Rosario is not only a mother of three, but she is also a HomeExchange ambassador. Having completed 51 exchanges, she shares her experiences traveling with her family, and how she makes her trips affordable and authentic.
Good morning, my name is Rosario and I am a mother of three. Currently, my children are my priority in life. I am completely dedicated to my family.
What has your experience with HomeExchange been like?
I have completed over 35 exchanges. I have hosted over 14 guests from Spain, Canada, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, and I have been a guest in Paris and Blois (in the Loire Valley), Amsterdam, Geneva, Finesterre, Granada, Cordoba, Ciudad Real, Galapagar, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Repentigny, Quebec, Saguenay, Brussels, Rome, Warsaw, Prague, Krakow, London, Santander, and more.
With HomeExchange,I discovered a beautiful way to teach my children about the world.
Why do you like HomeExchange?
I like HomeExchange for two main reasons.
First of all, because it is an affordable option that allows me to travel with my family without spending a lot of money. I also like to "mobilize the immobilized”, that is to say that my house allows me to travel around the world. When we stay at houses with kitchens, we can cook for the whole family and save money on restaurants. I love cooking and going to markets in other countries. I choose products from the region and cook with them, and I especially like to buy groceries in neighborhood markets.
Secondly, because you go to the homes of locals, you can really get to know the country. You don’t only go to touristy areas, but you live in neighborhoods and get to know your neighbors (who may even invite you over!). You stay in inhabited and livable houses. Many of them have toys that my children can play with. You don’t stay in a cold hotel room, but rather in a space that is prepared by and for a family.
Do you think HomeExchange is good for your children?
HomeExchange is very good for my children! They have learned to respect other peoples’ homes, and have seen and learned that each household has its own rules.
They know they have to thank the people who let us stay at their house, because they do it for free. They play with other children's toys and then put them back where they came from, and they help us clean the house before we leave. When other children come over, they ask them how old they are and usually get appropriate toys out for them to play with as well.
What have they learned while traveling with HomeExchange?
Traveling is like an outdoor classroom, my kids learn a lot when traveling! And they learn all kinds of things:
- History: We have been to Versailles and the castles in the Loire Valley, to the Waterloo battlefield in Belgium, to the Colosseum in Rome, and to Auschwitz in Krakow.
- Art: We have been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, to the Vatican, to the Borghese Gallery, to the British Museum, to the Alhambra, and to a Mosque.
- Culture: We visited a First Nations reservation in Quebec, the Canadian History Museum in Ottawa, the Natural Science Museum in London, and the Red Cross Museum in Geneva. They heard opera in Karlovy Vary, and they took a free tour of many of the cities that we visited, which means they learned a lot.
- Geography: They have been to Niagara Falls, to a fjord in Canada, they have climbed Mont Blanc, they have gone swimming in the Mediterranean, in the Atlantic and in the Bay of Biscay, they have seen different timezones, climates, and the sun rise and set at different times in different countries.
- Nature: They have seen all kinds of animals: bears, beluga whales, moose, buffalo, seals, penguins, and all kinds of fishes. They’ve gone to aquariums in La Coruña, Valencia, and Toronto, to the wild zoo in Saint-Félicien, they’ve navigated the mouth of the Saint Laurent river, spotting whales and dolphins, and they’ve visited Doñana and Cabárceno.
- And when it comes to eating: they have eaten seafood in Galicia, tried pierogi in Poland, had afternoon tea in London, crêpes in France, waffles in Belgium, pasta and ice cream in Rome, maple syrup in Canada, fondue in Switzerland...
In Poland, our hosts had children of similar ages and they stayed and played with them in the afternoon. How did they communicate? In Polish? In Spanish? No! They spoke to each other in English. They played PS4 and made "slime" together, that sticky substance that is now trendy (both here and in Poland).
What advantages do you think HomeExchange can have for families?
The most important thing is that it allows me to travel. Five people means two hotel rooms plus meals. Come on, that’s a lot of money! It would be impossible for me.
The houses are prepared for families, my children find and play with other children's toys, take care of our hosts’ pets, and I cook in other peoples’ kitchens with other countries’ products. If you’re adventurous you can use different spices that aren’t so common in Spain. It’s not that simple to go to a supermarket in another country and find chickpeas, rice, or tomato paste.
Every country has different products, so I buy new things and we eat them at home.
You can stay a while! When you travel far away, you can stay there for 1 month, which is unthinkable in hotels. This allows you to really get to know more about the city you are going to. For example, this year we will visit Nairobi for 10 days (people normally go for 2), and we spent two weeks in Toronto. It would be impossible for us to stay in a hotel for that long.
When I know something is good, I tell everyone about it. HomeExchange is good. I have several friends who signed up for HomeExchange because I told them what it was like.
I believe in a collaborative economy, and thanks to the Internet, this can be developed all over the world. I think that people should help each other out, and if you can carpool, exchange houses, tools ... What’s stopping you? Another very important thing that we forget to exchange is information, and in my role as an ambassador I help provide people with the information they need.
What have your best experiences with HomeExchange been?
My best experience was when I traveled to Blois. We exchanged a house with a family that came to visit Madrid, and when we arrived at their house, we were greeted very kindly by their neighbors. They brought us plums from their garden, lent us small bicycles for the girls and we felt completely welcome: our hosts’ neighbors and friends made sure of that.
That is the reason I love HomeExchange: you go to a neighborhood in any city in any country, and live like people, with people.
Another experience that we really liked was when we spent 31 days in Canada. That exchange took a lot of work: 5 houses: 3 were with GuestPoints and 2 were reciprocal exchanges.
And what was your first home exchange like?
My first exchange was in Paris at Emmanuel Arnaud’s home, and it got me to really believe that everything would be okay. I had some doubts about the instructions at first, but the truth is that if your first exchange is with the website’s founding partner, that gives you some security!
There is a very special exchange that I remember with special affection. My children had their communion in 2017 and my family came to celebrate, they had reserved hotel rooms in a nearby town and I used HomeExchange to find a house for them to stay in. I searched my town and found HomeExchange users who hosted my family and everything went perfectly. It was very nice and I'm still in touch with the other HomeExchanger.
Anyway, I’m always a little worried every time I go on an exchange. When you travel, you always have to deal with little unplanned obstacles along the way, but up until now, we have always been able to solve them.
When you go to a lived-in house, the hosts are allowing you to enter into their most intimate spaces. You can see what they like to eat, what games they usually play, what movies they watch and you get an idea of their habits. Just as there are cultural differences from one country to another, there are also individual differences between different families in the same country, which is enriching.
I have taken some of the things that I have learned or seen in the different houses I have stayed in, and adapted them to our home.
As an Englishman would say, there is a big difference between Home and House. HomeExchange lets you into the Home. You learn that you are able to connect perfectly with some people, and you meet people that you would love to have as neighbors. Unfortunately, distance and day-to-day life sometimes cause you to fall out of touch.
What are your plans for 2019?
This year, we have already set up two exchanges! For Mother's Day: Venice, my husband and I have been there, but my children have not, and I think it's a very special city for them to visit: canals instead of streets, boats instead of cars… watching the police or fireman speed by is quite the show!
And this summer, I picked a destination my children have always dreamed of going to: Kenya! I've got two wonderful houses, one in Nairobi and one in Malindi, a city north of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean.
In addition, while I was giving advice in the ambassador chat, I met another Spanish family who also has three children close to my children’s ages who are traveling to Nairobi, and we coincide on a lot of dates. We have been talking about going on a safari to the Massai Mara together, and we are looking into going to the Nanyuki area at the foot of Mount Kenya.
We will spend several days together, and I think it is great that we are both HomeExchange Members, since we share common values.
Exchange in Finisterre
The words that define HomeExchange for me are: club, family, community, trip, adventure, home, opportunity. Quite a few words, right?