Dads are good for lots of things. Some like to build stuff, others enjoying cooking. My husband likes to travel. When our daughter, Michele, was 7 and our son, Dillon, was 11, my husband Stan took me to breakfast one morning and said these words, “I’m thinking we take a trip to Europe. An extended trip. We try something called home swap.”
Although I hate to admit it, I’m a traditionalist. My husband is the dreamer. The one with the wild, out-there ideas. The one to whom I regularly say, “Are you crazy?!”
However, when Stan explained that if we home swap we could live in Europe for free, he got my attention. After my initial “Are you crazy?” I decided to research his idea. What I discovered was that my husband was, in fact, brilliant.
Home exchange began in the 1950s and there are over 70 home swap organizations around the world. For the price of a nice dinner, about $100, one can join a home swap agency and have access to thousands of people who want to exchange their home.
When I went online to research home swap I found photos of cozy cottages and modern mansions with locations and descriptions like:
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.”
Hooked on home swap
We joined a home swap company www.HomeLink.org and immediately began receiving emails from all over the world. Fast forward half a year and in April 2000 my family and I boarded a plane to Europe. Over the following five months we completed a home swap in five countries: England, Ireland, Germany, France and Italy. The experience changed our lives forever and began my family’s wander-full habit of home exchange travel.
We’ve now completed 13 home swaps in 12 years, in places as divergent as Hong Kong and Cape Cod.
With home exchange, some people might focus on the financial savings, and, yes, this is a major benefit. But for me, home exchange is all about the memories, the authentic experiences, the family bonding.
When you travel, especially when you travel abroad, you find yourself in situations you would otherwise not be in if you were at home. During our journey in 2000 our shy young daughter spoke Spanish for the first time; our son performed a juggling routine on a sidewalk at Hampton Court Palace in London. As for me, well, I was blessed to visit my grandmother’s hometown of Barga, Italy. I felt at home there. Although she had passed away many years earlier, I felt her presence. What a gift that was.
Still Enjoying Home Swap
A couple weeks ago Stan and I did a home swap in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We went without Dillon and Michele. Now in their 20’s our kids have summer jobs so they can’t always come along. Facing the fact that our family won’t travel together as frequently because our children are more independent was a change I had difficulty accepting. But then I had a realization.
I’m thankful for all the years of travel that we have already enjoyed and that I married a man who had the foresight to get our family out of town while the kids were young. Many years ago we set the foundation of family bonding through travel.
There will be other home swaps with our entire family. Dillon and Michele will insist on it.
As Father’s Day approaches I’d like to offer a toast to Stan. The husband and father who dreams big dreams.
Now I’ve come to know that Stan does cook and he does build. He cooked up an idea so we could build precious memories. He showed our family the world through home exchange.
Have you ever home swapped? What was it that convinced you to try it?
Tell your story in the comments below!