As I was searching for a destination for very much-desired family winter retreat, I decided to try a solution that had intrigued me for some time. I have heard before about different platforms of this type, but after conducting a small research, Guest2Guest (currently it is HomeExchange due to a merger of the 2 platforms) seemed the most reliable. I went in and started looking for accommodation in the Pyrenees. After several attempts I have found a place that met the conditions me and my family was looking for: close to Barcelona, close to ski resorts and with low housing density, to enjoy the mountains, fresh and clean air and family outings.
The operation was (almost) the same as on Airbnb platform. There was also an option, which I really like, to read about the owners and the possibility to send the first message. I have placed a reservation request, received confirmation and arranged for key delivery.
A small difference was not mentionned anywhere neither amount for the house nor how to make a payment for the chosen accommodation. Those who use these kind of platforms know that the host does not want to make money renting its apartment, extra room or second house, just as they know that a particular individual interested in the platform does not want to find cheaper accommodation than those offered by hotels or any other alternative.
This is actually totally in the contrary. The aim is to give a little of what you have and, in return, receive a little of what others have. Anyone who makes their home available for all times, meaning without mandatory availability, has hundreds of other homes ready to use. On reflection, there are hundreds of typologies of homes and destinations that are within our reach, with the unique “cost” of sharing a little of what is ours.
Platforms such as Uber, Airbnb or all those we commonly refer to as the “sharing economy” have in fact shaken the markets in which they operate and brought additional remuneration possibilities to owners and investors, as well as competitive accommodation and convenient, inexpensive way of travelling for users. It’s legitimate, useful and even disruptive, but it’s not sharing. The exchange also differs from those platforms and the platform like HomeExchange in a key factor, trust. While in the platforms like Uber, the user continues to contract a service, in the case of home exchange platforms it is just sharing. What decides of the level of “service” is the basic principle of not doing in someone else’s house what we would not do in our home. It is a fairly simple and universal principle that should be applied under all circumstances, but how many people do not behave like that?
Me and my family ended the holidays with the desire to repeat the experience but, a lot more importantly, with the reinforced belief that it is still possible to “build” based on sharing and trust between people who don’t know each other. The simplest example to visualize it are the books that has been read and are ‘waiting’ on shelves to be exchanged and read by someone else. If we think about the amount of unused resources (or at least long periods of non-use) such as empty houses, parked cars, or even dresses stored in closets for years, the growth of such solutions will avoid much waste. Moreover, it can give access and opportunity to many more people to for example diversify their holidays, wear different clothes or drive different cars.
That winter we had a holiday house at the cost of a “thank you” and two bottles of wine (Portuguese of course!).
Oh, and few months later I hosted French guests in my house during the summer.