This is a guest post – Laura is a Marketing professional and passionate traveler. She and her family are Knok members, and they enjoy traveling as a family via the home Exchange way.
We live in Southern California and each member of my family studies Spanish in his or her own way. (The kids in particular have Spanish classes in their middle school.) This summer I decided it would be fun to learn Spanish as a family! The kids and my husband were all intrigued at the idea of a language-immersion vacation, so the only thing left to do was decide where and how?
I personally love the Argentine accent, so Buenos Aires it was! I went online and found a month-long summer course for me and my husband, as well as one for the girls. That was easy, I thought! While the cost of the course was on the high side, I didn’t even flinch, I had a new secret cost-reducing travel trick. Months back a friend told me about how home exchange was a really smart way to travel as a family. She said you end up saving all your accommodation costs so you can spend the money on the cool stuff that would otherwise be out of budget big time.
My friend had suggested Knok.com, and so after a quick sign-up process we were in the community and excited to find our exchange match. The Knok Team gave us several suggestions right off the bat based on our travel needs and preferences, and other members looking to come to our city. A day later we got a friendly response from a family in Buenos Aires who were hoping to come to California for the month of August. We sent a few messages back and forth, and agreed on our summer swap. Excitement was in the air!
In August we arrived at our new home. It was in the charming neighborhood of San Telmo, full of artisan markets, tango parlors and antique shops. The kids wandered around the neighborhood delighted at the different sights while my husband was eagerly eyeing all the steak houses. The host family had left us with a list of their favorites, and we quickly made plans to see them all!
The language school was walking distance from our exchange home, so we set off in the mornings together to enjoy café au laits and medialunas (croissants) at one of the square’s oldest cafés before walking down the market-filled street of Florida to our school.
We had the afternoons free to roam, and the harbor area of Puerto Madero quickly became one of our favorite places to walk along the waterfront and enjoy a peaceful meal out of doors. Another great treat was the colorful neighborhood of Boca, known as the heart and soul of tango, we loved watching the life performances by the talented street dancers who offered up lessons on the spot. Our girls really got into imitating the dancers!
Another great spot was the park with the famous Floralis Genérica sculpture, which opened and closed like a giant silver-coated flower each day. A place I truly loved to wander about was the old cemetery la Recoleta, so much history and so well maintained—we took a tour (in Spanish!) and heard all about the great artists, musicians, and thinkers who were laid to rest there.
Last but not least, we got to really use our Spanish with families we met at the numerous parks throughout the city. They taught us how to sip the national tea, known as maté, and bragged to us about the wonderful variety of empanadas to choose from at the bakeries. We will never look at a crescent-shaped object again without remembering the savory flavors of the Argentine empanada!
We really are grateful for the time we had together enjoying a new culture as a family with the added bonus of learning a language. The home was a great environment to study. When we got back from a busy day, everyone had his or her space to do homework, read a book, or take a nap! Home exchanging was such a novel idea to us before this trip, now we are already planning for next years language and cultural immersion vacation…the kids have their eyes on Chile, while my husband is pitching Ecuador! I told them we should let the home exchange community decide!