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The next post in my series was suppose to be on how to network and meet people when you set foot in a foreign country and barely know the language. I may still write about this but I thought I would share some images from the 5 day trip I took from Valencia to visit Ibiza and Formentera in the Balearic Islands!

My friend Lizelle and I flew Vueling Airlines from Valencia last week to visit Ibiza. The flight was only 25 minutes and the ticket was cheaper than taking the 4hr ferry ride! We rented an apartment on AirBnB for cheaper than most hotels, since August is the high season there. The apartment was absolutely amazing and had a phenomenal view of the port in Eiviessa Town. We stayed a total of 5 days and had an awesome time. We were able to visit several of the must-see calas (coves) on the island – Cala d’hort, Cala Salada and Ses Selines.

We also had the chance to visit neighboring island Formentera. Formentera is a 45 minute ferry ride from Eivissa Town but definitely worth the trip. In Formentera we rented a motor scooter and were able to see almost the whole island in one day! However, it’s definitely a place you could spend a lifetime! We saw La Mola, Playa Illetes and Cap de Barbaria. Formentera was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and I would go back in a heartbeat.

If you’re going to swap, why not take some time to travel? It’s ok to have some fun too!

 

Hi everyone! Here are some more pics with my new colleagues in Brookyn! Yesterday I visited “Afilliate Summit East” at Hilton NY with some of them and it is going be a very interesting experience!

They also changed the wall clock into Valencia time.. ;)

Regards. Talk soon!

 

Pardon the interruption, but we have some exciting news. SwapYourShop made it into the 2011 SXSW Interactive PanelPicker! Our proposed panel is titled “Bartering Life: The Trend of Online Exchange Services” which will cover the appeal of online exchange services, why they’re becoming increasingly valuable, how they’re transforming the way users consume and how one can use these online services to consume at a low to no cost.

We’re thrilled to be included in the mix, but we need your help! A portion of the selection process is based on public vote. From now till August 20th, you can login or create and account on panelpicker.sxsw.com and vote. We really appreciate it!

Now back to our First Swappers…

 

I thought it would be useful to share my experience in arranging my apartment and office swap with the SYS community. This will be the first of a series of posts while I enjoy my time here in Valencia, Spain as SYS’s First Swapper! The three areas I will touch on are getting approval from your company, negotiating with your landlord (if applicable), and preparing your apartment for the arrival of your fellow swapper.

Getting Approval from your Company

For me, this was actually the easiest part of the process but I suspect that, for you, it might be the most difficult. I was fortunate in that A.J. Lawrence, CEO of The JAR Group (my employer), was the first person who told me about SYS. A.J. is good at identifying trends and he heard of SYS early on and thought it might be an opportunity that I would find interesting. Well, he was right and here I am! In order to seek formal approval, however, I prepared a document that outlined the experience, the benefits, my professional and personal goals, and the logistics of communication and my estimated hours of availability. Below is the document:

Slideshare embeds aren’t working properly, but you can view the document here!

Notably, the document I prepared is fairly basic. Depending on the size of your company, your position, and other factors you may need to add more details. This should at least give you a general idea of what might work!

Negotiating With Your Landlord (queue Brooklyn landlord mafia music…)

In general, I would recommend not telling your landlord that you are allowing someone else stay in your apartment. However, this might not be possible depending on the length of your stay and how you pay your rent. For example, if you’re only gone a month you may be able to get by without telling your landlord. However, if you’re gone two months this becomes an issue when you need to pay your second months rent. Remember that this is technically not a sublet. You are still responsible for your rent or mortgage payment and your swapper for theirs. Check your lease agreement and see if there is a clause that says whether or not you can allow someone else to live in your space. Even if there is a clause, it’s probably easier to avoid the question of allowing an unknown party stay in your apartment unless you feel it’s absolutely necessary to broach the subject.

In my case, my landlord lives upstairs so the whole “don’t ask, don’t tell” scenario would have been difficult to pull off. About a month prior to the swap I approached my landlord about the idea. She said at first blush she was fine with it – then she went out of town for two weeks. Based on her word, I went ahead and booked my ticket. Bad, bad move on my part! When she got back from her trip she told me she was having second thoughts. She was having issues with the tenant upstairs and wanted to avoid any possible trouble with an unknown tenant. I had to explain to her that I had already booked my ticket and express that I had been doing due diligence of my own. I wanted her to understand that I was putting a lot on the line by doing the swap as well. I was allowing someone I had never met to not only enter my personal space, but use my desk, and potentially be introduced to my friends and professional contacts. I wanted her to understand this and know that I too had done my research. At this point she came around and requested two professional references from my swapper. He sent these the next day.

The final part of the negotiation had to do with rent payment. We agreed that I would prepay two months of rent and an additional security deposit. Her request for an additional security deposit did not make me too happy! I already had a security deposit per my lease agreement that would cover any damages so it didn’t make sense to have an additional deposit. On top of this, she deposited all three checks at once (rent payment x3). If you can, I would recommend trying to stay away from prepaying rent and mail the checks or have a friend deliver them. A single payment for 3x rent hitting your bank account can definitely hurt your cash flow!

This part of the swap proved to be most challenging. Hopefully you own your apartment or house and don’t have to deal this. Also, if you don’t live in Brooklyn or NYC for that matter, I’m sure you’ll have an easier time. Luckily, it all worked out in the end for me!

Preparing your Apartment for the Arrival of your Swapper

Perhaps the easiest part of the process was preparing for the arrival of the swapper. The three things I did were clean my apartment, stash away important goods and documents, and create a guide to my apartment and my neighborhood. True, nobody likes cleaning (at least I hope not) so that doesn’t fall into the enjoyable category. Neither does stashing away important goods or documents. I recommend putting these items in a box and taking them to a friend who lives nearby. I didn’t want tax documents or items like my birth certificate and social security card laying around my apartment. However, what was slightly enjoyable was creating a guide to not only my apartment and also to Brooklyn. The guide is below:

Slideshare embeds aren’t working properly, but you can view the document here!

You may not need a guide this in depth! In my case, I met my Swapper in Valencia, Spain first so he was going to be in Brooklyn without me there to show him things or introduce him to contacts. So, I felt it was necessary to put together a somewhat detailed guide. Hopefully it helped!

Notice the last section in the above document – “essential contacts” (friends, office, car service, etc). In my next blog post I hope to cover how to build a base of contacts in a foreign city, beyond just the contacts that are given to you by your swapper, so that you can truly enjoy your experience!

 

Prequel: I am SwapYourShop’s first swapper!

Let’s be real, I needed to get away! I hadn’t left the city limits of New York City since November of 2009. Any New Yorker will tell you that this a problem. I’m not from the east coast. In fact, I’m from Kentucky so I say this with somewhat of an unbiased eye: us New Yorkers work hard, and play harder. Getting out of the city from time to time is a requirement for keeping up with the pace of the New York lifestyle 7 days a week.

A year ago my mind was set on going to the Caribbean. I’m a fan of music, especially live music, and the St. Lucia Jazz Festival hosted every May is suppose to be a one of a kind experience. By the time May came around, I completely failed to make plans. I needed a plan B.

Two years ago I had a great experience renting an apartment in Paris over New Years. The apartment was a very modern apartment in the center of the city, over a major holiday for only $50/night! I had found this apartment on Craigslist. More recently I learned of Home For Exchange and AirBnB, two websites that make swapping apartments and homes much more secure than Craigslist. The idea of swapping continued to be appealing to me because it’s an extremely affordable way to secure housing while, arguably, living much more comfortably than being in a hotel or hostel.

On Home For Exchange I connected with someone in Johannesberg, South Africa looking to come to NYC during the World Cup. She even offered to allow me to use her car for the duration of my stay in South Africa! I couldn’t convince any friends to go with me on such short notice so yet another opportunity to take a hiatus from New York slipped away. Around this time, my boss told me about SwapYourShop (SYS).

While the idea of exchanging living arrangements was not new to me, the idea of exchanging both living arrangements and office space was undoubtedly a new idea! This is exactly what SYS allows for. People continue to ask me to clarify this idea. No, you don’t work for a new company! You continue to work for your same company, but yet have the ability to work from the desk of the person who you are exchanging with if you so desire.

On SYS I immediately connected with many people. Being that the concept was so new, the individuals I first contacted were all very interested, yet unsure of how to proceed in arranging the swap. However, one person was persistent in keeping the communication going; Jose Luis of Valencia, Spain. We spoke for about a month via Skype and came to an agreement that we would swap. At the time, I was unaware that we were the first people to swap on SYS! Pretty cool. (For more details on how we arranged the swap, you can read our interview).

The journey has now begun and I am currently in Valencia, Spain! Over the course of the next few weeks I hope to address a few topics that future swappers might find useful:

1) Details of arranging the swap including negotiating with your company, telling your landlord and prepping your apartment.

2) Setting up your work environment so that you can effectively execute your work abroad. This includes being accessible by phone, internet access, work hours, and other logistics (I am still figuring this out).

3) Networking and building a base of contacts in a foreign city where you likely won’t know anyone.

If there are any other topics you would like to know about, please let me know! Also bear in mind, I am still learning a lot with 5 weeks to go.

Who am I?

By day I work as Digital Strategist for an interactive marketing agency called The JAR Group, helping clients grow their customer base and increase online revenues. By night, I maintain a rap music website called 100 Best Rap Songs. Between these two projects I also organize the Digital DUMBO community (DUMBO is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is becoming known as New York’s Digital District). Over the past year and a half, Digital DUMBO has grown to be the 2nd largest digital technology and media community in New York City.

You can follow me on Twitter at @A2Z.

 

Hi everybody! I am Jose from Valencia (Spain), and I am the first swapper with Andrew Zarick (NY-USA).

Nowadays Andrew is living in my apartment and sharing my advertising agency office with my co-workers (http://www.comuniqualis.com), as me as I am at his apartment in Brooklyn-NY, joining this new awesome experience with his colleagues at (http://www.thejargroup.com). Any questions I will answer through this blog.

Talk soon!