"Every summer Philip and I set off on a series of back to back exchanges with the sense of adventure that comes from venturing into exciting unknown territory. That little bit of a nervous thrill at possible hazards is soon overcome by an overwhelming certainty that we are about to experience a unique - and often extraordinarily comfortable - six weeks, living in the homes of generous and warm-hearted fellow exchangers.
Home-exchanging is a very intimate kind of sharing. We all open our lives to complete strangers. And yet we are not strangers. We recognise in each other so many qualities that give us immediate rapport. We are naturally trusting and friendly; we have integrity; we love meeting people; we have a sense of adventure; we love inviting people into our homes and making new friends - and we have nearly all made those homes welcoming and homely.
Whether it was Vancouver Island or Tallinn, Stirling or Oban, Brittany or Bristol, Helston or Inverness, the people whose homes we have stayed in have all been extremely warm-hearted. We have stayed in houses where deer roamed the garden, where the QE2 passed the bedroom window at night fully lit-up, in a delightful vicarage where parishioners turned up for help, in houses with libraries in three languages, gardens full of ripe raspberries, outhouses full of cuddly cats and newborn kittens.
What I love about it all is the homeliness; being able to browse bookshelves full of books I would never otherwise read; to listen to music or watch films I would never normally come across; to meet friendly neighbours who are happy to take us around and tell us their story - and then often offer to take us to the station.
I love the spontaneity. We once had a couple from England staying in our home who 'disappeared' on the first day. I kept phoning to see if they had arrived. No answer. It turned out our neighbour had swept them up and taken them to the Peloponisus to pick oranges from his orange grove and have lunch in a taverna. The next day he took them to the coast to eat fish. It was three days before we found them."