This is the third post of a guest series. We ask friends and colleagues to share with us what the expression to “feel at home” means to them. We believe that to truly enjoy a place, you need to really experience it, to make yourself at home. This means different things for different people, but it is an essential part of our lives, both as travelers and travel professionals. The idea came from a post I published in March and that you can read here.
Home Exchange – Feeling “at Home” Away from “Home”
‘Nothing can beat the excitement when home exchange offers are received, unless it is the excitement of exploring a new home on arrival. We love getting to know “our” new neighbours, caring for pets and immersing ourselves in a new environment.’
(From an article in Home Swappers Newsletter, Top Ten Tips from Very Experienced Home Exchangers)
The quote above by a veteran of over 60 home swaps sums up the concept and attractions of home exchange in a nutshell. When Home Base Holidays was set up in 1985 to provide a home exchange service, we considered the company name carefully. The aim was to get across the idea of home exchange as a way of feeling ‘at home’ while on holiday, actually living someone else’s lifestyle temporarily while using their home as a ‘base’ to experience a neighbourhood like a local.
It is a natural instinct to want to create a comfortable home as a retreat from the outside world, to furnish your ‘nest’ with the things you love – family photos, books, music, cherished souvenirs and presents that evoke happy memories. Living in exchange partners’ home for a time, being entrusted to care for and enjoy their most precious possessions is a privilege that widens your experience of an area far more than staying in an impersonal hotel room in a tourist resort.
Home exchangers tend to be very generous, kind people who do their best to help their guests settle into their homes and feel welcome in the neighbourhood. Information folders left for guests include everything from detailed household information (including the quirks that most homes have, such as ‘the door needs a good hard shove to close’ that you won’t find in any washing machine manual!) to providing brochures for recommended local restaurants, to introducing their friends and neighbours (many home exchange guests are invited for dinner or to local events by friends keen to show them the local attractions).
Homes are generally our most expensive assets and swapping homes means not only will your home be cared for while you are on holiday (and often pets and gardens too) but lived in homes are also safer. By swapping homes rather than leaving them empty, you and your exchange partners will make best use of both homes and not contribute to the growth of large hotel developments that are eyesores causing environmental damage in some of the most beautiful areas.
With home exchange, you are able to feel ‘at home’ in so many different ways – from a young couple’s modern, city centre apartment to a rambling toy-filled Victorian family home to the dream villa in the Tuscan hills. Homes for exchange range from modest studio apartments to large, luxurious mansions, all providing a unique taste of a different lifestyle. Here are just a few samples of homes available for exchange to whet your appetite:
- beautiful 400 year old former mill cottage, Wiltshire, England;
- two bedroom modern apartment near Maroubra Beach, Sydney, Australia;
- older, fully renovated home with two balconies facing the St. Lawrence River, 1000 Islands, Ontario, Canada;
- character home that was converted from original stables, Cape Town, South Africa;
- a choice of five different sized cottages set in the beautiful Pays d’Auge region of Calvados, Normandy, France;
Also take a look at ‘The One Show’ (BBC) home exchange video – Home Base Holidays members from the USA and England are interviewed while on exchange in each others’ very different homes.
Apart from the obvious financial benefits there’s the added bonus of getting to know neighbours and your chosen area as a local would. Researching your own area to make up an information pack for guests is a real eye-opener once you realise how much your area has to offer. Home exchange is an enjoyable adventure which does require a considerable investment of time but the rewards, in my experience, make it 100 per cent worthwhile.
(From an article in Home Swappers Newsletter, Expat Living in Amsterdam: House-swap that Delivered the Goods)
Thank you for this lovely post, Lois. We have been members of your website for quite a while now. We won our first subscription as a prize of the Slow Travel Contest and since then we have been swapping several times.
I especially like the fact that your website makes it very easy to search the offers according to different criteria. We always search for non-simultaneous exchanges because we swap with our vacation rental in Pisa, and we can be flexible. Besides we prefer actually meeting our exchange friends when they arrive and give them a brief introduction to the area etc.
Over the year we have been to Sweden, Canada and England. We are looking into swapping again soon!
I wish you had a section for second home owners: that would be our ideal home exchange site! Maybe you can take up my suggestion… you know… for a brand new section of your website! LOL
Thank you very much again for providing our blog with another perspective on what “feeling at home away from home” means.
Gloria and Marcel
Hi Gloria & Marcel
Thank you so much for the opportunity to write a post for your series on ‘feeling at home away from home’. And congratulations on the high quality content on your blog – it’s a privilege to be a guest writer!
I am pleased to hear that you are enjoying your home exchange experiences – I’m sure you will have lots of exchange opportunities as Italy is such a popular destination.
Now for your suggestion on a section for second home owners:
You can actually restrict your search to second home and/or non-simultaneous exchange already. When you access the simple search page (country, state/county, town/city), there is a link, Show more search options. On this detailed search page, along with choosing any other criteria such as country that you want, you can:
1. Choose ‘Non-simultaneous exchange’ from the drop down list beside Type of Exchange.
2. Tick the box beside ‘Second home’.
If you choose both options, the search results will show only members offering second homes for exchange who have also indicated they are interested in non-simultaneous exchanges.
Hope this helps in your searches for the best exchange possibilities for you! I look forward to your guest post on Travel the Home Exchange Way shortly as I know many of our members and subscribers will be delighted to discover ‘At Home in Tuscany’.
we always browse as you mention. It’s a great way. In my dream-home-exchange-world there would be a site, or section of a site, just for second homes. I am a lazy Italian, what did you expect? LOL
Looking into swapping again this year. I need to go to a conference in Oslo in September… I’ve better start browsing through the ads!!!
Another great article from Lois.
Our website is a new addition to the Home Exchange community and we hope it will be as successful and long lasting as hers.
Just to let you know, we have a section purely for second home owners and it can be found under our advanced search page.
Happy Exchanging and best regards