When I was a child, my family participated in house swapping all over Europe. Our last home exchange took place in Ireland in 2000.
How did I become a traveler?
My way of travel is clearly based on the travels of my childhood. Instead of hotels, I’ve preferred staying with locals on a smaller budget. I usually travel overland, and I don’t need to go far.
Similar themes were present in my family’s travels when I was a kid.
My family wasn’t too rich, but my parents invested in traveling. Still, we didn’t travel on an extravagant budget. Instead, we were active on a home exchange network where our family would swap homes with another family for two weeks or so.
We made home exchange trips to many European countries. We had a chance to live like a local family. We lived in a local home, and sometimes we played with the friends of the local family’s kids.
Internet was not a big thing in the 1990s, so the house swapping network was based on massive catalogs of families and their houses. The catalogs were like phone books, although that analogy doesn’t help anyone born in the 2000s.
(If you’re too young to remember, just imagine a big book with thin pages full of small text and tiny pictures.)
“Catch the Rabbit!”
Our last home exchange experience was in Killarney, Ireland. Killarney is a small town of only 14,000 people in southwestern Ireland. The family with whom we swapped houses actually spoke Irish as their first language!
I was 10 when we visited Ireland, and I don’t have too many memories of the trip. I recollect some very Irish things, such as sheeps on a field, a lunch in a pub and a visit to some castle ruins. I also got an Irish flute as a souvenir.
And I remember the racing dogs. We went to see a Greyhound race in Ireland and we placed small bets on Irish pounds. This was a year before the euro appeared, and Ireland still had its own, occasionally angular coins.
The dogs would run very fast along the oval track, chasing an electric rabbit that sped along the perimeter of the track. The locals were eager to cheer their favorites. My mom remembers well how a young girl would shout “catch the rabbit!” from the top of her lungs as the Greyhounds ran.