“Perhaps you were thinking of taking the plunge and trying your first home swap? Perhaps you watched the television programme Home Away from Home* and thought your own place was unsuitable? After all, so many of those dwellings were set in idyllic countryside, or with stunning sea views, or the interior looked like something from a magazine. Of course there are houses like that on home exchange sites but most of them are ordinary houses and flats lived in and loved by ordinary people.
Most of the participants seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience, even if the place they swapped to wasn't as glamorous as their own, and most of them said they'd do it again. But let me tell you, as someone who has home swapped about 20 times in the last five years, the reality is even better than the programmes showed. You did see lots of the benefits, such as having more space than you would in a hotel and saving a lot of money (we've certainly taken more vacations since we've been members of Home Base Holidays) but some important advantages didn't make it to the screen.
The true joy is in choosing a location you'd really like to visit, or responding to an exchange request and then deciding to go to somewhere you'd never thought of, and then getting to know your exchange partners via e-mail and phone calls in the weeks and maybe months before the actual exchange takes place.
Then you don't need that ridiculous amount of luggage. You know where you're going, you can find out about the climate, you'll have a fair idea of what you're going to do there because your new friends will have given you unbeatable insider information. And they will be friends, I promise you, even if they're friends you never meet, although we've met lots of our exchangees.
You'll also negotiate length of stay. Some do it for a few days, others for a week or two, some, particularly those who are travelling long distance, swap for several months.
If you want to know something while you're away, such as ,’We saw this restaurant, is it really worth the money?’ or ‘We fancy a bus trip. Where shall we go?’ you know who to ask.
You love your home, don't you? They love theirs, and they'll love yours too!” - Sandra Newnham, London (view her home swap offer; the photo is of Sandra on a recent home exchange in Switzerland).
*Note: Several episodes of the BBC TV home swap series, Home Away from Home, can still be viewed on iPlayer: http://tinyurl.com/nhffatd Unlike the real experience of arranging a home swap that Sandra has described, the programme makers matched participants, arranged outings for them, so that none knew where they would be going, what the home would be like or what they might be doing before their televised short swap took place.