House Swapping-My first article published in Carlow Nationalist

You may have read a lot about my house swapping fun on this blog but I got myelf published in the local paper, the Carlow Nationalist a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, I don’t have a PDF so I’ve published it here instead.

House Swap

We love traveling and had been thinking about the idea of house swap for years. My husband, Simon and I are both teachers and knew lots of other teachers who had swapped their home, car and pets for a summer holiday in an exotic location  Looking back on the holiday, it was far too simple to organise and plan. It was perfect.
We registered online with the intervac website, paid €100 for the year, popped up some attractive photos of our house and we were off!

We were inundated with offers from all around Europe-Crete, Barcelona and Rotterdam. We went with the first offer-an Italian family wanted to swap their home in the small town of Tagliacozzo in the region of Abruzzo, Central Italy with our home in Carlow. Even better, they had a car and they’d feed our precious cat. It took us about 5 seconds to agree, we checked their credentials and background on and saw they had been at this swapping business for 8 years. We were complete newbies, they were putting their trust in us!

We booked our flights with a certain budget airline for €180 flying direct from Dublin-Rome. When we got off the flight, our Italians met us with the car and house keys. Simon had offered to drive, which was good as I wouldn’t have the nerve for it. The town of Tagliacozzo was our final destination. It’s about 80 km outside of Rome and the journey was challenging! We had never driven on that side of the road before and never experienced roads or drivers like those in Italy.

Once, we arrived, the stress levels disappeared though. The town of Tagliacozzo is just heavenly. Its authentically Italian, nestled in the hills with a relaxing square right in the centre of the town. We sent our days exploring the town and its quirky shops, cafe bars, restaurants and ice cream shops. The train system was excellent so there was no need to drive anywhere. We took day trips to Rome, Sulmona, Pescara and Tivoli.
We spent very little money as we had our breakfast in the house every morning out on the balcony. We have never felt so relaxed in our lives. The Italians are wonderfully warm people even if we didn’t have a clue what they were saying most of the time  Food and drink were unbelievably reasonable-75c for espresso and main meals at €8.
We wondered about our Italians in Carlow town, what would they think of it? How was our house? Did our cat run away?
There was no need to worry, when we returned, the house was spotless, the cat was well fed and a beautiful window box of flowers was left for us.
We would both highly recommend house swapping, particularly if you have young children.  We plan to do it again, very shortly, maybe a short break in Europe again. The handiness of having all the mods cons you need around you is an attractive plus  The beauty of house swapping is that you get to visit somewhere you wouldn’t find in a guidebook. We started to feel like one of the natives and return refreshed to your home town, looking at Carlow in a whole new light.

Top tips
Make sure you register with a reputable site like intervac. You pay a yearly fee to use their service so get good value from it by putting photos, maps and interesting information about your home town.
Be positive but honest about your home town. Friends are amazed that an Italian family wanted to swap their house to come to Carlow but it’s easy to get used to your own home town and see it like a visitor. When we put together a must-see pack for Carlow for our family, it went on for 4 full pages!
Don’t be scared! It can seem daunting to leave your house with strangers but if you go on a normal holiday, its left completely empty and alone! If you do a house swap, your house will be minded, plants watered and pets stroked! Plus, you’re in their house so they are putting trust in you!
Intervac have a pack of “what to do” for newbie house swappers, read this carefully.
Last of all, go for it! It’s a leap of faith but the people that do house swapping tend to be like minded-open, easy going but trustworthy!

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