Home Exchange Expert
How to travel the world and stay for free.
Family vacations of my childhood included car trips from our home in New Jersey to places like Gettysburg, Mount Vernon and Monticello. Dad loved history. Mom would pack picnic lunches. On a good day, we’d munch on her crunchy fried chicken; on a not so good day, hard-boiled eggs.
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that my boyfriend, the man I eventually married, took me to England. I will never forget strolling through Hyde Park and thinking, I’m in London. This sidewalk is British. That tree is British. Even that bench is British. I wanted to do the Mary Tyler Moore thing and throw my hat in the air!
Travel still thrills me thirty years later.
My family left the east coast in the 60s. I attended junior high in Nebraska, high school in Denver, and graduated with a journalism degree from Colorado State University. After moving to Dallas, I worked for Dallas Coca-Cola Bottling Company, or as they say in Texas “Co-Cola.” The aforementioned boyfriend, Stan, had moved to Dallas from Minnesota; he was kind, funny and had cornflower blue eyes.
And he showed me the world.
Actually, it was on that first flight to London in 1985 that Stan asked me to marry him. Yeah, right there in aisle 14. Well, I said yes and then he accepted a job with Chase Bank and we moved to Hong Kong— one month after the wedding, sight unseen. Our son, Dillon was born about a year later at Hong Kong Adventist Hospital.
San Diego became our home in 1988 and we’ve lived here ever since. Our daughter, Michele came along four years later.
Filling our lives was the modern American family stuff—two jobs, two kids, one dog, soccer practice, dance lessons, Scouts, piano lessons.
We all had watches, but we never had any time.
Once again, my wander-full man suggested we travel abroad. This time to Europe… for a while. Like several months. We try something called home exchanging. Oh, how I protested! How could we do this? School? Jobs? Pets?
Stan said what he always says when I doth protest: “Just think about it.”
I went on this new thing called the Internet. (The year was 1999. We forget how young the worldwide web is.) I found a website called HomeLink.org and that was all it took. Just read what I found:
Great Britain: “18th century thatched cottage in quiet Dorset countryside.”
Switzerland: “Our house is located in a beautiful village between vineyards and the lake and we have a private beach.”
France: “Charming, quiet, historic district of Central Paris.”
Eventually we joined HomeLink for about $100. Over the next several months my protests morphed into cheers as questions were answered.
We arranged home exchanges with five families from five countries: England, Ireland, Germany, France and Italy. From April – August 2000 my family lived in Europe while the European families lived in our home in San Diego.
The experience was magical.
It’s been 12 years since our home exchange adventure and time has granted me historical perspective. What I’ve realized is this: Plucking my family out of our soccer practice/dance class/job routine and placing us in foreign lands for five months is the richest experience of my entire life. Nothing I’ve done thus far is greater or better or more fantastic.
For this reason I started a blog. I want to share my passion, my ideas and my knowledge with you. I will offer you the keys to successful home exchanging.
Since those first five home exchanges in 2000, we have completed nine more: Hong Kong, Seattle, Cape Cod, Turkey, Colorado, Mexico, and back to Ireland, Germany and Italy. (One can never visit Italy too many times.)
I have spent the past three years writing a memoir about our life in Europe in 2000 and I am confident that someday soon it will be available in bookstores.
My hope for you, my gentle readers, is that you will learn to love home exchange the way my family does, that you too will home exchange and therefore, travel more frequently and for longer periods of time.
With home exchanging you will never say, “I wish we could afford to travel.” Instead you’ll ask, “Where should we go next?”