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Avec Amour : June 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Home Exchange -- What Is That?"

We've ALL seen the Holiday, right? I've probably seen it 100 times, because I love watching it at Christmas (along with Love, Actually, Home Alone, the Family Stone, and the Santa Clause.. :)

But what I never considered, is that people actually do home exchanges. I met a family when I lived on Sanibel that did a swap once a year, and they traded their beach house (where they lived full time) for homes in Southern California, Italy, France, and even Iceland (before it was popular!) It was intriguing, but I never really thought too much about it. This was also in 2011, so even before Airbnb was the norm for travelers.

Matt and I rented our house out on Airbnb a handful of times, but decided to quit when Nashville cracked down on the taxes and paperwork you had to go through. It was also a lot of work, because we had to deep clean the house, store any personal items, change all the bedding to "airbnb sheets", and most importantly, find somewhere to go! These people would be taking over our house, essentially leaving us homeless. We tried to schedule our guests around times we already knew we'd be gone, but we had to crash with friends a few times.

About a year ago, Matt brought up the idea of Home Exchange. We looked around and landed on HomeExchange.com, because they had a "your 2nd year is free if you don't use it your first year" deal going on. Sounded like we didn't have much to lose!

Now, we've done 3 different home exchanges. It's just like the Holiday, except we haven't been to a mansion in LA yet. Since we joined, and have now done a few swaps, I've gotten a lot of questions from friends about the process, so I thought a blog post was overdue on the topic.

How does it work?
You find a home exchange site, pay the enrollment fee (it should be 1x per year, and approximately the cost of 1 night in a hotel or Airbnb), and list your home. Include quality, detailed photos and good information about you and the house. Consider this your home's online dating profile. Would people be shocked when they showed up at the "date" because the house didn't look like the profile pictures at all? Should they know up front that you don't allow pets or the 2nd bedroom is actually just an air mattress? Honesty is the best policy. Chances are, even with some rules or quirks, people will want to swap with you. 

Some snaps from our house. We used a lot of our Airbnb photographs and took a few others with my Fuji x30.

Now that your profile is ready, you're ready to swap! You can either list locations/dates you want to travel, or leave it open for any inquiries. We've done both. Certain things have been specific, like NYC the weekend of March 25 because we already have plans to go. Others are more open ended, like Seattle anytime, because we're always looking for an excuse to go there. Once you list, you can start messaging with people around the world to see if they're interested in a swap. Once you find someone who wants to swap with you, you can set up the guide lines. Will you swap cars? Just houses? Will you do a simultaneous or non simultaneous swap? Many people on home exchange sites own a 2nd home and use that for their trades. We have done some non simultaneous swaps (when we already knew we'd be out of town), and it works quite nicely to have that IOU hanging out. 

Here's a wishlist of another member I saw today.

Once you decide on terms and dates, you just trade! Live in their house for a few days while they live in yours. Talk about traveling like a local!

Is it safe?
I get this question about a lot of travel related things - Europe, flying, Airbnb, declining car rental insurance, home exchange - and my answer is, yes. It's just as safe as driving to work every morning. There's a level of risk associated with waking up every single morning. Now, I'd also like to add that you have to trust your instincts and make wise decisions. Do you get a weird vibe from someone or do they seem slightly off or something feels to good to be true? Then decline. It pays to "shop" around and find a swap you're comfortable with and excited about. 

What does it cost?
You pay your yearly fee (HomeExchange.com is $75 for your first year, and $125 every year after that!), and then every swap is free. Yes, you read that correctly. FREE. So in theory, if you use it for 1 night a year, you'll make your money back. If you use it for 1 swap, for a long weekend, you've saved yourself a couple hundred dollars minimum depending on where you visited. 

We are doing a one month exchange with a lovely couple who lives in Brooklyn. Yes, a full month! We both work from home, so we'll just be working from *their* home. And let me tell you, it's gorgeous. 

See?! Their home is like something out of a magazine - and HomeExchange.com is full of incredible options just like it! And we definitely would be paying $3,000-5,000 for a month in an option like this at least. So we're really getting our money out of that $75 membership fee!

Now taking all of your favorite NYC suggestions! Have you ever done a home exchange?

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Monday, June 27, 2016

This Week in Travel: Vol. 38

We leave in about a week for a month long home exchange in NEW YORK CITY! We'll be living in Brooklyn for the month of July, and another family will be living in our house. Exciting, right? If you wanna learn more about home exchange, I'm writing a blog post about the process tomorrow!

The photo above is the house we'll be living in for the month. It's a husband and wife, and their 2 kiddos. She is a photographer and designer, hence the impeccable taste. Anyone taking a trip to the city this summer? Drop me a line, or at least send me your favorite NYC spots!



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nashville City Guide: 8th Ave/Melrose & Berry Hill

I've already included some of the most popular areas of town (12th South, the Gulch, Downtown, Germantown), but now i'm talking about my neighborhood - 8th Ave or the Melrose area, and we'll throw in Berry Hill for fun.

10 years ago, I don't even think I would drive down this road, other than to go to the 24 hour Kroger (and that was really only if I was desperate). Now, 8th is not only where I live, but I love spending time on this road! There's so much great stuff here.

8th & Roast

Hands down, my favorite cup of coffee in town. They have iced coffee on tap and they roast their beans in house. The fact that this is walkable from my house is the icing on the cake - but I'd gladly drive here. Seriously, MY FAVORITE!

Frothy on 8th
A smaller version of the classic. They do no cook foods like sandwiches, and make all of the same great drinks and baked goods as the 12th South original. It's also attached to Grimey's record store, which is fun!


Fenwick's 300
An upscale diner concept, created by the people who brought us FIDO and Bongo Java. It's one of my favorite casual breakfast or lunch in town.

Baja Burrito
Nashville's most loved burrito. This local spot is always busy, but always tasty! I personally love the peasant plate and eating on their patio.

Vui's Kitchen
This new Vietnamese restaurant is to die for! I tried the spring rolls and noodle bowl and enjoyed every bite. Extremely fresh and made to order.

Sinema is like being in a glamorous 1920's movie - in an old theater and all! They serve gorgeous food and delicious cocktails. This is on the swankier side, so save it for a special occasion.

Peace, Love, and Pho
A great little pho restaurant around the corner from our house. The owners are sweet and the food is delicious.

Smiling Elephant
The best thai in Nashville, without question. The space is small, the hours are slim, but the food is delicious. Don't bring a large group here, you'll never get in. Order the curry, you won't regret it!

The Sutler
The Sutler is so fun. It's got that "country" twist that makes you remember you're in Nashville, but in an upscale way. Their basement bar is my favorite. It's a cool place to grab a drink with a group. They also have live music most nights!

Dozen Bakery
Dozen is my new favorite place! Their menu is simple and changes seasonally, but they make some of the best, fresh meals in town. Great for breakfast or lunch.

The Hook
The Hook is my new favorite place to walk to from our house. They have really fun drinks and an awesome patio! The food is casual but tasty. Think of it as Chipolte quick, but for fish & chips (and other seafood). They also have happy hour every day, with rotating deals!

Urban Juicer
My local juice bar. They've got a great selection and you can even order online to pick up!

Craft Brewed
A great place to try flights of beers and fill up a growler. They have a large selection and a nice patio for a drink!

Want to see your favorite comedian? This is the place to do it! A lot of famous acts frequent Zanie's, so check their calendar before you visit.

Grimey's & the Basement
Grimey's, which is attached to Frothy Monkey & the Basement, is a great record shop. One of Nashville's best, in my opinion. The Basement is a great venue for local and national bands, check their calendar for upcoming shows.

Monthly Flea Market
The last weekend of each month, Nashville Fair Grounds hosts a flea market. There's a lot of great vintage finds and furniture to browse.

Antique Row
There are at least a half dozen antique shops on 8th Ave. All styles and eras. If you like antique shopping, check them out!

Santa's Pub
It seems I've saved the best for last. If you love karaoke, this is your place; it's quite literally a double wide trailer that has Santa's face spray painted on the outside. The man who owns it actually looks like Santa. It's very low key, you can only buy a few beers in the bottle (Yuengling is the fancy beer), and it's cash only. The one rule: no bad language! Santa is very strict and will kick you off stage, so keep it clean :)

Guys, my neighborhood is the best! Come visit whenever you want ;)

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