Kulshan Brewing Company Director of Human Resources Erica Baldridge says she and husband Andy are relatively easy going when it comes to hunting for houses. No bickering, no over analyzing, no sleepless nights — just get a place that works, move in and move on with their busy lives.
“The color of the counter tops, the paint, that type of stuff is not real important to us,” she told The Bellingham Herald.
Great attitude for when you’re actually shopping for houses, but not necessarily ideal when you’re being filmed for a reality TV episode about shopping for a house, such as “House Hunters International.”
But that’s exactly where you’ll find the Bellingham couple and their six children — 12-year-old Brendan, 10-year-old Callum, 7-year-old Leiden, 6-year-old Lachlan and 3-year-old twin girls Calista and Colette — when the series profiles the Baldridge family’s late 2017 move to Argentina in an episode titled “Reconnecting in Bariloche,” which debuts 10:30 p.m. Tuesday on HGTV.
“They want you in the show to be very vocal about ‘I want this. No, I don’t want this,’ and there’s this conflict if you don’t agree,” Erica said. “For me, I found it tough to walk into these really nice houses that I thought were beautiful and I had to say, “Oh, I don’t like that.’ Not that I made up stuff, but I had to come up with things I thought weren’t perfect with it.
“I felt like because it’s a TV show and it’s a reality TV show there needs to be drama. You can’t go in and have the couple agree on everything. ... For us, I would say I felt the pressure to have more drama, more disagreements on the house selection process than we’ve ever had picking a house.”
One thing the Baldridge’s didn’t need to play up even slightly was a desire to make a short-term move from Bellingham to another country, taking a step back from their fast-paced, activity-filled lives in the City of Subdued Excitement.
“Our biggest reason was to reconnect as a family and to raise our kids to be more global citizens,” Erica told The Herald. “It’s always been our goal to be abroad with them as much as we can to see other cultures, other ways of life. ... Our biggest goal was to help open their minds.”
Erica said she’s traveled to more than 50 countries — 47 since she turned 18 — and even spent time studying Spanish in Argentina in her early 20s. That experience helped lead the family to choose Argentina as a temporary home away from home for what they expected to be 12 to 14 months.
Kulshan offered Erica a chance to work remotely for a year, while Boeing allowed Andy time to temporarily step away from his job as a data specialist to pursue a Master’s degree while he was in Argentina.
A call to the host family Erica stayed with during her time in Argentina made easier the task of selecting a city to temporarily call home that both fit Andy’s desire not to “live anywhere hot” and the Baldridge family’s goal of enjoying the outdoors.
The family suggested eight options, and the Baldridge’s selected San Carlos de Bariloche, a city of more than 120,000 known for its Swiss alpine architecture and chocolate located on the northern end of Patagonia along the southern shore of Lago Naheul Huapi.
“The first time we drove into the town was the first time we had been there,” Erica said. “We drove there from Santiago, Chile (approximately 725 miles north of Bariloche), and ended up staying for a little over a year.”
More than house hunting
After a friend from college enjoyed having her move to England profiled by “House Hunters International,” Erica said she decided to contact the show’s producers about their impending move to Bariloche in November 2017. A way to document their family’s experience appealed to the couple, Erica said.
A few Skype interviews and a filmed intro from Bellingham later, and “we thought our chances were pretty low,” Erica said. But show producers and HGTV signed off on the Baldridges and had a crew meet them in Bariloche and document the family’s meeting with a local real estate agent and touring of three homes in the area.
“One of my favorite parts of ‘House Hunters International’ when I watch it is when they go out in the city,” Erica said. “It’s not so much their house hunt, as it’s the city and what they’re doing.
“We had a great time filming all the non-house scenes. Those were our favorite, because we got to go out and see the city — we went and ate at a restaurant, we went skiing, we went on a boat trip, we went up to the top of a mountain, we went downtown and tasted chocolates, because the city is known for having really good Switzerland kind of (chocolate).”
Some of the experiences, Erica said, the family may not have had if not for show.
Though the couple’s youngest kids didn’t fully understand that the crew was there to document their move and their shy 7-year-old “probably won’t say a word on the show,” Erica said the older kids thoroughly enjoyed the experience — perhaps even more than Erica and Andy did, as taping was 12 to 13 hours a day for five straight “chaotic” days.
“The long days were really tough,” Andy told The Herald. “I was going to school during the filming, and it was finals week for me, so that made for some really long days.”
Excited but terrified
In the year-plus since filming wrapped and the episode has been in production, the family has returned to Bellingham, as was the original plan.
“If our jobs would have allowed us to, I think we would have stayed even longer,” Erica told The Herald. “The whole experience was better than I expected, to be honest. I was afraid we would go down there and kind of feel like outsiders, especially considering our kids didn’t speak the language when we moved. ... We all had a great experience. The kids all made friends — the elementary-age kids were all having sleepovers by the time we left.”
The move back to Bellingham in January was much more low key — no TV crews, no planned adventures, no exaggerating likes and dislikes for the camera, Erica said. “Just a normal hunt, this works and picking a rental.”
They completed the move in time to catch the debut of their “House Hunters International” episode, and are planning a watch party Tuesday with family and close friends at Erica’s mom’s house.
“I’m excited, but I’m also terrified,” Erica said. “We filmed so many days for 12 or 13 hours, and you’ve got to condense that all down to a 20-minute show. I don’t know what they’re going to pick and choose to be in it, and I don’t know how they’re going to portray us, especially me and Andy. You see so many couples where maybe the wife is angry or the husband is too carefree. I hope we don’t come off like that. ”
Despite that bit of anxiety, the Baldridges said the entire experience was enjoyable and helped make memories of their move to Argentina even better.
“Personally, I’m not a fan of being on the spot like that,” Andy said. “I enjoyed it as much as I could, but it was definitely out of my comfort zone. We had a really good time with it, and I probably would do it again if I could. ... I’m excited and kind of nervous to see what we look and sound like.”