Both my husband and I were early adopters of vacation rentals, but in the seventies and eighties when we began renting places at the beach or mountains to celebrate holidays and other events with big groups of friends and family, rentals were arranged with local real estate companies. We never dreamed that one day we'd be living full-time internationally in short-term vacation rentals without a home base, and that we would be able to make the arrangements on the Internet, dealing with property owners worldwide through outfits like VRBO and HomeAway.
We sold our home in 2011, ditched most of our possessions and have enjoyed vivid experiences, made wonderful new friends and reveled in being free of worries about maintaining a home and all that it entails ever since. We're considered by some to be pioneers of the "home free" movement. Of course no life is perfect, and we've certainly encountered innumerable challenges along the way, like discovering that we misread the listings and ended up without an oven in rented apartments -- TWICE! Mistakes like that were no one's fault but our own, and we finally learned to read every listing we considered many times and studying the photographs and reviews with minute care before committing to rentals of a month or more. Almost every time things have worked out beautifully and we've enjoyed comfortable stays.
Many readers of our blog, www.homefreeadventures.com, and articles I've written for various publications have have told us that they have been inspired to followed suit by changing their predictable retirement lifestyles. Some new friends keep us informed of their process as they lighten their loads of possessions, sell out completely to live home-free or downsize radically. Almost all have asked asked us questions from what we do about our mail to how we handle our medical insurance, from how we pack for nine months in Europe to the real scoop about repositioning cruises. We answer every request as soon as we possibly can because it's so exciting to hear from people who are making big changes in their lives! We feel honored to have given people the idea of approaching their retirement years in new ways, and we love to share what we've learned.
Our errors have taught us that making lists and establishing routines make being on the road far less challenging. Trusting our memories and relying on quick thinking after a long flight when we were tired and feeling disoriented led us to create our check in list. We use it each time we arrive in a new apartment, condo or house, and it's saved us hours of frustration bumbling around trying to learn how to use appliances, TV's, phones and even door locks in places where we have not a clue about how to read the instructions.
The Check-in List:
- Keys -- make sure you understand them. Try them all until you understand them. Ask for two sets if you are a couple. As reader Karen pointed out, if you're on your own, it's a great idea to have an extra set somewhere handy in case you leave one set in the house!
- Is there an intercom to allow your guests to enter? Try this out to be sure it works and you know how to use it.
- Faucet -- run the water. Be sure the hot and cold work correctly.
- Try hot/cold water.
- Ask where extra linens are kept.
ELECTRONICS and COMMUNICATIONS
- Ask for a demonstration of the TV/DVD/Satellite/Cable, whatever is on offer. Do not be rushed through this. Continue until you really get it!
DIRECTIONS and LOCAL INFORMATION
Take a look at the instruction book the owner should provide. Be sure you know where to find the nearest grocery stores, subway stations, bus stops and drug stores. Ask about how to get a taxi if you need one. Do NOT forget to ask where to find the best wine/liquor store is located.