient olive trees... you grab your camera and want to shout "stop, stop I want to get off!!   But you don't.... what would the others think?  And so you tuck this scene into the recesses of your mind, wishing it could have been different.We were on a home exchange with a couple from Istanbul who also happened to have a weekend home on the Karinburin Peninsula where we spent the remainder of our six week holiday (yes, six weeks, not six days)  One day we passed this scene in our car (which we had exchanged as well) and I caught sight of this scene.... I was at  the wheel and could have stopped but didn't.  In the car were friends from Canada who had come to visit and they had not noticed.... So, with a deep sense of regret we continued on our journey..... But the scene in the olive grove kept haunting me all day and through the night.... The next day, I conjured some excuse.... we just had to go and do some shopping in the town nearby that, of course, would take us back to this magic scene.... and it worked!  This time the scene was a copy of the one I had seen the day before:  wonderful light and colour!  This is rare as photographers well know.  The fleeting moment is often gone forever.
But home exchange is different from sitting on a tour bus:  you can linger and go back and revisit and that's what I love about it.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Affordable Travel.... it works!

Recently I commented on the adventure of meeting new people through the Affordable Travel Club.  The other day we hosted two visitors from Richmond, Virginia who turned out to be the most delightful guests.  They arrived in the early evening and sat with us around our patio table until quite late, telling us about themselves and allowing us to do the same.  In the process we discovered that we had many things in common, among them an aversion to tours and cruises!  They too like the adventure and excitement of meeting new people through the Affordable Travel Club.  The next day we had a leisurely breakfast and then took them on a brief tour of our town and area.
Their cost for the overnight stay which included breakfast, conversation over a glass of wine and a personal tour came to $20 which is the gratuity recommended by the club.  But it is not the bargain that attracts us to this venture.  It is the opportunity of meeting new people from another part of the world.  When they left, they invited us to be sure to stay with them in Richmond which is something we might well do, never having visited this beautiful area of Virginia before.  We had found new friends and that is more rewarding than any amount of money, spent or saved, can do. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Affordable Travel.... the unkown and the adventure

Below you see a picture of a kind couple we met in a restaurant in Adelaide, Australia who invited us to join them in their apartment for a coffee and dessert after the meal.  We accepted and it turned out to be a wonderful experience.  We exchanged family information,  stories of a our travels and discovered in the process that they had been to Canada and knew people we knew!!

That is the benefit of the Affordable Travel Club:  being open to the unexpected and then meeting people you have not expected to meet and kindling a friendship which lasts a life time. 

This week we are expecting a couple from Richmond, Virginia we have never met before.  We are excited at the prospect of a new adventure.....

Friday, July 6, 2012

Home Exchange for Seniors

A few years ago, my wife and I joined a home exchange agency specifically designed for seniors.  
Seniors who wish to travel affordably tend to join for a number of reasons:  Their children have left home and will not travel with them.  Consequently a home with one or two bedrooms is all they need to be comfortable. Being of a more mature age, these people too tend to look for exchanges in countries where their own language is spoken.  For this reason, British seniors tend to look to Canada and the USA as possible destinations.  Again, being retired, their prefered times during the year tend to be more flexible.   See the link above for "seniors home exchange".  

Barossa Valley, Australia

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Affordable Travel at $20 a night?  Impossible?
I have just been watching a CTV program about fraudulent travel clubs who are ripping off people who want to travel affordably.  When I "googled"  travel or vacation club scams, I was stunned:  apparently there are scores of people who are being victimized by unscrupulous "clubs" which promise cheap travel at unbelievable rates.  The slogans "do your due dilligence" or "if it's too good to be true, it probably is" still apply.  
Let me assure you:   Home Exchange and The Affordable Travel Club are too good to be believe.  One offers an opportunity to exchange your home for someone else's home,  the other charges you $60 a year to belong and then to benefit by arranging an overnight stay for a mere $20 a night.  Recently, my wife and I spent 4 nights in Adelaide, Australia and 4 nights in San Francisco, USA with wonderfully hospitable hosts for a mere $160. 00   That is,  $160 for 8 nights with breakfast and a glass of wine in the evening and a tour of the area thrown in!  There is, of course, always the possibility that we may get a call from someone in the world who wants to avail himself/herself of our hospitality at the same rate. And we will be more than ready to welcome them because of the many benefits we have already reaped from The Affordable Travel Club.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Those Poor People at the Hilton....

Both pictures epitomize what home exchange offers.   The first picture I saw one day when we traveled through the Karaburin Peninsula in Turkey: a beautiful scene of blooming poppies under the olive trees.  At first, I missed this shot because I did now wish to slow down.   The next day I decided to return to the site in the hope to being able to capture the scene again.... I was lucky.  The sun, the setting, everything was the way I had remembered it the day before!  Those poor people at the Hilton don't have this opportunity.   The other picture is of a meze or Turkish apetizer display with which our hosts in Istanbul presented us when we visited them at the end of our home exchange.   Our host had taken the trouble of copying the menu that the Turkish government had presented to Queen Elizabeth of England on her recent visit.  Sorry, you poor people at the Hilton... this is not the kind of hospitality and thoughtfulness you can expect, except on a home exchange.

Home Exchange is the affordable travel way to go.....!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who would want to come to Brantford?

That is the question often posed when I try to explain the Home Exchange idea to others in my area.  When I review the number of invitations for an exchange over the past years, it is quite amazing how many people think it would be a great place to visit:  people from France, Holland, Finland, Russia, America, Egypt, Israel, the list is quite impressive.  The point is:  we are too close to the area in which we live to continue to appreciate what it has to offer.  What could be more interesting than for someone from Paris or Holland to visit the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford and to attend the annual Powwow which brings together aboriginal people from all over Canada and the US?  We have so much to offer and are almost too close to appreciate it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Home Exchange is for heroic people

The other day I listened to an interview of a psychologist who was asked why he thought so many  passengers on the cruise ship "Costa Concordia", including its captain,   pushed aside even children and the elderly, concerned with only saving themselves and why so few were able to be heroic, thinking of others first.  He offered an interesting suggestion:  perhaps most people going on a cruise were not the adventurous types,  looking to be fed, entertained and pampered but unwilling to risk and venture into the unknown.

Recently, I have found that when trying to explain the concept of Home Exchange, I get this dazed look from people, as if it's something so strange and alien that they could never think of themselves doing it.  The most common reaction is: "Are you not afraid that someone is going to walk away with your possessions?"  They just can't conceive the idea of some stranger coming into their home and living there for a while.   What they forget, of course, is the fact that they are, likewise, strangers to the other people.  

The point is:  some people are just not the types to ever consider the idea of a Home Exchange.  They would rather sit on a cruise ship where everything is arranged for their entertainment and appetite.  Happily, there are many others who have that sense of adventure that allows them to believe that the trust that is expected of them is also given to them by others.