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)