Darn Good Ideas,  Life Story,  Website Reviews

houseguests strangers

I posted our apartment to homexchange.com a few months ago, hoping some Romans would want to houseswap with us. No Romans want to, but everyone else does. We’ve received requests from Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Bermuda, Iceland, Spain, Florida….seriously if we had a million frequent flyer miles, I would say yes to all of these offers!

Nothing has happened yet; except that one time a French family stayed at our apartment over Christmas! Here’s what happened: I eagerly set it up via email, Joe comes home from work, he reminds me we don’t have any plans to go to France, just Italy. Ah yes good point.

So I say, “Hey why don’t you come after all? We won’t be here anyway. Maybe bring us a bottle of champagne and we’ll call it even.” We had one Skype conversation in which I ascertained that they were perfectly normal people who were not going to auction our belongings on craigslist while we were gone, and the deal was made. And so Bindu and her husband and her little daughter came to stay in Beacon Hill for New Years.

We cleaned the sheets and tidied the bathroom, set out fresh towels, locked the door, and hid the keys for them. When we returned, the apartment was cleaner than I’d ever seen it in my life, and they left all sorts of surprise gifts for us—duplos for Lux, champagne, red wine, French chocolates. I think they might have ironed our bedspread because it looked brand new.

Bindu wrote out little notes to explain all the gifts. The most surprising one was the foie gras–I known I’ve eaten this before, but only in the tiniest doses, and never with the fig jam and sweet wine that she recommended. Joe and I have split the jar for two dinners now, alongside a baguette.

So, I learned 1/ how to be a much better houseguest in the future. Now I want to always leave gifts, especially local treats from where you’re from. 2/ It was pretty neat to know someone was enjoying our stuff while we were away. Bindu wrote that her daughter loved all of Lux’s toys, and they found our apartment warm and comfortable. I thought, “yes, I do too!”

Would you be brave and let strangers stay in your home?



  • Annie Slocum

    I just recently ordered duck foie gras from Hudson Valley and it was divine! I ordered a mostarda to go with it- a fruity jam. What was the wine they recommended!! So fun!!

  • Shannon Schreiber

    Mark and I were just talking about this as we approach inauguration weekend. In our current living situation (we are RAs for an intern housing program) we can’t let guests we don’t know stay. However, last inauguration tiny crappy basement apartments like ours were being sub-let for $2K…for the weekend! We thought long and hard about it, but realized we were in the crazy zone, half a block from the Capitol Hill bars staying open 24 hours, 4 blocks from the actual Capitol building. And that the chances of getting a family, or even thoughtful/considerate people were far less than getting an over crammed group of college students wanting to be part of history. In the end, we didn’t let sub let our place, but we did high tail out of dodge for a quiet weekend in PA since like I said, we were in the heart of the crazy, plus no car traffic would be allowed down our street, aka we wouldn’t be able to move our own car if we wanted.

    (plus the though of people I don’t know sleeping in my bed creeps me out a bit, and yet I stay in hotels all the time! I need to get over that.)

    Still hoping for some good luck with the Romans for you!

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      That’s a tough one. We had the same dilemma with the Marathon. A friend is staying for free, but the thought of picking up a couple hundred dollars for the weekend was tempting! I think something like craigslist, or even airbnb, would put you in the realm of the crazies, a bit more than the people on HE.

  • Allie Lehman

    I would be very willing to let someone stay here…but I’m not certain Columbus is in high demand 🙂 I’m so glad you had a great experience. It even reminded ME to be a good house guest.

    • girlpolish

      I’ve been thinking about this in the context of the Valentine’s Day swap (previous post) too. Probably nuts from Q’s Nuts (somerville), local honey from Follow the Honey (Cambridge) and Whales Tale beer (Nantucket). More New England than Boston proper.

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