“Exchanging homes to travel was one of the best decisions I have ever made: I started relating differently to my home and the world.”
A bakery that makes the best bread in town. A bar only with handcraft beers. A street full of funky restaurants. A square with a charming fair and first class music. That path to the beach that only the locals know about. To go beyond the traditional tourist circuit and discover local secrets, it takes time. Even better if, instead of choosing a hotel, the option is to look for a house and do an immersion in the routine and culture of a city. There is a way to do this without spending anything with hosting through home exchange.
That was the way I found to travel the world. In ten years, there have been 14 exchanges. There has been a house exchange from Rio, where I live, to San Diego, New York, London, Paris, Edinburgh, Cape Town, Sydney, Cairns, Great Barrier Reef Surfer’s Paradise in Queensland (Australia) these are some of the places that we’ve been to. I won’t say we passed by these places, because what we really do is live and discover the place with no rush.
Home exchange is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Not only because I travel, a lot!, but because I started to relate differently to my house and the world. It was these positive and transformative results that encouraged me to share them with more people, especially Brazilians and Latinos. After much planning, in September I launched the first Latin American home exchange platform. From the beginning, I was moved by the challenge of making this travel model, which has been in the United States since 1950, happen between us. And now I will share in the blog much of what I saw and lived in this world brought by home exchange.
Do I think we’re late to embark on this idea? No way. I think this is the ideal time to bring this concept to Brazilians and their neighbors. I believe in the growth potential of the exchange. In a short time of operation, BeLocal has more than 600 houses of people who want to exchange and discover new horizons. And if we have beaches, forests, mountains, nature parks and lots of nature to offer them, I want to increase the range of possibilities so that we can enjoy the cold and watch the snow fall. I want to travel the ends of Brazil and get to know Latin America better. On this trip in search of my dream, I learned that it is possible to join desire and business. We are working to expand these options. Will isn’t lacking in our team.
One of the advantages that shared tourism brings is the savings of up to 50% of the costs of a trip. I realized that the money saved on lodging gives more quality to the tours. It can be used to stay longer in place, without the need to rush to fit multiple programs in a single day. And it also allows a trip to be stretched to another destination. That was what happened in 2013, when we went to Morocco.
I also met people who were willing to give us some cool tips about places where we stayed. I did the same. For the French people who came to my house, I suggested activities that I myself enjoyed. For these “guests,” I leave the house tidy, decorated with flowers, and look for comfort. I learned from this experience that we can contribute to a more humane and collaborative world. It is not just traveling and changing houses. It is using the existing resources, occupying properties that would be empty during the travel period of its residents and having a unique interaction with the local people, valuing the community and avoiding the proposal of mass tourism. It’s a unique thing. I invite you to embark on this proposal, better yet, on this journey of life.
*Andrea Aguiar is the founder of BeLocal Exchange