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Home Page > About Mi Casa Su Casa

What's It All About?

Our goal is to enable members of our network to have a comfortable and culturally rewarding traveling experience, whether going to another country or to another region in their own country.   By getting out of hotels that are often impersonal, homestay travelers have a much better sense of the community they're visiting because they may meet the neighbors, become familiar with local shop owners, get suggestions from their host about restaurants and markets, and more.

As a homestay traveler, you can indulge yourself in the fantasy of having "lived" in many different places.  Staying in someone's home creates that feeling because you are free to follow your day-to-day whims like a resident (but one who doesn't have to get up for work in the morning)!  Total freedom!  You're not bound by outside limitations imposed by grumpy hotel concierges, fluctuating room rates, and erratic restaurant hours.  Do what you want when you want how you want.

Of course, you'll still want to be a tourist some of the time.  But you also have the choice of staying in bed all day eating chocolates, hanging out at a neighborhood coffee shop and catching up on local gossip, sitting by the pool and reading a novel, going on a shopping spree at local markets, savoring a home cooked meal, relaxing with locally bottled wine or beer, renting a videocassette, snuggling by the fireplace and so on.  And if you decide to enjoy the area's night life, it's a gift from heaven to have a home where you can sleep late.  Hotels expect you to either check out by noon or go out sightseeing - they aren't used to having guests in their room during the day.

So travel like a queen (or king).  Follow your own internal clock.  Be yourself.

That's what mi casa su casa offers.  Now, how do you get there?

Mutual Trust and Honesty

The guiding principles of sharing our homes with one another are trust and honesty.  As is true with any relationship, you begin by trusting each other.  In this case, you primarily develop trust that the person staying in your home will respect your privacy and belongings and take responsibility in caring for the home you've created.  AND they've got to trust that YOU will do the same with their home.  It is a mutual situation and a specific application of The Golden Rule - I'll take care of your home as well as I want you to take care of my home.

Honesty about yourself, your home, your neighborhood - all the elements that will affect a person's vacation - is important to build and maintain trust between home exchangers.

When contacting potential home exchangers with letters, email and telephone calls, it's important to be honest about the size of your home and the sleeping accommodations, noise level and safety of your neighborhood.  Don't forget to mention how many plants there are to water or how many mouths (dogs, cats, birds, fish) there are to feed.  Let people know what they're getting into before they say "I do" to an arrangement.  It's better to be honest about your situation and risk not finding someone to exchange with, than to exaggerate the truth and upset the holiday of the people staying in your home.  And again it is mutual - both parties are entitled to the same honesty.

About Romance

mi casa su casa's mission is to be the foremost directory of gay & lesbian home exchangers around the world. These exchanges can sometimes lead to romance. What goes on between consenting adults is no one's business but your own. If you're not looking for romance, tell the other person before you show up at their door or they at yours.  mi casa su casa does not get involved in the personal affairs of our members.

Do I Have to be Gay to Join?

mi casa su casa does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sexual preference, age, marital status, religion, language, lifestyle, body type, etc., and we hope that you won't either.  We welcome gay and lesbian folks, transgender folks, bisexual folks, and straight folks too - all we ask is that you be gay friendly.  We hope you will expand your horizons enthusiastically and count as your friends both men and women, young and old, gay/lesbian/straight/ bisexual, English-speaking or not.


A mi casa su casa experience...

Editor's Note: Lee Lawrence, author of this story, passed away several years ago. It is with mixed sadness at his passing and joy at having known him that we present this little bit of writing to honor a good friend.

It was a dark and stormy night ...no, really ... it was a bitch of a night with lightning and hail and winds that shook windows and sucked the heat from every crack and crevice. When it wasn't dark and stormy it was white and windy with three foot snowdrifts and snowflakes that stung like knives and clung like glue. It was the winter of 95 and it had already gone on longer than any I could remember since moving to the mountains of E. Tennessee 16 years ago. I could tell the ravages of cabin fever were taking their toll when I spoke to the lady from American Home Improvement; "Yes, you can come out and give me a free estimate on aluminum siding and you can keep the toaster oven ..just come talk to me."

I needed a vacation and I needed it now. I called my favorite travel agent, Jerry, of Travel 2000 in Louisville KY and screamed into the phone, "Get me off this farm ... or shoot me." Jerry was a little smug. "Well, Lee, you're always telling me how your guests invite you to visit them - I'm sure they would love to have you."

"They live in Detroit or Bayone or Akron - are you crazy? Those may be nice places to live but I sure as hell ain't gonna visit them." Now he was getting down to business. "What did you have in mind?" He asked as he began to tally up his commission in his head.

It's gotta be warm and sunny and there has to be swimming and diving and..."

"I've got just the thing for you." He jumped in with obvious excitement. "A gay cruise! Imagine it - 600 men on one boat."

"You gotta be kidding me - this is Lee you're talking to - the cologne alone would make me jump ship. What else you got."

"Well, let's see. There's Cancun ... and Nassau ..."

"Been there - done that. What else?"

"I'm looking - I'm looking."

Oh, Jerry - one more thing - you know this is winter ... you know and I'm kinda - well..."

"Let me guess." He said as I imagined him turning off his mental calculator. "You're broke."

"Hey - you are good - no wonder you are my favorite travel agent."

"Let me look around and I'll come up with something. I promise."

"OK, but hurry, will ya."

Except for one brief foray outside to feed the horses who were also not happy with this endless winter, I remained by the phone. It rang a few hours later and I grabbed it as though it were the last available trick in the bar on New Years Eve. "Jerry?"

"No it's David, David Howley, your ad rep from Damron. You OK, Lee? You don't sound too good."

"Oh yeah, I'm fine - just fine. How 's by you?" We made a little small talk and talked advertising and then I casually mentioned my need to get away for a bit. I asked if he knew of a place that wouldn't cost very much. Hell, getaway places were his business. He would have an idea or two for sure.

"Lee, Have you ever heard of Mi Casa Su Casa?"

"Sure, Rosemary Clooney sang it on the Hit Parade ...let's see..that would have been nineteen fifty ..... Lemme think."

"No, you dimwit, that was Come'onna My House .... Mi Casa Su Casa is a gay and lesbian HOME EXCHANGE CLUB. Maybe you can swap a vacation at your farm for one someplace warm and sunny."

"Hey, I'll try anything." He gave me a name, David Marcus and an 800 number in California. "Thanks, I'll let you know what happens."

"Ok, Lee, about your Lee Valley Farm ad..."

"Yeah, run it send me a bill, Bye."

With high hopes but prepared for a letdown I dialed the number. "You have reached Mi Casa Su Casa .... " Damn machine! I left the requested message and continued to sulk away the afternoon. That evening the phone rang so I climbed out from behind the sofa and answered it. It was David of Mi Casa Su Casa. I explained my situation to him as calmly as possible. In a most efficient tone of voice he said he would get back to me. "Yeah, fat chance." I thought as I hung up the phone and retreated to my hideyhole behind the sofa once again.

The next morning the phone rang again. It was David of Mi Casa Su Casa. "How does a penthouse condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - with a private pool and maid service sound? It's within walking distance of the beach, bars, restaurants - you don't need any dress up clothes and the guys who own it would love to swap a vacation at your farm for a vacation at their condo."

I fell to my knees. There is a god!!!

Over the next few days I spoke with Doug and Jeff, the owners of the condo and they sent me photos and instructions - Jerry worked up my flight plan and I made arrangements for people to watch the farm while I basked on the beach in sunny Mexico.

The morning of April 8 I flew out of the Tri-Cities air port heading for Mexico. It snowed the entire day and a blizzard covered the entire eastern seaboard from Georgia to Canada. I loved it.

I had a layover in Phoenix and arrived in PV the afternoon of the 9th. My cab from the airport to the condo in old town Puerto Vallarta cost fifty pesos - there are about seven to the dollar. I was greeted by a smiling Lupe and her husband Iladio who carried my luggage upstairs to my penthouse - did you get that? My penthouse!!! With an ocean view and the tiled roofs of Puerto Vallarta spreading out for miles in both directions. I dumped my stuff on the enormous bed - unpacking could wait -and went downstairs. I wanted to feel those cobblestones under my feet and see people - tanned people who didn't feel a need to bitch about the cold and the snow and the rain. And the people were plentiful - as were the shops and the pushcarts and the street vendors and the smiles of the people who greeted me with, "OLA" - rough translation -"Howdy, y'all."

I bought fresh fruits, and sodas and wonderful Mexican pastries from shops along the streets and carried it all home in my backpack. How odd I thought as I lugged my largess up the stairs. I've only been here a couple of hours and this place feels like home to me. There were some personal items in the apartment - a couple of bottles of liquor, all the pots and pans I'd need, books and cd's. I turned on the radio and listened to Mexican music while I unpacked. Then I fixed myself a drink and sat on the terrace and watched as the sun went for dip in the ocean.

The next two weeks were the most rewarding and eventful I've experienced in years. It was more than a vacation - it was a revelation. I made decisions that were difficult, nay, impossible, to reach while I was on the farm because I was too close. I made friends. I went snorkeling and scuba diving -I ate at incredible restaurants every evening usually for less than 7 or 8 dollars. I met friendly people from all over the world, both straight and gay, and I discovered the warmth and friendliness of the Mexican people. Their smiles are genuine and their laughter real.

As my departure time approached, I realized for the first time in many, many years I was not all that anxious to get back to the farm. A phone call to Jerry was all that was necessary. I had three more days in wonderful Puerto Vallarta. I knew I would be coming back - one way or another. As a writer, a diver and one who has been involved in gay travel and tourism for over 20 years I realized there was a whole world of opportunities available to me in this beautiful city.

I located, went diving with and became friends with the only American PADI dive masters (Professions Association of Dive Instructors),Gordon and Marcy Sanders, in Puerto Vallarta. I showed Marcy my rainbow rings and told her they were the colors of the gay flag. "You people have your own flag?" "Are you kidding, we've got whole countries." I asked them if they would like to work primarily with the gay community and they loved the idea. So if you see a lady on the beach with a PADI t-shirt and sporting rainbow colors -you've found Marcy. Say, "Ola!" or "Welcome y'all!" and get ready to dive. They are excited about working with and teaching us and can certify us as open water divers. I plan to be in PV by the holidays to be a host, a dive instructor, a guide. Never again will I suffer through another winter like the one of 95.

David Marcus had an idea - a very simple one really. Let us simply open our homes to each other - treat each other as friends - respect and care about each other. David took an idea and turned it into an opportunity, "mi casa su casa" It works for David. It's working for me and I'll bet you a pitcher of margaritas at Los Balconies this winter it can work for you.

Adios amigos,

Lee Lawrence
Lee Valley Farm
Rogersville Tn.

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