My granddaughter cringes every time I tell her about hosting Couchsurfers. “Why would you let strangers in your home?” She was even more concerned when I told her about HomeExchange. “What if they steal all of your stuff?”
I discovered HomeExchange while preparing for this trip. I think of it like a combination of Couchsurfing and AirBnB. Travelers can stay at available homes in exchange for points. No money changes hands. The exchange does not have to be reciprocal. For example, with the points I’ve earned, I can stay at any of the homes listed on HomeExchange, anywhere in the world. I was amazed at the wide range of places available in just about every corner of the globe.
Points are earned by paying the annual membership fee ($175) and by hosting travelers in your home (usually while you are away). By signing up and listing my home, I earned about 1200 points. Since then, I have over 4000 points from guests that have booked my home while I’m away. The places I’m staying are typically 70-125 points, so I’m getting over a month of stays for $175!
It is easy to search for homes, read reviews of the host and from travelers who have stayed in the home, and to communicate with the host before finalizing an exchange. So far, HomeExchange has a community feel to it, much like Couchsurfing. Travelers and hosts are expected to be respectful of each other and treat the homes as they would their own.
There is a lot of trust involved, but there are also guarantees. For example, with your membership, HomeExchange provides insurance in case of damage or will even put you in a hotel if a host cancels at the last minute.
Besides the cost savings of using HomeExchange, there are other advantages. It is nice to have a local contact (whether you meet the host or not) that can give you tips and connect you with others in the community. And it’s so relaxing and comfortable to have a real home all to yourself, not a hotel room or a pricey AirBnb.
I “discovered” the magical town of Pátzcuaro because of HomeExchange. I had been searching in a different area when a beautiful home in the center of Pátzcuaro popped up. Once I read about the town and viewed the listing, I knew I had to go (more on Pátzcuaro in another post). Here are just a few images from my beautiful home in Pátzcuaro.
I’m now on my second HomeExchange in another magical town, San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas. This time I have a separate apartment in a home near the center. My hosts in the main house are a friendly young couple who love to travel and who have already given me great tips on exploring the town.
I know there are many who would never consider traveling like this, but I haven’t given up hope of someday having my grandkids stay with me at strangers’ homes and realizing that people really are mostly nice and trustworthy.
Here’s a little more to catch up on what I’ve been doing in Mexico.
Peña de Bernal
The Peña de Bernal is one of the world’s tallest monoliths and is actually the hardened core of an ancient volcano. Only the Rock of Gilbraltar and Sugarloaf in Rio are taller.
It only took about an hour to get to the viewpoint near the top, but it was definitely more arduous than I expected and quite scary in a few spots.
Ruins, Gorditas, and More Ruins
I’m kind of addicted to seeing ruins but I don’t know why. I visited two sets of unique ruins recently.
Tzintzuntzan (learning to pronounce it took some time, but I did find the bus there) is known for its round pyramids of the Purépecha Empire, second in size only to the Aztecs at the time they ruled.
When I visit these beautiful colonial towns all over Mexico, it is easy to forget that the Spanish conquerors worked hard to erase the civilizations that existed long before they arrived. We have ruins and museums now to imagine these civilizations which probably would have been even more beautiful and interesting than the colonial structures that replaced them. This quote from Ancient Origins stands out to me:
In the 1520s, the Purépecha faced a difficult decision. Having heard of the fall of the Aztec Empire to the Spanish, their leader Tangáxuan II, the last of the cazonci, cooperated with the Spanish and was therefore given a comparatively large amount of autonomy. This wasn’t to last long however.
On February 14, 1530, Nuño de Guzmán, a famously cruel and ruthless conquistador, had Tangáxuan II tortured and executed. After this, the Spanish attempted to govern the area with a series of puppet rulers, but in the end Tzintzuntzan was destroyed. Its magnificent constructions were dismantled and used as building materials for Spanish constructions, a cruel and effective tactic of erasure used by the Spanish throughout their pillage and conquer of South America.Ancient Origins
During an unexpected stay in Guadalajara (a result of a closed highway and missed flight), I ended up vising Guachimontones, another site of round pyramids of the Teuchitlan society.
Along the way, I discovered gorditas, a wonderful fat corn tortilla stuffed with pretty much whatever you want. They are made fresh at roadside stands and every town seems to have its own version.
Coming soon: A Perfect Day.