We’ve been in Ireland for 10 days now as part of a three-week home exchange. We’re staying just outside Cork in a fantastic house we found on HomeExchange.com. It’s been an amazing experience so far and while I anticipated the obvious benefits, like cost savings and extra space for the eight of us (including my in-laws), there are a number of benefits I didn’t expect. Take a look:
1. Screen-Free Time
Well, there are only four television channels, but I’ve been amazed that none of the kids have groused about not being able to watch television. In fact, every day they play outside on the backyard playground or play with the dollhouse upstairs. It’s been lovely to see that their first inclination is not to plant themselves in front of the television each morning.
2. Off-the-Beaten Path Experiences
Since arriving a week and a half ago, we’ve certainly done some top tourist activities, like the Ring of Kerry bus tour and kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, but we’ve also done things like a cliff walk in Ballycotton and visit to a farmers market in Midleton. Both have been highlights of our trip and neither were mentioned in any guidebooks. In fact, both were suggested by a neighbor down the street.
3. Getting to Know What Locals Like
Since we’re here for three weeks, we’re not at a go-go-go pace to see all of the top sights in Ireland. We spend more time asking questions and talking to the locals. At the farmers market, we spent a good amount of time learning about new foods, like the most popular jams in Ireland. I also enjoy asking about different words and phrases (e.g., “half nine” means 9:30), and even where to find DVD rentals.
4. Neighborly Get-Togethers
Speaking of neighbors, our second day here, Anne Marie, a close friend of the homeowner, stopped over to say hello. We’ve since seen her a number of times over the last 10 days. My kids and I even spent the afternoon in her garden. Anne Marie and I drank coffee and ate scones while the kids bounced on the trampoline (the kids got to eat scones too!). Her daughter came back tonight to make s’mores with us!.
5. Playmates for the Kids
As I noted above, we’ve met our neighbor, Anne Marie, who has a child the same age as my oldest daughter. Our kids have now played in each other’s backyards several times and have had a fantastic time. All of the kids get along so well and look forward to seeing each other in the afternoons since we usually sightsee in the mornings and relax at home in the afternoons.
Have you ever done a home swap? I’d love to hear about your experiences too. Drop me a note or leave me a comment below.