Thank you for agreeing to take part in an interview for Home Base Holidays and Travel the Home Exchange Way.
Lois Sealey, Home Base Holidays: When did you first become aware of home exchange and what particularly attracted you to the idea? Were all your family members equally enthusiastic or did you need to convince them of the benefits?
Shelley C. Miller: In 1999 my husband, Stan, first mentioned the idea of trying a home exchange; he wanted to live abroad for five months! When I looked on the Internet and discovered lovely homes in fabulous places, I was hooked. Stan’s dream of traveling for an extended period is what gave me pause; we both worked full time, our children were eight and 12 at the time and enrolled in school, and we had a dog! I liked the idea of home swap, but I didn’t know how we’d handle all the moving parts. But we did!
LS: What have been your favourite exchange destination(s) and experience(s) to date?
SCM: Florence, Italy has been my favourite home exchange destination. I’m Italian, but had never been to my ancestors' homeland. When I was in Italy, I felt like I was finally home. My favourite experience was during a home swap in Germany when our neighbours invited us over for a barbeque. The adults spoke English, but the neighbour children spoke only German. It was fascinating to watch all the kids play and communicate without words. I mean really, who needs words when it’s a hot summer day and there’s a garden hose available?
LS: What inspired you to start the Home Exchange Expert blog? As a journalist, has the blog been useful in attracting commissions for articles about home swapping?
SCM: In a word, passion. Passion is the reason I started HomeExchangeExpert.com. My family has enjoyed 15 home exchanges in 13 years; our life has been enriched enormously by the experience. I want to encourage other families to home exchange and see the world in an authentic and affordable way. My blog has introduced me to people from all over the world and they have many of the same questions I once did. So I’ve decided to start a home exchange consulting business where I coach people who need personal coaching about how to home swap. Details will be coming soon on my blog!
LS: As a long established agency, Home Base Holidays has many members who are very experienced home swappers (a number with more than 50 exchanges under their belts!) What do you feel that you and other experienced exchangers can offer to those new to the idea of home swapping?
SCM: Reassurance. Any time we try something new, whether it be a career change or something as simple as a new form of exercise, we often need reassurance. Someone to say you can do this, or as they say in Spanish, “Si, se puede!”
LS: As an individual exchanger, how do you address the issue of providing unbiased and useful information for potential new home swappers from a wide variety of backgrounds, needs, ages and countries?
SCM: I write from the heart. I remember all the questions I had when my family first tried home swap 13 years ago, and I try address those in my blog. Sometimes, people ask me questions on Twitter and Facebook. As far as remaining unbiased, I am not compensated by any home exchange company.
LS: What is your best tip for anyone starting to look into arranging a first home swap?
SCM: Invest time in taking really good photos of your home. High quality photos of your home are the single most important way to attract a top home exchange.
LS: There is currently no independent regulatory body to oversee and monitor the growing home exchange industry worldwide. Do you see a need for such an organisation? If so, do you have any thoughts on how this might be developed and standards of service set for home exchange agencies?
SCM: Funny you should ask! Yes I do see a need for an organization like this and I’ve often thought about starting it myself. I imagine it would be similar to a Chamber of Commerce. One of the most important components would be a Code of Ethics that all home exchange clubs must abide by.
LS: You have recently written a book about your family’s exchange experiences. Can you tell us a little bit about it and when it will be available? We will, of course, let Home Base Holidays members know as soon as your book is published!
SCM: Thank you Lois, I appreciate that! I love talking about my manuscript, Postcards From Home. My dream is to publish traditionally and I’m currently searching for a literary agent.
The memoir, set in exotic European cities, recounts my family’s home exchange adventures in 2000. Extract:
Overworked and struggling to raise a shy young daughter and a son on the cusp of puberty, Shelley Miller and her husband find their relationship stressed to the danger point. But a unique plan for a five-month adventure in Europe, trading homes in five countries, may mend this modern American family. Locked in a London loo, accused of vandalism in Germany, threatened by gypsies in Italy, Shelley fears that her quest to reinforce family bonds and find ancestral roots will alienate her family still further—until the quiet miracles start happening.
Thank you again, Shelley, for taking the time to answer questions on your experiences as a home exchanger. I'm sure many Home Base Holidays members will echo your enthusiasm!
|Shelley C. Miller publishes the popular blog, Home Exchange Expert. She lives in San Diego, California with husband, Stan, and children, Dillon-25, Michele-21. See the family's lovely home exchange offer in San Diego...|