Karen Bevis blogs about her experience house swapping, and explains why vegan house swaps are the way forward for your future holidays
Vegan travelling is on the rise around the world, but something vegans haven't really looked into is house swapping.
After starting our venture recently, Kindred Spirits House Sit or Swap, we notice people have been slow on the uptake for house swapping. Most vegans probably haven't given it a lot of thought, with popular house swap websites full of omnivore listings and not making allowance for those following a vegan lifestyle. On these sites there are a wealth of opportunities: from Bali and Brazil, to France and Hungary, from Texas, USA to New South Wales, Australia; from city apartments to rural retreats; from seaside relaxation to mountain hiking. Swapping with an omnivore is not a pleasant thought though - who wants their lovely animal-free kitchen treated as a morgue while they are away after all! But then again, why should the omnis be having all the fun?
Let's introduce house swapping into the vegan psyche, and have a look at what house swapping is all about.
For house swapping to work, you need to find someone in a location that interests you, and that person need to be interested in visiting your location. Most people swap for short-term holidays, but longer-term arrangements can be made too. You get free accommodation for your holiday and, with vegan house swapping, an animal-free kitchen where you can cook with confidence. It is an absolute win-win!
In addition to the free self-contained accommodation, other benefits of house swap holidays are:
• living in the community, rather than in a motel, gives you the chance to really experience your location - if you are in a different country, you can immerse yourself in a new culture and surroundings
• swapping with other vegans means you can each give the other great tips on where to find good nosh locally - restaurants, cafes and health food shops, and good vegan-friendly things to do
• you may be able to arrange to swap vehicles too, saving even more money
• staying in a home gives you access to other activities - borrowing bikes or kayaks, books or board games
• a fantastic way to holiday with kids, it is more settling living in a family home than a sterile holiday apartment
• non-humans in your care can stay home, where they are comfortable, while you holiday
Longer term sits can be arranged too - perhaps you need to work or study overseas for six or 12 months? It just may be possible that someone else is wanting to do something similar in reverse.
We had a very enjoyable experience of house swapping recently. A women we knew had recently moved onto a sub-tropical island off the coast of Queensland, Australia, whilst we live in a coastal but cool temperate area. She suggested a swap as she wanted to holiday in our location - we jumped at the chance. Who wouldn't?!
A vegan couple with two kids in tow, we flew out of our local city, very excited about what lay ahead. We passed our house swap partner in the air, but were able to text her a photo of our parking ticket. We had left the car keys for her to pick up, so when she landed she was able to collect our car and embark on the one hour drive to our country home.
Two flights, a train and a ferry trip later for us, and our swapper's father was waiting to collect us at North Stadbroke Island. He delivered us to the simple, but clean and tidy home, within sight of the water, and introduced us to the two lovely Jack Russells who were to be in our care for the next week. One was outgoing and friendly, and the other very shy, so we spent a lot of time getting to know her. We had access to a ute, but as we couldn't all fit in, and everything was in walking distance, it wasn't needed. We could stroll to different beaches, do nature walks, spot koalas in trees, literally watch kangaroos hopping down the street, and walk to the local shops. We tried out the surf ski in the waves, and used the bodyboards daily. We still talk about the many flavours of hand made vegan gelati available at the gelati bar! We treasure the memories and photos of the Jack Russells playing on the beach.
Meanwhile, our swap partner had 15 animals to look after - so we feel we got a pretty good deal! Our swap was with an omnivore who promised to be at least vegetarian in our home. Now she was very good about it, and fantastic with the animals, but an omnivore doesn't really understand what is and isn't vegetarian, let alone vegan, and there are always some food items left behind like stock cubes, cheesy sauce mix (think rennet) and packet soup.
Swapping with vegans
That brings us back to the benefits of organising a house swap with fellow vegans. You already know you have something very important in common before you even exchange messages. That makes it a lot more likely you will find a 'match' for a house swap easily. In fact, you can create life long friendships with vegans in another country, or another part of your own country.
When finding someone to swap with you can get to know them by email, then by Skype, before going ahead, and be sure to check references too. You will need to be careful when including animal care in the bargain that your animals are going to be OK with strangers, particularly if there is no chance to meet in person before you depart. This won't suit all animals. We actually had our house swap partner post a worn (unwashed) T-shirt for our dogs to sniff in advance to get to know her “smell”. Sometimes, as in the example given above, a family member or neighbour can introduce the animals, and hand over keys, if the home owner has already departed before you get there.
How to find a fellow vegan to swap with?
You can post messages on vegan Facebook pages in countries or places you are interested in visiting. You can also post an advertisement on Kindred Spirits House Sit or Swap, which is an international website. It is currently free to list, there is plenty of room to describe yourselves and your property and location, and you can upload images of your home and any non-humans in your care.
Give house swapping a go next time you are planning a holiday!
By Karen Bevis
Check out The Vegan Society's travel guide here.
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.