This is a lovely article on home swapping sent in by Judith, a long-term Home Base Holidays member (and very experienced home swapper). Judith wonderfully describes how home swaps can be such an enriching way to travel.
“This July we are heading off to Clearwater, Florida for a month in a luxurious condo with a pool, over looking the warm, turquoise Gulf of Mexico. We’ll have a classic American sedan to drive and - apart from the airfare - it won’t cost us a thing.
It's not a home exchange either.
However, imagine a seashell plopped into the ocean and the ripples it creates. This holiday will be one of many ripples made by a home exchange that dropped into our lives some years ago.
In the days when the Home Base Holidays listings thudded onto the doormat as a wadge of photocopied A4 sheets, we were written to by a lady called Brenda Bobbin.
Even in the postage stamp size black and white photos, her apartment looked amazing so we went for it. She was there with golden hair, sea blue eyes and a sunny smile, to greet our family of four.
Dazed and jaded from the flight, we all piled us into her car and she drove us off to a wooden shack with an enormous smoking
metal drum outside, to be revived by steaming platefuls of delicious BBQ.
The next morning she set off to London and we settled in to a routine of swimming, walking, sunbathing and shopping at Piggly Wiggly for 5 Layer Dip, crab salad, homestyle slaw, onion bagels and enormous steaks for the grill. (There was the addition of Margarita mix for the grown ups.)
We went to see the Miami Dolphins play baseball, parasailed - spotting turtles paddling far below, sailed a catamaran at sunset and screamed on the Bush Garden rollercoasters. But it was those long sultry days we remember most, everyone doing their own thing be it dipping in the pool, chilling out in front of a huge American television, strolling the beach collecting shark’s teeth or reading in the breeze on the roof terrace. Then gathering on the white beach for an amazing sunset with a sundowner, chips and salsa.
This time it will be just the two of us as the children had the audacity to grow up and get a life. There are bound to be moments of nostalgia - maybe a tear or two, such are the fond memories of being there as a family. On the other hand it'll be much cheaper.
Brenda and I have kept in touch all these years, much easier now by email. She's visited us in London and at our French house. We have been back to her place four times. This year, once again, she has generously invited us to spend a month in the appartment while she’s away.
She’s a valued friend and it's only through Home Base Holidays that our paths could ever have crossed.
Whilst arranging a different exchange to San Francisco, I’d mentioned to our hosts that one of my ambitions was to drive in a Cadillac down Highway One. On a sunny Californinan morning a gleaming, classic red Cadillac rolled up outside the door of our borrowed Twin Peaks abode. “Hoodie Hoo" was the cry and we were whisked off by Tim and Brad down the Pacific Highway for peach picking and tacos overlooking the ocean.
Tim and Brad were old friends of our lovely exchangees who had arranged this treat. We invited them both for dinner. They reciprocated. Now, 8 years later they still send us a box of home made jams every Xmas and we have visited one another both in the UK and the States.
There have been numerous other house swaps that have resulted in the fact that if we or our kids were travelling nearby, I would have no hesitation in contacting the past exchange parties to meet up for drinks or beg a spare bed for the night. We would welcome the same call.
There have, of course, been fabulous exchanges after which we haven’t kept in touch with our reciprocal guests but due to mutual respect have still had amazing experiences in their homes.
When you house swap you don’t just exchange a building, you dip a toe into someone’s else’s life and I do believe that careful and thorough correspondence is important as a pre-cursor to finalising the arrangement. It’s not essential, but certainly more rewarding if your counterpart is simpatico. If they are, then you have the potential to make lifelong friends and contacts across the world. In this day and age when the world is fragmenting and we need a bit of reassurance about the generosity and commonality of the human spirit, isn’t that a marvelous by product of a holiday?” - Judith
Interested in home swapping? View Judith's beautiful home exchange offer in France.
Judith has recently put her writing talent to good use by publishing a very entertaining e-book, 'Chez Mwah: How to Languish in the Languedoc', on her family's experience of owning a holiday home in France. Check out Judith's e-book (Chez Mwah: How to Languish in the Languedoc) - it is a perfect holiday read.