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The under-the-radar Airbnb alternative that saved us over $67k

Plus: mindful travel quotes, recent headlines

In today’s issue

  • An “Airbnb without money”: Yes it’s real, it’s cheap, and it works…but only for the right people

  • Open your mind with some mindful travel quotes

  • Headlines: return to office mandates may backfire, South Korea now has a digital nomad visa, visa-free countries in the tropics

The platform that’s like Airbnb, but without money

The palapa in our San Miguel de Allende home exchange, August 2019

Did you know there’s an accommodations platform with 270,000+ listings in 145 countries?

This platform has hosted the Palmtree editorial team in dozens of towns, cities and homes around the world since 2016, on trips that last weeks or even months at a time.

The cost for all of this? $1,200 since 2016, which comes out to $150 a year.

Compare that to what we would’ve shelled out for Airbnb and hotels: more than $67,000.

Meet Home Exchange

The Home Exchange homepage

Home Exchange, or HE as we call it, is exactly what it sounds like: you swap homes with people in different places. It operates on a unique currency of trust and community, rather than cash and transactions.

The concept of leveraging personal property as payment, rather than money, has been a game-changer. But it’s nowhere near perfect. Let’s see why:

The good, the bad, and the quirky

A stone fountain in the living room of the same San Miguel de Allende home

While the idea of home exchanging is fantastic and has worked wonders for us over the years, the execution is nowhere near as seamless as booking an Airbnb.

Let's talk perks first

  • HE lets you stay in homes that often outshine your average Airbnb in comfort and style (sometimes, it even outshines your own home).

  • If you’re into “slow travel” — and let’s admit, many of us nomads are — Home Exchange is ideal for long-term stays.

  • You get a sense of community that money can't buy, and inevitably end up connecting with incredible people who are just as eager as you to see the world and meet like-minded people.

  • Home Exchange is generally more accepted in places where Airbnb is frowned upon or simply not allowed.

Now let’s talk downsides

  • Home Exchange is a huge time sink. Consider the Airbnb booking flow: search —> browse —> book. Home Exchange adds a VERY CUMBERSOME step to that flow: search —> browse —> send a message to each property you’re interested in, then wait and hope to hear back, and if you do, keep messaging back and forth with multiple people to work out the details —> finalize.

  • To make matters worse, the home exchange website is neither user-friendly nor intelligent, which equals even more time spent navigating the quirky, low-tech system.

  • People tend to give 5-star reviews that aren’t accurate, just to avoid the awkwardness of upsetting someone you’ve gotten to know. Bad experiences aren’t common, but misleading reviews can certainly hide unsavory elements of someone’s home exchange.

Is HE worth it?

Remote working from our home exchange in Ubud, Bali, October 2018

That's the billion-dollar question, right?

Here's the down-low: Home Exchange thrives on community and trust. Some travelers, us included, have found it a more rewarding, albeit time-consuming, alternative to the transactional nature of Airbnb.

It brings back the original spirit of home sharing — helping you get familiar with a new town through a local's eyes.

Is the process way less efficient than the simple click-and-book of other platforms? Absolutely, but it offers a human touch that's often missing in today’s transactional world. On Home Exchange, you really do end up connecting with people and places on a deeper level.

Here’s the catch

One of our “island hop” home exchanges in Maui, September 2021

To truly benefit from HE, you need be flexible, patient, and personable. Home exchanging is an excellent tool for the master traveler's arsenal, but it's not for everyone.

While most experiences are positive, the few times things go south can be awkward. In the end, it's more rewarding but definitely more work.

And now, 3 thoughtful travel quotes

Breathe in…breathe out…unclutter your mind…and read

Live your life by a compass not a clock.

Stephen Covey

The most beautiful in the world is, of course, the world itself.

Wallace Stevens

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.

Lao Tzu

Recent headlines

Stay shaded,
—the Palmtree Editorial Team


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